Recently, reports swirled that the Dallas Mavericks were keenly interested in pursuing center Dwight Howard in free agency. Of course, Howard has to hit free agency first. There’s still a legitimate chance the Los Angeles Lakers will back a dump truck full of cash up to Howard’s door to stay in LA long term.
But assuming Howard hits free agency, it sounds like the Mavs will be in full-court-press mode. Heck, maybe Mark Cuban will skip the taping of Shark Tank this time.
Assuming all the chips fall into place, it’s still a bad idea to bring Howard to Dallas. It's also the only idea the Mavericks have.
The Mavericks’ goal this offseason is to make Dirk Nowitzki their second-best player.
After the NBA lockout in 2011, Howard, who up until that point had been a good soldier and a model NBA citizen, went wonky. He demanded a trade from Orlando and named the Mavs as one of his potential trade partners. Then he backed off.
Then his coach, Stan Van Gundy, told the world Howard wanted him gone. Shortly after that, Van Gundy was fired. Howard committed to the Magic for the 2012-13 season, underwent back surgery and then again asked for a trade. The Magic sent him to LA.
One would think compelling a trade to the NBA’s glamour franchise would have solved any issues surrounding Howard. Not so. He was out of shape after his surgery, which was expected.
But an early-season coaching change didn’t serve him well, as Howard’s post-up game was a complete mismatch for Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense. Worse was that Howard and Kobe Bryant sniped at each other all season through the media.
Howard yo-yoed with the Magic and set them back years. The perception is that he cost Van Gundy his job, and he can’t coexist with Bryant. So why on earth would the Mavericks want to touch Howard, who has the look of NBA kryptonite right about now?
They have no choice. Really, they don’t.
The Mavericks’ goal this offseason is to make Dirk Nowitzki their second-best player. That was the goal last offseason, but Deron Williams slipped through their fingers.
The fact is that Howard is the only potential free agent that fulfills the Mavericks’ No. 1 objective this offseason. Sure, they could get creative with a trade, but frankly they don’t have anything more to offer in a trade than they did two months ago when their season ended.
It’s quite unlikely that a rookie with immediate superstar potential will fall to them at No. 13. In fact, there’s speculation the Mavs might trade the pick for the cap space it would create.
The Mavs have two assets right now. The first is Nowitzki. He’s their best trade chip too, but good luck luring anyone here if you trade Nowitzki away.
The second is cap space. The Mavs should have approximately $20 million to play with this free agent period.
That leaves the Mavericks hoping that Howard and the Lakers don’t agree to a new deal and that the Mavs can woo Howard with the prospect of playing with another aging superstar. Then, once Nowitzki retires, the team becomes Howard’s.
Of course, the Lakers tried that last season. Look how well that turned out.
What’s the Latin phrase? Caveat emptor.