I’ve already told you in no uncertain terms that Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando, and yesterday we took the story to it’s next logical place.
Where will Howard end up?
The first thing you need to realize is that his destination wish list has grown, because he wants a complete divorce from the Magic –more so than he did back at the trading deadline in March, when the threat of a trade (to the Lakers, Rockets, Warriors, depending on who you want to believe) forced Howard to opt-in for the final year of his contract.
I know a source close to Howard, and I am told that he harbors a lot of resentment toward the Magic for forcing his hand the way they did on deadline day. (I discussed that resentment with Brian Fritz and Mike Bianchi this morning on 740 The Game in Orlando. Click to listen.)
Even if the Magic tell him he can have a say in choosing the new coach and general manager after Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith were let go Monday, it won’t matter.
He wants out.
So as I pointed out Monday in breaking the story, a key piece of the whole Howard puzzle becomes Hedo Turkoglu, who is owed $23.6 over the next two seasons and whose contract the Magic would want to shed (although there is a school of thought, one league executive told me today, that the Magic would also be open to packaging Glen Davis with Howard in a trade and keeping Turkoglu, whose contract is only guaranteed for $6 million in 2013-14.)
But if Orlando’s next general manager decides he must trade Turkoglu, not Davis, along with Howard, the list of teams that could make that happen shrinks considerably since you are talking about taking on almost $31 million worth of combined salary for next season.
But two teams that could make the trade work are the Brooklyn Nets (which remain Howard’s favored destination) and the New York Knicks. But it would be tricky in the first instance; costly in the second.
Let’s look first at the Nets.
Technically, they have only four players Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, Marshon Brooks and Jordan Williams) under contract for next season, although Gerald Wallace and Jordan Farmar have player options that will impact the Nets’ flexibility. As far as assets the Nets could throw into a trade, they have Houston’s lottery-protected first-round draft pick in 2013, plus their own 2012 pick if they strike gold in the lottery next week and land in the top three. (If not, the pick goes to Portland as payment for the trade deadline deal that landed them Wallace.)
So if the Nets win the lottery (the top three teams are determined by random draw), they’d have the potential to do a sign-and-trade deal after July 1 in which they’d offer a top three pick in this year’s draft, Houston’s pick, and some combination (perhaps through a three-team trade) of Kris Humphries, Wallace, $3 million of Mikhail Prokhorov’s money plus whatever other assets (Brook Lopez?) plus future No. 1 picks of their own that they could be enticed to include.
Brooklyn would do that deal, then re-sign Deron Williams (who said today he is unsure about his future) and have a nucleus of Howard, Williams, Brooks and Morrow, and once they went over the cap they’ have a $2.5 million exception to use in filling out the roster.
They have the means to take back Turkoglu along with Howard is they are willing to part with two members of their front line — Tyson Chandler, plus Amare Stoudemire or Carmelo Anthony.
If you are the Magic, you insist on ‘Melo, not wanting any part of Stoudemire’s uninsured contract. But if you are the Knicks (which means if you are Jim Dolan), you insist on keeping Anthony because of the price you paid for him and because of the scoring prowess he displayed in Games 3, 4 and 5 of the Knicks-Heat first-round playoff series. You tell whoever the Magic’s next GM is that he can have $3 million of Dolan’s cash instead.
If New York could make that deal, they’d have a nucleus of Howard, Anthony, Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, and whoever they decided to use their mid-level exception on (the debate in this site has been the hypothetical choice of Steve Nash vs. Jeremy Lin). They’d have a sinkhole at the power forward spot, and they’d probably lose J.R. Smith as a free agent (he has a $2.5 million player option), and they’d have Turkoglu coming off the bench.
If Orlando decides to ride out the Turkoglu contract and try to get one stud in return for Howard, there will be no shortage of suitors. Mark Heisler doesn’t think the Lakers are going to trade Andrew Bynum, and even though there was substance to the school of thought that Howard did not want to go to the Lakers because he doesn’t want to be seen as a second Shaq (not to mention being the second-biggest superstar on the team), my source says either the Lakers or Clippers would be a more desirable landing zone than returning to Orlando — that’s how much Howard wants out.
Dallas is on Howard’s list, too, which bears mentioning. The Mavs have Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood under contract for next season, taking up $37 million of cap room. But Haywood could be amnestied and Marion could be dumped, which would at least give Dallas a chance to be creative in trying to clear enough space to absorb Turkoglu and Howard.
Also meriting a mention are the Atlanta Hawks, who have an All-Star caliber center in Al Horford and an athletic freak who has wanted out for the past two years, Josh Smith. They could be a player if the Magic insist on packaging Howard and Turkoglu.