Cohen 8-Ball: The "Next" Dwight Decision
February 9, 2013
Josh Cohen’s Analysis: It’s been another tumultuous season for Dwight Howard, Last year in Orlando, it was one juicy storyline after another before he was finally traded in August to Los Angeles. And now, after a few months of substandard performance, a re-aggravating shoulder injury in conjunction with the back recovery and more indecision on whether he will commit to the Lakers for the long haul, Howard is at the center of constant commotion. CLICK NEXT to learn about options Howard could consider from now until July 1 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Cohen’s Analysis: STAY IN L.A. - The rules are simple. Unless the Lakers negotiate a sign-and-trade in July with another team that is well below luxury tax territory, Dwight Howard can earn about $30 million more staying in L.A. The Lakers can offer him a five-year, $118 million contract, while other salary-cap-friendly teams can only proffer a bid of four years and roughly $88 million. If finances, market size and location are utmost important for Dwight, disregarding all the current disruption around the Lakers would be most constructive for the All-Star center.
Cohen’s Analysis: REQUEST TRADE BEFORE DEADLINE TO NETS – Remember, Dwight’s original three-team preferred destination list during his final months in Orlando were, in favored order, Brooklyn, Dallas and Los Angeles. The Nets have well exceeded the salary cap and are already in punitive luxury tax land, however if Howard requested a trade from L.A. in these next couple of weeks and, like he did with the Magic, recommend a deal to Brooklyn, the Nets can offer Brook Lopez in any potential package. If the Lakers believe the Kobe-Dwight coexistence won’t be effective, should they consider replacing Howard with Lopez, who is having a marvelous season?
Cohen’s Analysis: REQUEST TRADE BEFORE DEADLINE WITH NO PREFERRED CHOICE – If Howard made it clear to Lakers management that he was not planning on re-signing in the offseason, it would be rational for L.A. to strike a deal now. There are two teams that may have enough reasons to try and acquire Howard and also have enough on their rosters to proffer a respectable trade. Boston, a franchise desperate for one more championship run, can propose a deal involving the injured Rajon Rondo. If L.A. believes a title is out of the question this season, perhaps getting Rondo would stabilize its future. The other franchise is the other primary rival of the Lakers, the Clippers, who have Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan as intriguing trade chips.
Cohen’s Analysis: SIGN WITH HOUSTON – The James Harden trade from October has completely altered the landscape of the West. Harden has instantly evolved into a top 10 player in the league and the Rockets, as a result, are an appealing futuristic franchise. Assuming Houston doesn’t exceed the salary cap by the trade deadline, it will have enough room to make a pitch for one max free agent this summer. Howard rebuffed the thought of playing for the Rockets when a deal with the Magic was rumored, however you have to wonder if an Hakeem Olajuwon influence along with the opportunity to play with Harden and Jeremy Lin could reverse Dwight’s judgments.
Cohen’s Analysis: SIGN WITH DALLAS – Mark Cuban has a certain appeal to players. While he struck out on his attempt to land Deron Williams last summer, the aftermath may not be so crushing. The Mavericks, presently, have a plethora of cap space and if they find a suitor for Shawn Marion’s contract by July 1, they will have cash to spend on two max free agents. While it seems implausible for Chris Paul to bolt the Clippers when he becomes a free agent this summer, if he and Howard unite and decide to join forces, Cuban will be waiting with open arms for both of them.
Cohen’s Analysis: SIGN WITH ATLANTA – There has never been an indication that Howard would crave to play for his hometown. Yet, by trading Joe Johnson last summer, the Hawks have created that opportunity, economically, if Dwight transposed that judgment. The decision in these couple of weeks on Josh Smith and whether Atlanta trades him by the deadline will dictate whether the Hawks legitimately believe they can lure Howard home. Smith, a childhood friend of Howard, is the only form of recruitment in delivering D12 to Atlanta.
Cohen’s Analysis: LAKERS GIVE UP ON DWIGHT – Howard is averaging around 16 points and 12 rebounds per game, which is his worst statistical combo since his rookie season. Whatever the reasons for the decline – chemistry issues, not enough touches in the post, injuries slowing him down – it almost seems illogical for the Lakers to pay a player $118 million if the results will consistently be around 16 points and 12 rebounds a game. Perhaps L.A. should swallow its pride and ignore the efforts it made to acquire Howard last summer and decide it’s in their best interest to parts ways with Dwight. If they re-sign Howard and unless Pau Gasol is traded before next season, the Lakers will be responsible for about $70 million in luxury tax dollars. Unlike most markets where in addition to performance you have to evaluate the influence a player has on sales and merchandise, in L.A. it’s not much of a problem. It can survive without Howard’s star appeal.