Wouldn't it be fun if Dwight Howard signs a bunch of one-year contracts so we can do this over and over and over again every summer?
It would be a bad series of sequels, worse than any made in Hollywood, which, coincidently, is where Howard lays his head for the moment. Dwightmare I and II and III. Or, Dwama 4 and 5 and 6. Make it a long-running reality show, based on where Howard is headed, with the twist being, he doesn't know from year to year.
Or maybe Howard can spare us by making up his mind, signing long term and being done with it. Which is what he'll do in the next 10 days, and thank goodness for that.
There's a reason that plenty of buzz follows Howard. For all of the crap he gets about his indecisiveness and flaws as a player, Howard is the most dominant center in the game. Let there be no debate about that. Just as the general managers, most of whom will be happy to pick apart his game (poor free throw shooter, whiner, prehistoric post moves) and even more thrilled if he signed with him. It's more of an indictment on the state of the big man in the NBA than a salute to Howard, but GMs still believe a big man is the easiest way to win a title unless you have a LeBron or a Kobe.
That said, based on discussions with NBA people and those linked to Howard, here's where he's likely to go. Just so you're aware, Howard doesn't even know himself. He wants to go through the process first. There are only five teams being seriously considered, and here are the favorites:
Clippers. There are signs erected around Los Angeles, most famously on the side of the Staples Center, with a plea: "Stay Dwight." Well, it appears Howard could very well stay in L.A. and continue playing at Staples, just in a different uniform.
A source said the Clippers will make a hard run at Howard and that he's very receptive to signing with them, for a few reasons.
One: Chris Paul. Howard has never had a point guard this good, and Paul is excellent at getting the ball to the right teammates. The two have spoken indirectly about being a package deal, and this is the most likely scenario. If Howard signs with the Clippers, Paul will hand him the pen, then use it to sign up himself.
Two: Doc Rivers. There's no comparison, really, between Rivers and Mike D'Antoni from Howard's perspective. Howard wasn't thrilled with D'Antoni's system while Rivers, Howard believes, will make him feel like he has a big role in the system.
Three: Los Angeles. Howard enjoys the city, has plans to branch out into entertainment, and believes he'll be the biggest sports star in town, once Kobe Bryant retires in another year or two.
Which brings us to his second option.
Lakers. It's where he can make the most money and enjoy the most prestige, as part of a storied franchise. Kobe will play at least another year and very likely a year after that, so there's no danger in losing him right away. If completely healthy, the Lakers could make last season seem like a mirage and make a deeper run in the playoffs.
Even if they fail, the Lakers will have money to spend in 2014 and, being a destination franchise, will immediately be in play for A-list free agents… LeBron James?
The only drawbacks are D'Antoni and life without Jerry Buss, with Jim Buss now calling the shots and trying to prove he has his father's touch.
Option 3: Rockets. There's a good young nucleus in Houston, a coach who can teach Howard a thing or two about playing the post, a gambling GM whose instincts are mostly correct, an owner who'll spend what it takes and no state tax.
Would the Rockets be more of a ready-to-win team than either the Lakers or Clippers? That's for Howard to decide.
Option 4: Mavericks. They have cap space and Dirk Nowitzki, which is a start. But until the Mavericks present a greater vision of what the roster can be over the next few years, they're not much of an upgrade, if any, over the Lakers.
Option 5: Hawks. They're the longshot, because even though Howard is from Atlanta, he has never expressed a strong desire to return home. And if Chris Paul won't join him, then the Hawks have no shot. Still, a team featuring Paul, Howard, Al Horford, a re-signed Josh Smith and Jeff Teague, Lou Williams and maybe Kyle Korver would be a top-5 team in the East, at the very least.
The betting money says Howard stays in L.A. and, if the Clippers can give up decent sign-and-trade material (DeAndre Jordan and maybe Eric Bledsoe), he moves to another L.A. address. Otherwise, it's the Lakers.
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Here's a list of other free agents who'll get traffic starting Monday:
Chris Paul, PG. He's all but staying with the Clippers, because Doc Rivers would not have made the move from Boston without some reassurances from Paul.
Josh Smith, PF. The Rockets are in play with Smith and they may have enough funds to sign Smith and Howard, who played AAU ball together as kids. Howard, Smith and James Harden would be an interesting Big Three.
Andre Iguodala, SF. He left $15 million on the table in Denver, which indicates he believes he can fetch a long-term deal. Most likely, he'll either re-sign with the Nuggets because most teams that can afford him aren't ready to win right now.
David West, PF. He's 32 years old but an important piece to the Pacers. It's hard to see him leaving a situation where he'll get big minutes and have a chance to contend for a title. They'll work it out.
Paul Millsap, PF. He's moving on from Utah, which is more committed to developing Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, who are younger and cheaper big men. He'd work well with the Rockets, who need help in the post.
Andrew Bynum, C. Someone will give him a one-year deal and see how it goes. And it won't be the Sixers.
Greg Oden, C. See above. A one-year deal would give Oden enough time to prove his long-term value. He'll either sign with the Cavaliers or the Heat.
Nikola Pekovic, C. He's the best center in free agency after Howard, a double-double guy who's just touching his prime. But as a restricted free agent, it's hard to see Minnesota letting him go.
Al Jefferson, PF. He seems older than 28 but is still capable of delivering decent numbers in the post. With the Jazz in rebuilding mode, Big Al will likely go elsewhere; whether he joins a contender depends on if his price is reasonable.
J.R. Smith, SG. He had a solid season with the Knicks, making big shots, but tailed off near the end. He's a risky signing, though. Do you give him four years or play it safe and go shorter? Anyway, he appears made for the Knicks.
J.J. Redick, SG. He's hard to gauge because nobody's quite sure if he's a starter or a bench player. That will determine his value. The Bucks might decide to keep him and pay a little more.
Monta Ellis, SG. Is he still a premier guard in the NBA? And if so, for how many more years? In the ideal situation, Ellis would come off the bench for a contender, but his price tag is high and most teams are unwilling to pay the luxury tax just to get him.
Brandon Jennings, PG. He's a restricted free agent and it's hard to image someone blowing the Bucks away with an offer. He'll probably play out his contract and become unrestricted next summer.
Jose Calderon, PG. A very savvy veteran point guard who can also play off the ball, Calderon could be good value this summer. He already made big money, so he could take less in terms of money and role for the chance to win.
Jeff Teague, PG. He's a solid starting point guard and, at 25, has a decent future. The Hawks will likely keep the restricted free agent unless his demands are outrageous.
Kevin Martin, SG. At this stage of his career, he's a sixth man at a reasonable cost. Unless they can get someone better, OKC will re-sign him.
Tyreke Evans, SF. The Kings don't expect anyone to give Evans a contract that they can't or won't match. He's only 23 but coming off a two-year stretch where the results have been mixed.
O.J. Mayo, SG. He's a borderline starter, and ideally would be the third guy in a three-guard rotation.