Thoughts on Dwight Howard and the Lakers On Free Agency’s Eve

Darius Soriano —  June 30, 2013

Free agency begins in earnest at midnight Eastern, 9pm PST today. Teams will reach out to the players they covet, schmoozing will commence, and decisions will, eventually, be made.

For the Lakers, the biggest priority is what happens with Dwight Howard. Let’s summarize what we know to this point:

*Dwight plans to meet with at least 5 teams. The Rockets, Mavericks, Hawks, Warriors and the Lakers.

*The Rockets will be first, flying into Los Angeles to meet with Dwight tonight at the crack of free agency. They plan to bring the entire city of Houston their owner Les Alexander, GM Darryl Morey, head coach Kevin McHale, Hakeem, Clyde Drexler, James Harden, and Chandler Parsons.

*The Mavericks will supposedly get first crack on Monday, followed by meetings with the other, non-Lakers, teams.

*The Lakers, at their request, will go last in this process. Likely meeting with Dwight on Tuesday.

*The latest reports out of Dwight’s camp are that winning is the most important thing to him and that there is no “favorite” in the process at this point. He’s said to have an open mind towards the teams and that he wants to gather information to make the best decision in terms of where he can win multiple championships.

*That latest report also states that Dwight will not ask the Lakers to fire Mike D’Antoni with hints that even if he did ask, the Lakers wouldn’t move on from their head coach.

With all this in mind, let’s quickly handicap the race. Of the 5 suitors, I think it’s easiest to eliminate the Hawks and the Warriors from the top tier of contenders at this early stage. The Hawks are furthest away from being a contending team and it’s been reported before that Dwight isn’t keen on playing in his hometown. As for the Warriors, they don’t have the cap space to sign Dwight outright and would need the Lakers to participate in a sign and trade for then to acquire him. This doesn’t mean that can’t happen down the road, but being that the Lakers would have to agree to make this deal it puts them on the back burner for now, and potentially for this entire process. What’s more likely with the Warriors is that they’re in this mix to show that they’re a FA destination down the line and it likely means more to them to even get this meeting as a signal to the league that they’re for real heading into next summer rather than a meaningful grab for Howard’s services.

This leaves the Rockets, Mavs, and Lakers. All have their pros and cons, and I think it can go either way between any of them.

The Mavs actually have a similar situation to offer as the Lakers: they have an aging franchise anchor, an owner willing to spend on a winner, and cap space galore coming up within the next couple of seasons. This has its appeals, but to be honest, they’re likely 3rd in this race unless Dwight really loves Dallas as a city and/or Cuban as an owner and/or the idea of playing for Rick Carlisle (which are all possible).

The Rockets, meanwhile offer a young roster with an up and coming star player and solid role players to complement. Their cap situation will be cleaner in the summer of 2015 when Asik and Lin’s contracts come off the books and they’ll need to renounce/waive/trade some talented players (one or more of Carlos Delfino, Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia, Thomas Robinson) to get far enough under the cap to offer a full max contract. This is a very good basketball situation for Howard, but I think it’s being oversold somewhat as a place where the Rockets are so much better off from a talent standpoint than other teams. What they have are young players that can grow with Dwight by their side. But last season they were the 8th seed and will actually lose some of the contributors who made achieving at that level possible. They have a ton of plusses, but at this point some of those are being oversold.

As for the Lakers, we know what they have to offer. Of all the teams they have the best history of success, offer the best market, and the most money/longest contract. The last point is mitigated somewhat by the fact it’s believed Dwight will opt out of whatever contract he signs in the next two weeks in order to secure another max deal in either 3 or 4 seasons. This makes the financial difference in contracts much less. However, what’s not being mentioned often enough is that if Dwight really does opt out, the Lakers can pay him a max extension just like any other team he signs with so there’s not a benefit of moving on in that scenario. Also, there’s the point that, in the past, the Lakers have made balloon salary payments to superstar players up front. This type of payment can be banked by the player in order accrue interest that can then offset the higher state taxes in California. I’ve read that the Lakers have done this for Shaq and for Kobe. It’s quite possible they’d do it for Dwight as well.

In essence, I still believe this comes down to the Lakers or the Rockets. Which way he leans after this process is done will come down to factors that, even if we believe the reports about winning, only Dwight will truly know. I’m still very hopeful he signs with the Lakers. We’ll know for sure within the next 10 days.

Dwight, of course, isn’t the only relevant news. The Lakers still need help on the wing and, potentially, in the back court heading into next season. Consider the following:

*On Saturday, the Lakers waived Chris Duhon to save on his salary for next season. By waiving him, the Lakers pay him only $1.5 million of the $4 million he was owed.

*As we’ve mentioned, the Lakers didn’t make qualifying offers Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, or Devin Ebanks. I don’t expect any of them to be back next year, though that could change.

*Earl Clark is an unrestricted free agent. He’s said he wants to return to the Lakers and even hinted he’d take less money to do so, but he will have suitors on the open market and typically the money wins out in those situations.

*Antawn Jamison is an unrestricted free agent and there’s a good chance he doesn’t return.

Without those 6 players (and potentially Dwight Howard), the Lakers only have Nash, Kobe, Ron, Pau, Hill, Blake, Meeks, and Sacre under contract. That’s 8 players. Typically the Lakers carry either 13 or 14 on their roster. They need bodies to fill out this team and hopefully some ones that fill specific needs.

Of those needs, the biggest is help on the wing in the form of defense and/or shooting (and preferably both). There are players who check off one or both of these boxes including Kyle Korver, Dorell Wright, Corey Brewer, OJ Mayo, Nick Young, Marco Belinelli, Francisco Garcia, Carlos Delfino, Matt Barnes, Tony Allen, Mike Dunleavy, Ronnie Brewer, JR Smith, JJ Redick, Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, and several others. Some of these guys will be in the Lakers’ price range. Some will be way beyond it. The market will sort these things out and there will be options.

What I’m interested in seeing is the timing in which the Lakers try to fill these needs. Dwight is the big fish and typically that means he will be the first domino to fall in the Lakers’ equation. Plus, when it comes to lower tiered FA’s like those the team will be looking for there’s typically not a lot of harm in waiting to sign one (or more) of them. That said, the Lakers don’t meet with Dwight until Tuesday and there’s something to be said for trying to acquire one of your targets early, especially if that player could help make the team better (which in turn could help in the recruiting of Dwight).

Ultimately, though, we’ll know a lot more in the next few days. Sit tight, the ride will probably be a wild one.

Darius Soriano

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49 responses to Thoughts on Dwight Howard and the Lakers On Free Agency’s Eve

  1. There is also a big need for a point guard who can attack the basket. The Lakers could go for a young one who could learn from Nash. Hopefully, being close to Hollywood will help with Dwight’s recruitment.

  2. Unrestricted and as of yet unmentioned: Farmar, Livingston. Farmar is making 5 million per overseas so how much of a haircut he’d take is unknown. Attitude, quickness, been to the mountain top. Livingston can still penetrate and is trusting his leg more going to them rim. Since Magic, I’ve always preferred tall points so there lies my sickness in bringing him up every Summer.

    The Rockets waived Aaron Brooks and Delfino in hopes of their tea party going well.
    Calderon will probably be too expensive. Randy Foye can shoot the 3. Manu Ginobili can… (joke). Jack will be looking for dollars. Brandon Rush will be coming off of an ACL injury and is still under contract for a year. Kevin Martin will be too much. Odom will still be butthurt. I don’t know if CJ Watson picked up his option.

    Aminu Al-Farouk had a horrible year and I don’t know why. I saw more of him on the Clips and he seemed to be on the rise as a rookie. Budinger is a UFA.

    Pau coming back healthy after his knees and feet suffering for a couple of years would be a good score. I’m pulling for the team to look like a team next year instead of a rehab facility.

  3. I think Darius’ summary above is highly accurate in terms of the facts and as to how the Lakers FO looks at the situation. DH is not demanding the firing of MD and he is also not publicly stating there is an issue with KB. Therefore the Lakers are doing nothing to alter/enhance either situation. We are simply ignoring those issues, because nothing official is coming from the DH camp (a camp with a horrendous communications track record I might add). Before Pearl Harbor was attacked, there were reports and rumors of the impending peril, however the official word from the Emperor was that “all was well”. Like the Laker FO – the commanding officer found no reason for action, because there were no “facts” on which to base any decision. Inaction is a decision. And inaction with incomplete information is no different than action with incomplete information.

  4. I’d be partial to Dorrell Wright, who i think is still effective. Also for what its worth the Cavs chose not to tender Omri Caspi or Wayne Ellington. While Caspi may be more of a fit in a D’Antoni system, Ellington could fill a distinct need as a backup 2 especially depending on Kobe’s health. But realistically, we’re looking at a 1 year guy with the Mini-MLE ($3 million) and then the vets minimum for everything else. So much of what will occur is predicated around Dwight Howard. There are players out there that can fit, and it would be especially interesting to see they kinds of players they’d bring in to play the D’Antoni system (you saw this with the drafting of Ryan Kelly), but again its Dwecision that’ll dictate the direction.

  5. Well, Houston renounced Delfino & Brooks, so it’s certainly got the free cap space now…

  6. Good post, Darius.

    Robert,

    Have a couple of drinks, buddy. ;-)

  7. rr: I am going to pretend I am in pre-war Hawaii, so I am planning to take your advice, and grab a girl and a bottle and go to the top of the mountains. From there I will look for enemy bombers. If I see any I will alert everyone. Of course I will expect to be ignored : )

  8. Wow. I didn’t think the Raps would be able to get rid of Bargnani, but I should have known better. No one’s untradeable. But for them to also get a 1st round pick after this (you’d think instead they’d need to attach picks as sweeteners to get teams to absorb the salary) is a mini-coup. New York will always be New York.

  9. TempleofJamesWorthy June 30, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    If “winning” truly is most important to Dwight Howard, then the Lakers have a shot. Here’s how the Lakers, Rockets, and Mavs looks with DH12

    Lakers:
    DH12
    Kobe
    Gasol
    Nash
    MWP

    Rockets:
    DH12
    Harden
    Asik
    Lin
    Parsons

    Mavs:
    DH12
    Dirk
    Marion
    Vince Carter
    PG to be named later

    None of these teams will have much quality depth behind the starting five, and once the Rockets are over the luxury tax, their ability to grab somewhat-undervalued mid-range players gets diminished.

    As it stands, I think a DH12-containing Lakers’ lineup compares favorably to the D12-containing Mavs and Rockets.

    And while the Lakers have uncertainties due to injury/age, the other teams have question marks as well. Harden and Nowitski are proven, but are Lin, Asik, and Parson actually championship-caliber, or simply good/young/energetic enough to get into the playoffs? What does Dallas have beyond Dirk that’s proven? Marion, Carter, and Brand are all old and declining, and their PG situation is utterly a mess.

    Of course, if what DH12 really cares about is that he dislikes playing with Kobe (either personally or because it makes him “second fiddle”) and hates playing for D’Antoni (either personal or just doesn’t like D’Antoni’s system), then this doesn’t really matter.

    But I am somewhat more optimistic than I was before I took a good hard look at what the Mavs and Rockets actually have to offer.

  10. Warren Wee Lim June 30, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    This is going to be interesting. Imagine how no one touches Bargnani with a 20-foot pole and now the Knicks and Nets are bidding for his services. Bonjourno!

  11. Warren Wee Lim June 30, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    In the meantime, Thomas Robinson just got tossed like a rag doll. Heads to Portland for 2 2nds and rights to 2 foreign stashes.

    Bargnani to NY deal apparently complete.

  12. A week ago I was fairly certain that Dwight was walking to the Rockets. Now, however, I think that the Lakers have a shot of re-signing him. Have you guys seen this?

    http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2013/6/30/4481122/dwight-howard-phil-jackson-los-angeles-lakers-free-agency-2013

  13. From a similar article on Bleacher Report:
    Truthfully, it probably doesn’t matter to Howard what Jackson’s duties are with the Lakers. In all likelihood, he’s much more concerned with the team’s broken-down roster, inability to replenish its talent base until the summer of 2014 and the mismatched fit with current coach Mike D’Antoni.
    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1689260-phil-jacksons-role-with-lakers-reportedly-influencing-dwight-howards-decision
    KenOak: This is all hypothetical, so therefore it does not exist. Black holes don’t exist either and I will never admit they do until I get pulled into one.

  14. What is the difference of playing in MDA or McHale’s offensive system ? I don’t see any difference. ” …Billboards don’t win championship”, one source closed to Howard said that according to ESPN. The interesting is that Howard wants to win championship being number one or number two on his team ? If he sign with Houston, he will be number one, with Lakers or Dallas he will be number two, let’s see. If Howard playing for Phil Jackson, think about it, with one minute left in the game, Phil will give the ball to Howard or Kobe ? of course Kobe, so i don’t think Howard will be happy in Phil’s system either.

  15. cbs is reporting the rockets are looking to deal asik and lin. the spin they are putting on it is that houston is increasingly confident. absent of spin, it’s an ambiguous move. could be insecurity.

  16. Robert,
    don´t forget to take a Hawaiian-style shirt & a trumpet, just like Monty Clift

  17. DJ- A Phil Jackson offense is a post-centric one whereas MDA is a PnR based one which Howard seems to not like as much. He would be much happier in a PJ offense, even if Kobe or Nash is taking the last shot. And yes I realize that PJ is 99.9% not coming back or even available for that matter.

    BTW if Howard thinks that he would be top-dog in Houston, then he’s in for a rude awakening. He’ll be trading a ball-dominant guard who demands the ball in the final minutes for another ball-dominant guard who will be taking the final shot in big games.

  18. Howard has been in the league long enough to understand his strengths and weaknesses. He actually fits better in a Mike D’Antoni offense than he does in a Phil Jackson offense. That is a fact of understanding Dwight’s skill sets.

    If Dwight leaves because of Mike D’Antoni’s offense then that only shows his lack of self understanding or his refusal to look at his game in any kind of objective manner. What that shows is not only an insecurity with who he is, but a failure in self examination. That doesn’t argue for a great basketball IQ.

    I don’t think Dwight is a ‘dumb’ basketball player and, therefore, I really take all this ‘doesn’t like D’Antoni’s offense’ talk with a huge grain of salt – even if it comes from some of the less bright members in Dwight’s group of followers.

  19. Im getting the feeling that once the Lakers talk to him, he stays Kobe and Nash will be there and other hof ers are going to he there too Zen Master talked . Hou, Dallas and whoever can bring it, but none of those franchises combined have won more championships in their entire history than the Lakers in the last 13 years, and im sure there will be more chips in the near future because thats the Lakers way. Thats the point they should drive on. If healthy this team is a contender and next year comes the major reload, there is no bigger stage.

  20. Based on the current front runners to get Dwight, I think you can truly see that Mike D is not going to be as much of a big issue as some believe. The biggest issue will be what D12 wants out of a team. Does he want to be pushed to his limits or does he want to have fun?

  21. Craig W- What you posted is true, but the problem is that you’re forgetting that Dwight has an ego. Do you think that he would rather be in an offense like MDA’s or one like SVG/PJ. There is a difference after all. In one he is the recipient of lobs and dump off passes and in the other he is the absolute main cog that the ball goes through nearly every time down court. I also have to say that *in theory* a PnR heavy offense where Howard gets touches rolling to the basket and slashing to the hoop fits him extremely well. However, didn’t you notice how much trouble he was having catching the ball last year? That could have just been the bad back… (I hope)

  22. I think these reports about D12 wanting PJ involved should lock him in, the Lakers requesting having the last word is an excellent move. The Lakers will bring PJ in some capacity and the rest will take care of itself. If he wants to win championships this is the place to be. Hou in triying to get Howard is guvin away the parts that made them a good team last season.

  23. , . I also have to say that *in theory* a PnR heavy offense where Howard gets touches rolling to the basket and slashing to the hoop fits him extremely well.

    Not in theory. The Synergy data on this is very clear; both Darius and the SSR guys ran pieces saying so and the idea of Nash/Howard P/R terrorizing the league was a commonplace from the time the deal was made and it was the main reason that I personally supported the hire. But it didn’t work out that well, for a variety of reasons. And, Howard may in fact see himself as a post-up guy in spite of the data. Or the system stuff may just be code for “I can’t stand Mike D’Antoni.” Or maybe all the stories are wrong, and Howard is fine with MDA and it is really Kobe that bothers him.

    In any event, what does seem unlikely at this point is that Howard has no issues at all with either MDA or his system. Howard did openly criticize MDA for ignoring defense in practice, IIRC.

    As to Craig’s skepticism about media reports on Howard and D’Antoni (and that is where that stuff is coming from–not fans) that’s fine, but it would be a little more convincing if he refuted it with some specifics. It strikes me as more preemptive pro-FO spindoctoring, but if you have something to back it up, other than reading Howard’s mind and making assumptions about his intelligence and that of those referring to the stories, I would be happy to see it.

  24. Darren Collison did not get a QO from Dallas, and is now a UFA.

  25. Wouldn’t mind seeing brooks or delfino.. Could use odom in case Howard walks can help with ball handling to take pressure off Nash and Kobe but still need a pg or sg that can create or get to rim and sf besides mwp.. Maybe kirilinko (wishful) or korver.. Darren collision if Dallas pursues rondo. Play pau at center and groom Sacre.. Maybe LA can make a nice postseason run while saving money

  26. Collison is small, but he has some skills, and is from LA. Problem is he night get more than the minimum elsewhere, but the Lakers should talk to him, as well as Farmar and Livingston.

  27. lakers expressing interest in every available SF. huehuehue.

  28. rr- Howard has posted some ridiculously good PnR numbers over his career, but I believe that they were different types of PnR where he wasn’t catching the ball on the move as much, but instead was sealing his man on the block for easy shots. (excluding lobs at the rim for dunks.) I remember reading an article where D’Antoni was describing the differences between how Dwight has been used in the past and how Nash runs the PnR.

  29. Either they have to get a team to fit MDA or another coach to fit this team if they are still ineffective MDA has to go. But can’t believe they wouldn’t so gn and trade for Griffin and Bledsoe u kill two birds with one stone Bledsoe could develop offensively under Nash and Griffin has a high ceiling if under the right direction. It would be a nice core to build around. They can’t bank on 2014 FA class

  30. rr: Again – you are using logic (you have a tendency to do that). Don’t you realize that whether we get DH is not as important as the spin doctoring to which you refer. If he leaves we need to make sure there is a back story so the FO takes no blame.
    Spin it all you want – the Lakers will hit rock bottom if he leaves and the FO will be lampooned. The emergence of Phil even in a distant way is the best thing we have going now.

  31. The Phil story is almost comical. Unless he replaces Mitch or MD, then what title would he have? What power would he have? His most recent recommendation was to install Brian Shaw as coach, and that is no longer available, so what’s next? Do we think that just giving Phil a front row season ticket at Staples will sway DH? Not sure – but it will be the best thing we have done to date – so I like it.

  32. The Rockets’ contingent is in town and are supposedly having a late dinner with D12 as we speak.

  33. KenOak,

    Maybe, but the Synergy data supposedly is granular enough that it accounts for that sort of thing. It may be that Howard’s back and Nash’s injuries were the problem, but IMO we did not see it enough.

    Robert,

    I agree to a large extent, with the caveat that there are too many variables to assume that the team will hit rock bottom if Howard leaves.

  34. Really stupid Tweet from Kevin Arnovitz:

    kevinarnovitz Kevin Arnovitz
    If Dwight Howard walks, we’ll finally get a feel for how Mitch Kupchak functions as a workaday NBA general manager.

  35. Let him walk.

    I will drive him to the airport.

  36. I don’t get that statement from Arnovitz at all.

    Delfino, Collison, Brooks should be on the wishlist in that order. If NO is also planning on making a big Tyreke offer, they may renounce the rights to Xavier Henry as well. I’ve seen very little of him since he’s been in the NBA, so I’m likely just interested based off his college potential, but all these names would make good low-level FA signings.

  37. @ Darius, “As for the Warriors, they don’t have the cap space to sign Dwight outright and would need the Lakers to participate in a sign and trade for then to acquire him. This doesn’t mean that can’t happen down the road, but being that the Lakers would have to agree to make this deal it puts them on the back burner for now, and potentially for this entire process.” Does that mean the Lakers wouldn’t be interested in anyone on the Warriors and would prefer to let D-12 leave w/o any compensation?

    @ TempleofJamesWorthy, Add the Warriors to that list and your conclusion may be different.

  38. Maybe I look at things differently, like from the eyes of the ball player. If from the player’s prospective, you truly believe it would be in Dwight’s best interest to remain with the Lakers, I could respect that. If you’re just considering what’s best for your team and not the player, not so much. This is what free agency is all about. And our Lakers have usually come out on top because they have so much to offer.

    What this situation should say to all who are realistic is, the Lakers have work to do and tough decisions to make. This current front office is unproven…and the 2014 off season is quickly approaching.

  39. Korver to the Nets apparently “in the bag.” Would have liked to see us make a pitch, considering we can offer the same contract Brooklyn can.

  40. For those who don’t see the Warriors as serious players for Dwight consider the following:

    1) “Warriors consultant and Lakers legend Jerry West is expected to be part of the Golden State group meeting with Dwight Howard tomorrow in LA.”

    2) David Lee is on the trading block

  41. Does that mean the Lakers wouldn’t be interested in anyone on the Warriors and would prefer to let D-12 leave w/o any compensation?

    It means that the Lakers aren’t considering these options at this point because their main goal is re-signing Howard.

  42. Agreed with regard to the goal. And I also think we should go all in for signing him and not waver with a sign and trade unless that presents at the very end. That said, the Warriors note is interesting, because they are trotting out West. The Rockets of course sent everyone except Moses Malone (they even had Yao on Skype). Meanwhile from the Woj article, here is who we are sending:
    “Bryant has offered to be a part of the contingent that will include the Buss family, general manager Mitch Kupchak and possibly coach Mike D’Antoni.”
    Maybe D’Antoni? What is that? The Buss family – creating a whose in charge aura? What about Magic? What about Kareem? What about Phil – his new role does not include this? I guess Shaq would be completely out of the question. So in other words, the other teams have far fewer guys to send, but what they have, they are sending. Meanwhile, we are sending a fraction of the talent that we could send if this report is correct.

  43. Lakers have a team full of expiring deals, some combination of two should be worth something.

  44. This harping on our front office not knowing how to do things really sounds like Chicken Little.

    I guess those of us who actually think things like, “Mitch has been in his job well over 10 years and doesn’t deserve the all the badmouthing about his abilities.” just don’t post on this blog enough.

    I have no clue whether or not we will be able to sign Dwight Howard. I just know we have a good chance. Now it is time to wait out this saga and discuss other things.

    How about the supporting players. Will they be materially different whether we sign Dwight Howard or not? Where our direction will be the same, I suspect we will try and move forward fairly quickly.

  45. CraigW: It is not a question of not knowing how to do things. Jerry West knows how to do things as well and so do the Rockets. Second place and a nice effort gets us nothing – we need to win this battle. And sticking our heads in the sand and saying “in Jim we trust” is no better than saying the sky is falling (which nobody is saying by the way). What most of us are saying is that the odds don’t look great so let’s make them better. I am not giving up and still am hopeful, but I think we need more than blind faith.
    As far as other players, I think they will wait and see what happens with DH, but either way we have little money, and we do not want things that extend beyond 14.

  46. Whatever Dwights talents are should be irrelevant

    Hes already shown that if he doesn’t get the ball…doesn’t get a call..or if things get tough..he will check out for plays and even games.

    He dif it in Orlando…he did it in L.A. giving him more money wont change his mindset

  47. I guess those of us who actually think things like, “Mitch has been in his job well over 10 years and doesn’t deserve the all the badmouthing about his abilities.” just don’t post on this blog enough.

    Nah. You are just hyperemotional about any criticism directed at the FO, don’t handle it well and therefore lash out at people daily. You really should drop it and talk about other things at this point. You should also answer my question above, instead of ducking it.

    Robert,

    FWIW, Arash Markazi Tweeted that the Lakers have a few “surprises” for Howard at the pitch, so maybe Magic and Kareem will be there, and maybe Phil will show up. We’ll see.

  48. Snoopy,

    IMO It was just a backhanded jab at Kupchak, in the guise of a descriptive statement.

    I am OK with these SFs, but the Lakers need to think defense as much as shooting.