In the summer of 2010, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh changed the NBA when they decided to team up with the Miami Heat. Since then, the Big Three have dominated the Eastern Conference, reaching the NBA Finals in every season together. Now, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul could be looking to form a similar dynasty in the West.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the two biggest free agents of the 2013 offseason could be looking to join forces. The report states that Howard and Paul have been in ongoing discussions about playing together next season. One source tells Broussard "they would love to play together if somebody can make it happen." Two years ago, the All-Stars discussed the possibility of signing with the Dallas Mavericks when they became free agents. Dallas, though, doesn’t have enough room under the salary cap to give Dirk Nowitzki two superstar teammates.
Both players are looking to sign max contracts this summer. The only team that can afford to sign two max players, under the rules of the salary cap, is the Atlanta Hawks. However, the two are, reportedly, not very interested in the idea of playing in Howard’s hometown.
The best chance of Paul and Howard becoming teammates might be with the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite being angry with the organization for the perceived notion that he forced Vinny Del Negro to be fired, Paul wants to remain in L.A. The Clippers won’t be able to sign Howard, so they would have to execute a sign-and-trade with the local-rival Lakers.
The Clippers could be open to making a deal with their Staples Center co-tenants, but the Lakers might not be as willing. After trading for Howard a year ago, the Lakers are still looking to sign their center, and they may not want to help a team that they may directly compete with in the Pacific Division. If Howard wants to change clubs, however, the Lakers probably wouldn’t be able to get a better package than what the Clippers could offer.
If Paul re-signs with the Clippers, a sign-and-trade of Howard for forward Blake Griffin and point guard Eric Bledsoe could work out for both teams. The Lakers would be losing the best center in the NBA, but would arguably get better with the deal. They would receive one of the best young stars in the league and could shift Pau Gasol to center. Bledsoe would give the Lakers the young guard that they desperately need with Steve Nash turning 40 next season and Kobe Bryant, possibly, on the verge of retirement.
Members of the Clippers front office seem to be split on the idea of including Griffin in any trade. Multiple sources have told Broussard that the power forward is untouchable, while others say the club has already had conversations about moving Griffin. At 24 years old, he was named to the All-NBA Second Team for the 2012-2013 season.
Griffin has been one of the top players in the league since he debuted three years ago, but it might be in the Clippers' best interest to trade him. Towards the end of the season, rumors began to circulate that Griffin was unhappy with Paul. The two, reportedly, cleared the air towards the end of the regular season, but the team went on to be upset in the first round of the playoffs.
The most likely scenario has Howard returning to the Lakers and Paul staying with the Clippers. Each team is looking to re-sign their top free agents, and both stars can get the most money by staying put. If the Lakers are in danger of losing Howard for nothing, though, they could try to cover their bases and make sure to receive some compensation. Howard is, reportedly, very interested in signing with the Houston Rockets, and L.A. could get nothing in return for him should he head to Texas.