The Houston Rockets seem like they really want to part ways with Dwight Howard ahead of the NBA trade deadline.
Howard and the Rockets aren’t strangers to the rumors. Houston hit the break ninth in the Western Conference with zero in the way of chemistry after one coaching change. With the knowledge Howard would likely opt out this offseason in search of more cash and perhaps a new locale, it was only a matter of time before his name hit the market.
According to ESPN’s Calvin Watkins, Howard’s name hasn’t just hit the market—it’s getting passed around like a hot potato:
So Houston has talked to Charlotte, Miami, Toronto and Atlanta about Dwight Howard.
That’s quite the array of teams. The Miami Heat would make some sense if they could find a way to get a deal done. They have their own problem at center with Hassan Whiteside, who is young with plenty of potential but has maturity issues. Such a move would likely need a third team, though, given Miami’s cap situation.
The Atlanta Hawks making the list isn’t much of a surprise. Atlanta knows all about not meeting expectations this year and it seems every other day either guard Jeff Teague or center Al Horford comes up in trade rumblings. Making a Howard-Horford framework makes sense for Houston, as Horford is a reliable veteran who might even want to stick around after the season.
Toronto might be the biggest surprise on the list. The Raptors have Jonas Valanciunas underneath the basket, and while Howard would be an upgrade and further massage a weakness that is Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson at power forward, the Raptors are second in the Eastern Conference and toying with the chemistry in such a drastic way might ruin things, not help. Then again, it’s hard to know who called who.
Charlotte would be the “last but not least” option here. The Hornets, eighth in the Eastern Conference and perhaps wanting to make a push, have interesting pieces such as Al Jefferson to offer in a potential deal.
One problem—Charlotte doesn’t sound like it wants to move those pieces, as The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski pointed out:
Sources: Charlotte’s shown no interest in cashing assets for Dwight Howard. Clifford loved coaching Howard in Orlando, but no path to deal.
ESPN’s Marc Stein provided a similar note:
ESPN sources say Hornets and Rockets have discussed a potential Dwight Howard-to-Charlotte trade but have not managed to find workable deal
That is the main issue with a Howard deal. He might be 30 years old and in the middle of a rather quiet, mature season while posting a slash line of 14.6/12.0/1.5, but he can opt out of his deal this summer and do whatever he chooses. If the team trading for him doesn’t think Howard will re-up, it doesn’t make much of the way in sense to surrender assets. This is especially the case for a team like Charlotte, a team sitting on the fringe of the playoffs but not necessarily morphing into a contender overnight if Howard comes to town after the break.
If the laundry list of names here—some of the them with plenty of things to offer in trade—haven’t gained any traction on a deal, it seems nobody will. Houston would like to get something in return if Howard leaves, but the asking price might always be too high. Given the risk involved for the team getting Howard, barring a drastic change right at the deadline, it’s hard to imagine Howard moves.