The NBA season won’t be over for another month, but most of the league has already begun planning the moves they’ll be making in the offseason. Aside from the big names like Kevin Durant and Al Horford that are set to hit free agency, there has been speculation that some All-Stars still under contract could soon be on the move.
Most notably, Dwight Howard could be playing for a new team in the 2016-2017 NBA season. The Houston Rockets' center still has one year left on his contract worth over $23 million, but he has the ability to opt out and become a free agent.
"I haven't made any decision," Howard said on TNT Tuesday night. "My job is to get in the gym and work my butt off."
Howard might be acting publicly like he doesn’t know what he’s going to do, but he’ll almost certainly opt out of his deal when he gets the opportunity. Even though he’s coming off a subpar year by his standards, Howard stands to m in the open market because of the new salary cap. With the cap expected to jump from $72 million to $92 million, he could make $30 million per season as a free agent this summer.
Houston reached the Western Conference finals in 2015, and they were expected to do big things this year. But the Rockets ended up having one of the most disappointing seasons of any NBA team, barely making the playoffs as the No.8 seed and being ousted in five games in the first round. The big man appeared to have a difficult time playing with James Harden, who dominated the ball with nearly 20 shots per game.
“I have to rely on my teammates in certain aspects to get the ball," Howard said. "Now there have been times I have been upset and I've taken myself out of the game in certain situations, and that's on me.”
The Rockets reportedly came close to dealing Howard at the trade deadline. He was at the center of trade rumors involving the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat, though nothing ever materialized.
Considering Howard and Harden combined to form a championship contender just a year ago, the Rockets could look to keep the duo together. But if another team is prepared to offer Howard a max contract, the 30-year-old could be headed for his fourth team in six years.
Howard was the NBA’s best center for a few years, and though he remains better than most, he no longer holds that distinction. DeMarcus Cousins has never reached the playoffs, but it’d be hard to find a better center in the league than the Sacramento Kings’ big man.
Cousins averaged 26.9 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in the regular season. He’s far and away Sacramento’s best player at just 25 years old, but his future with the Kings has been tenuous for quite some time.
George Karl reportedly wanted to deal Cousins this past year, though the coach was let go at the conclusion of the season and a deal was never made. But Cousins was involved in trade rumors even before Karl was hired, and there has been speculation for the last few years that the Kings might be open to trading the former No.5 overall pick.
Cousins’ gaudy numbers haven’t meant much for the Kings in terms of winning. The team hasn’t reached the playoffs in a decade, and their 33 wins this season was their most since they drafted him in 2010. The All-Star has also had his share of behavioral issues, getting suspended in March of this year for “conduct detrimental to the team,” and receiving several suspensions over the past few years.
Kings’ management, however, has made it known that they have no plans of dealing Cousins in the offseason.
Kings GM Vlade Divac was asked about trading DeMarcus Cousins today after the presser. 'He's not going to be traded - this year for sure'
— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) May 10, 2016
The New York Knicks have been in a similar situation with Carmelo Anthony since he re-signed with the team two years ago. New York has been one of the worst teams in the league, and there’s been speculation that the Knicks might try to make a move. At age 31 and with a salary of about $25million a year, he might not be the most attractive trade option for teams.
Anthony has a no-trade clause in his contract, making a reportedly discussed deal between the Knicks, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers in February extremely unlikely. Veteran NBA reporter Peter Vecsey recently stated that Anthony could ask for a trade if the Knicks ultimately hire Kurt Rambis to be their permanent head coach, but Anthony claims he wants to remain in the Big Apple.
“You’ll be seeing me (playing) with the Knicks, absolutely,” Anthony said Wednesday, speaking to Yahoo Finance at the TechCrunch Disrupt Summit.
The Knicks were 32-50 last year, missing the playoffs for a third straight season.