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  • Greg Alcala

Dwight's Next Stop

*Photo via USA Today

Dwight Howard had a great rise to superstardom straight out of high school. He had the size, the game and the smile, and for a while it seemed like Howard would be one of the few bigs in the game that could actually pick up where recently inducted hall-of-famer, Shaquille O’Neal left off. And he was. In his third year, Howard was selected to represent the East as an All-Star for the first time of his career, validating a season in which he averaged a double-double in 17.6 points and 12.3 rebounds a game. NBA All-Star starter, Slam Dunk Champ ( in 08), Defensive Player of the Year (in 09) and a trip to the NBA Finals to face-off against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. You name it, Howard has probably done it. What started off as a promising career in the small market transitioned into expectations and serious business. Howard decided to leave Orlando for Tinseltown, joining forces with Kobe and all that comes with THAT situation. All of a sudden, playtime was over. The smile wasn’t cute anymore, nor was it seen. Howard was met with real career expectations and responsibilities, that didn’t offer any other option as a result besides winning. He also was met with the reality of continuing the tradition of great big-men in LA. He also had to deal with the struggles of playing with one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. Talk about pressure. Long story short, LA was a disaster and Howard has spent the last three seasons with the Houston Rockets, and of course, “the Beard”, struggling to hang on to any bit of NBA relevance that he has left. It’s why he was the subject of trade rumors for the Rockets halfway into the season, and surprisingly, there were realistic suitors for the 11-year vet.

This summer, Howard will be a free-agent and some of those same teams that were interested at the deadline could resurface as possible destinations for the Atlanta native.

Atlanta Hawks

*Photo via AJC

Everyone likes going home, just ask LeBron James. Well, maybe not Carmelo Anthony, but I’m pretty sure Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have thought about it, even if their minds are fixated on winning an NBA Championship for OKC. It's why the Atlanta Hawks are in play for Howard’s services this offseason. Al Horfords contract will be up after this season is up and Horford himself expressed that he will not speak on the subject until the season is over.( via Horford, who has been with the Hawks his entire career has to decide whether being good enough to just compete in the playoffs is worth more than winning a championship, and I think it’s something that Horford will seriously consider. Which is why there is a place for Howard in the ATL. And I think what’s most important to Howard is the environment. The Hawks have become the “Spurs East” due to the arrival of their head coach, Mike Budenholzer who has changed the culture for the better. The Hawks current environment is one that Howard can flourish in. I believe Howard is at his best when he is surrounded with multiple threats not just “One Beard”, but several pieces who all know their roles, how to play the game and of course take the pressure off of Howard on offense so that he would have the space to be effective. People seem to forget that back in the Magic days, Howard had Jameer Nelson to lean on, Hedo Turkoglu, Courtney Lee, Rashard Lewis, Michael Pietrus and J.J Redick. All of the above are and were solid NBA players back in 09, they made it to the promised land but came up short. In ATL, Howard would have Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap,Kent Bazemore and Tiago Splitter. Howard can go back to being just one of the guys and above all things, comfortable.

New York Knicks

*Photo via Bleachereport

I wouldn’t want to see it happen, but it is an option. The New York Knicks are going nowhere fast, currently 32-49 and on the outside looking into the playoffs for the 3rd straight year. What was an encouraging start to the season has turned into another lost opportunity for the Knicks under Phil Jackson, who has pretty much survived the boatload of criticism facing him by hiding behind the brilliant pick of Kristaps Porzingis. The fact is, Jackson has failed to do what he was brought here to do and that’s bring in the best of the best through free agency. I wouldn’t say Howard is the best of the best, but he is serviceable. He can grab boards (11.8 a game) and block shots, (1.6) but I just don’t think he is much of a fit in NY. And, I don’t see how Howard would make the Knicks any better than they are now. Rumors of Howard being interested in the Knicks surfaced last month along with a three-team deal including the New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets and New York Knicks. The deal would of sent Howard and Luke Babbitt of the Pelicans to the Knicks, Ryan Anderson and Omer Asik to the Rockets in addition to Derrick Williams and Jose Calderon. Either way, Howard in my estimation is a lose-lose for the Knicks. Porzingis is a budding perennial All-Star and I don’t think the Knicks should interfere with his development by bringing in someone whose career has been nothing short of drama with very few highlights.

Orlando Magic

*Photo via USA Today

Bad breakups are tough on both parties and in this case, both the Magic and Howard suffered for a while. Ladies and Gentlemen, that suffering is over if you're referring to the Magic. Howard's former team has drafted well the last couple of years and boasts a wealth of quality youthful players. Now it seems like the Magic are just one piece away and that piece could be Howard. To be quite honest, going back home to where it all began could save Howard's career. Howard could be the type of addition that makes Orlando a threat to break into the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season. That alone will change the ugly narrative that has followed the traitor for all of these years. It would be a nice story of course, but you know what could even be cooler? The chance that Howard could evolve into the ultimate team player and sacrifice stats to play with somebody better than he is in Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic is averaging a near double-double in 18.0 ppg and 8.9 assists and a pairing of the two, especially if Dwight is committed could be very scary for the Eastern Conference, going forward. Howard's presence in the middle could make everyone playing around him a lot better, like Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon or Victor Oladipo. Just talking about it has me excited because it could and will be big for the city. Maybe not Lebron James, I’m coming home, but still pretty good. Recently inducted hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal fully endorses the move. “I think it would be good for the city,” O’Neal told ESPN. “First of all, after the first time he left, letting a big young guy get away, it shouldn’t happen a second time. All the puzzle [pieces] have to fit.” If Howard wants to feel that love that he so longs for, there’s no place like home, and in this case, Orlando.

Dallas Mavericks

*Photo via Getty

The Dallas Mavericks tried to woo Los Angeles Clippers center, DeAndre Jordan to the Big D and it didn’t work. That loss hasn’t discouraged Dallas from going after the most notable bigs in the game. Mark Cuban and company have had their eyes set on Howard. Howard can opt out of his $23.2 million dollar deal in search of the max that would start at $31.5 million the first year and increase to more than $40 million as Howard progresses through his new deal. Even with teams having more to spend in the near future due to the new TV-deal, Howard isn’t a player worthy of commanding maximum dollars and I think Howard will understand that once the season ends. His price will have to drop significantly. Once again, Dallas, solid players-solid team. Dirk Nowitzki is still playing at a high level. Deron Williams is still a viable contributor and Chandler Parsons can ball. Parsons will most likely be recruiting Howard, like he did Jordan and he wants to play with Howard again. "I'm talking to him routinely, obviously, and we share the same agent with Dan Fegan ...” Parsons told USA “Obviously I have a really close relationship with Dwight and one year wasn't enough playing with him in Houston. I was a big reason why he went there, so I'll have to revisit that when the time is appropriate. The relationship I had with him, and making him feel comfortable, that was big (in Houston).”

Milwaukee Bucks

*Photo via Washington Post

The Milwaukee Bucks having a record similar to the Knicks is a crime. They shouldn’t be 33-48, but they are. Despite their struggles, I have to believe that the Bucks will compete for the playoffs next season, and Howard can be one of those players that helps lead the pack for Milwaukee. Greg Monroe informed everyone that the big markets doesn’t matter anymore when deciding where to play after he chose Jason Kidd over New York and Los Angeles. Monroe has been playing the five for the Bucks this year but he’s best suited as a power forward where he can be a force on the offensive end. Monroe isn’t built to be the Bucks anchor on defense, averaging one block a game. Howard can be that guy for the Bucks. He can take the pressure off of Monroe and clean up the mess around the rim, put shots back in and protect the middle. The theme here is for Howard to join winning situations and that’s what the Bucks can provide despite their losing season. With the likes of Michael Carter-Williams, Monroe, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and the upcoming Rashad Vaughn, this sounds like a winning situation to me.

#GregAlcala #NBA #Knicks #Rockets #Hawks #Bucks

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