Where will Dwight Howard sign this summer? Are the Mavs in the mix after all? With all the drama that's unfolded with the Lakers this season, and their mediocre record, Ken Berger has offered his reasons why Howard may land elsewhere in an article about the big man ... and we're reacting with what we believe is equal-but-opposite creative thinking.
It's an interesting article. Fun to read and to see the Dallas Mavericks mentioned. In an argument that extolls the possibility Howard might well be playing for another team on his next contract, particularly Dallas or Atlanta, here's the crucial point:
First, there's the money. It's always about the money, except when it's not. And for Dwight Howard, a 27-year-old superstar who will get two more max contracts, the edge the Lakers have under the rules to give Howard a five-year deal and larger annual increases as compared to the four-year deal he can get as a free agent or via a sign-and-trade is not a significant factor. Think about it: What would you prefer? A five-year deal that would deliver you to the free-agent market again at age 32? Or a four-year deal from the team of your choice that would make you a free agent as early as age 30, with an opt-out after the third year? It probably behooves Howard to choose Option B.
That's a great explanation of how and why Howard could be available to the 29 teams that aren't the Lakers. It's the one advantage they have that is incontrovertible - only one team will be able to offer more years and more money than all the rest - and unless that advantage becomes meaningless to Howard, he'll stay in LA.
Our reaction? As much as D12 to Dallas excites us (and an impatient Dirk), we can't buy that argument coming into play with Howard. Not even a little bit.
It is certainly true that, for some players in some circumstances, getting the longest contract possible may not be the top priority, and Berger does a good job of outlining what might motivate Howard to prefer that shorter deal, and arguing that his wish will remove the Laker advantage.
But objectively, we think any such wish is fanciful to suppose for Howard.
From what we've seen to date, Howard has always prioritized getting the 5-year deal (which is only allowed by signing with the same team) over everything else. When he didn't want to be stuck with Orlando being the one who could offer it, because he didn't trust their ability to fashion and keep a true title contender, he kept pushing for a trade to a new team.
Now that he's in LA, with a track record of titles and a proven ability to land talent when needed. (Oh, and the financial wherewithal to do whatever it wishes. We’ve broken down the financial realities for LA here. ) And now that it's the Lakers who can offer the 5-year deal, choosing the team he wants to sign with becomes an easy decision for him -- and sure enough, without revealing the answer, he's previously said it's a decision he's already made.
The longer deal can also provide a greater respite from the contractual drama he's undergone for the last year or so. Given the difficulty he's had in making these decisions, that could be a factor as well.
On top of all that, there's the added impact of the injuries he's been incurring. First it's a serious back injury, then it's his shoulder keeping him out of games. What's next? A player repeatedly getting injured will inevitably feel more need for the security of the longest deal possible. The more Dwight keeps getting dinged, I believe the more firmly he becomes committed to that 5-year deal he's already decided he will take.
Berger goes on to add the idea that LA could even trade him, to avoid losing him in the summer. But that also seems incredibly unlikely, because they've never run scared in personnel decisions. They decide what they want, then they do it.
Kudos to Berger for adding fuel to the speculative fire surrounding the Lakers and Howard. It's a smart stab and a fun stab at an idea. But we remain as firmly convinced as ever that Howard is set to re-sign with LA, and the Mavs -- while keeping their eyes open to the very best of possibilities -- had better plan on looking elsewhere for their next franchise player.