Howard was dealt from the Charlotte Hornets to the Nets on Wednesday in exchange for Timofey Mozgov, two second-round picks and cash.
Because the trade won’t become official until the league’s moratorium ends, a buyout on his $23.8 million expiring contract would make Howard a free agent no earlier than July 6.
Though he’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and five-time All-NBA First Team selection, Howard’s stature in the league has been on the decline over the past few years and his next team will be his sixth in eight seasons.
While the 32-year-old is still a productive player – he averaged 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks last season with Charlotte – Howard carries question marks regarding his chemistry with team-mates and willingness to play more of a supporting role.
According to Howard, he wants to help a team win at his next stop.
“I want to be in a situation where I have an opportunity to help a team win,” Howard told ESPN. “That’s my only goal. All I need is a real chance and a clean slate where it’s not people talking about my past.”
If Howard’s main priority is winning a ring, the team that immediately jumps out is the Golden State Warriors.
The defending champions won’t be able to offer Howard much money – they’re already juggling their finances with four max contract calibre players – but if he wants to join on the veteran’s minimum to ring chase and rebuild his reputation, the Warriors would be an appealing option.
Outside of the value for money, it might not make much sense for Golden State though. Why risk ruining a good thing by bringing in a player who could potentially harm the locker room and derail a dynasty? As unlikely as that outcome is, the Warriors have little incentive to risk it.
I'd be stunned if Warriors even entertained the idea of Dwight Howard. They've publicly laid out their plans go young, hungry and smaller (more wings, fewer vet bigs), plus still feeling sting of Swaggy P whiff.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) June 21, 2018
Another team that could pursue Howard is the Washington Wizards, who are reportedly trying to unload centre Marcin Gortat.
Even by ridding themselves of Gortat’s $13.5m contract, the Wizards could only offer Howard minimum money, but he would potentially be a high-impact player on a team that could compete in the Eastern Conference.
Speaking of contenders in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics have a need for a big man and, like the Warriors, are attractive for ring chasers.
Howard is a fascinating free agent. Does he ring chase? Nets are paying him $20-plus million anyway. And tuck this away: Danny Ainge has liked—and expressed interest in—Howard in the past.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) June 21, 2018
Boston are already over the salary cap, but they could potentially use the mid-level exception on Howard, who would benefit from playing next to three All-Stars and in Brad Stevens’ fluid system.
The biggest question is what does Howard want? A championship? Another decent contract? A significant role? Whatever it is, it will dictate where he ends up.
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