The Brooklyn Nets' acquisition of Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson, who is owed close to $90 million over the next four years, seemingly knocked them out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and made the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks the prohibitive favorites.
But reports late Monday night stated that the Nets are still actively pursuing a deal with the Orlando Magic that could land Howard in Brooklyn in exchange for Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, and multiple first-round draft picks.
Howard recently told Yahoo Sports that he is only willing to re-sign with one team, with many presuming that team to be the Nets. The Nets have tried to add Howard since last December, but the Magic have been unresponsive to their trade offers.
New Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has engaged with the Nets in trade talks, but CBS Sports' Ken Berger reported that he has also discussed deals with the Lakers, Hawks, and Houston Rockets. Berger went on to say that a deal with Nets isn't imminent.
The Lakers have the best asset to trade to the Magic, center Andrew Bynum, but it's unclear whether the team would be willing to trade away such a valuable player in what could only be a one-year rental of Howard. Howard has reportedly told people in the past he has some hesitations about playing second or third fiddle in Los Angeles.
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If the Lakers could convince Howard to sign a long-term deal in Los Angeles, the team would have a strong core of Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace going forward.
The Lakers will have the assets to acquire Howard, while the Hawks will have the cap room next year when Howard is a free agent. The Magic will likely try to trade him before the trade deadline in order to get something in return for the All-Star center, but the hometown Hawks won't have many assets to send the Magic after dealing Johnson and forward Marvin Williams on Monday. The Hawks' best chance of landing Howard would be to see him dealt to a team as a one-year rental and then swoop him up via free agency.
Another outside contender could be the Dallas Mavericks, who will have a lot of cap room available to sign Howard should they miss on Deron Williams, as many now expect.