The NBA's free agent period is a little more than a month away and the rumors surrounding Dwight Howard are starting to swirl once again. CBSSports.com's Ken Berger names the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks as two of several teams that Howard will take a hard look at in free agency this summer.
Howard plans to explore all such options, and a person briefed on his plans told CBSSports.com that there are "several" teams the free-agent center is "going to take a hard look at."
The Atlanta Hawks aren't mentioned anywhere in the article but there is little doubt that general manager will be in touch with Howard's agents minutes after the free agency period opens. The Rockets are the hottest name out there right now but would have to make a couple of minor moves to be able to sign Howard. The same applies to the Mavericks' situation who would have to dump a player or two to be able to give Howard a max offer. Atlanta will have enough room to offer Howard a max deal when free agency opens.
The Los Angeles Lakers are still favored to keep Howard by virtue of being able to offer him a more lucrative contract than any other team. However, Berger points out a scenario where a four-year deal might be beneficial to Howard.
But Howard is only 27, and barring a career-ending injury, he'll clearly get one more max deal after this one. A four-year deal with an opt-out after three years, for example, would in some ways be preferable to Howard because he'd hit the open market again at age 30 and could then secure his five-year max deal.
Howard had back surgery prior to last season and played with a torn labrum for much of the season so the injury risk will have to be weighed by his camp but if healthy he should have no trouble maintaining a max level for the duration of his next contract.
The Atlanta Hawks have been thought of as a longshot to land Howard who has not shown any indication that he desires to play for his hometown team. Ferry's job when free agency opens will be to sell Howard on his vision of the Atlanta Hawks going forward. Ferry will have to convince Howard not just to come home but that home is the place where he can win a championship.