What not to do in NBA free agency
In the post Rockets-get-Dwight Howard world that we now live in, basketball scribes are taking to the internet for their take on the new hardwood landscape and any lessons learned. How in under a year the Rockets from a middling NBA franchise with no superstar talent to having two top 10-15 players on their roster is a tale many are analyzing.
To that end, Grantland's Zach Lowe looked at other franchises that could have made or at least investigated a seismic move like adding the talented but risky Howard this summer after acquiring James Harden in 2012. Golden State put itself in the Howard mix before signing free agent Andre Iguodola.
"And so they tried, and they came close to winning," Lowe said of the Warriors. "Other teams could and should have done the same; the media mocked Danny Ainge when it leaked that Boston had called Howard’s camp to gauge his interest in a sign-and-trade there, but that is absolutely the right approach. Take the Wizards, with two large expiring contracts (Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza), two very intriguing young assets (Bradley Beal, Otto Porter), a biggish market, and a star-level point guard still below Howard in the NBA’s pecking order — an important thing for Howard’s sensitive ego. What’s to lose in reaching out to Howard as the Warriors did?
"Or what about Chicago, once a rumored Howard trade destination? They’ve got one big expiring (Luol Deng), an All-Star center on a good contract (Joakim Noah), an extra pick courtesy of the Bobcats, a big market, a knockout young asset in Jimmy Butler, and a superstar point guard ready to devour the league again. The Bulls are over the luxury tax “apron,” making it harder for them to build a sign-and-trade, but it’s doable. Did they try?
"My educated guess, after digging around a bit, is that Washington put out some initial Howard feelers, but Chicago appears to have not. And that’s fine. The Bulls have a stern culture, very good talent already on hand, and a tax complication."
Let me be honest: I won't be named president of a Dwight Howard fan club any time soon. His immaturity is legendary (and fans don't get to witness his diva behavior in the locker room postgame), his injury history is concerning, his status as a truly elite player is overrated. Not saying the Wizards wouldn't be better with him (or could have signed him), but it's possible they would have sold their soul in the process.
However when he's physically and mentally right, Howard is a true game-changer who can dominate the paint and looks as if he should rightfully be part of the NBA's all-time big men pantheon. Acquiring Howard is a move that puts Houston into contender talk. Whether it means they win a title is something else, but there is merit to the NBA argument of going big or going bad and avoiding the middle of the pack.
For whatever the reason, the Wizards franchise has struggled to attract starry free agents; Gilbert Arenas became one of the game's 10 or so best players after arriving in Chinatown. Since it can't be the large market/urban locale, blame the losing. That is why it's unlikely Howard would have considered signing with Washington even if John Wall's own star is on the rise, even if he would have had Nene to help bang inside, even if he would have a strong shooter like Martell Webster creating space from the wing (I'm assuming he would have joined the Wizards in a sign-and-trade, costing Washington Beal or Porter if not both and much more).
Howard did reportedly consider Golden State, a franchise that has hardly been synonymous with winning. That is before Steph Curry dominated the early playoff rounds. With Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, the Warriors were certainly the most exciting team in last year's playoffs. Something tells me Golden State wasn't on the top of Iguodala's destination wish list before the Warriors downed his Nuggets in the playoffs.
With the dynamic backcourt of Wall and Beal, it's possible the Wizards could be next year's Warriors. Yes, Golden State won a first round series, something the Wizards would likely struggle to pull off if matched up against Miami or Indiana in 2014. That doesn't mean they couldn't be considered an intriguing team on the rise.
This is perhaps the underrated part of the Porter selection. Whether the former Georgetown star ever becomes an NBA All-Star or not, his heavy-instinctive game will make Wall and Beal better. That will make the Wizards better. With good luck and of course good health, that could mean a playoff berth. At that point, a good showing could make Washington attractive for the next Dwight Howard, one truly worth pursuing.