With one week remaining until the NBA trade deadline, one of the most familiar players in the league is reportedly being shopped around. The Houston Rockets are contacting teams about impending free-agent center Dwight Howard, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports' The Vertical.
Howard has a player option to become a free agent at the end of the season, and is expected to opt out. His base salary for 2015-2016 is $22,359,364 making him a difficult player to move due to salary-cap restrictions.
Despite a big drop in scoring production over the years, Howard is still an elite rebounder and is No. 3 (12.0 rpg) in the league. The 30-year-old is coming off one of his best games of the season, scoring 28 points off 13-of-17 shooting, and grabbing 13 rebounds on Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Rockets are currently a half-game out of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and have lost three straight games.
But it's not just Houston involved in trade talks. The Atlanta Hawks are 22 games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings, but both teams face similar dilemmas. With two of their best players essentially playing the same position, Atlanta and Philadelphia will have the option to make a trade before the Feb. 18 trade deadline.
It was reported a few weeks ago that the Hawks were looking to trade point guard Jeff Teague. The 27-year-old has been an essential part of the team’s success since last season, but Atlanta is looking to give backup point guard Dennis Schroder an increased role. For the 76ers, they have an excess of young big men, starting Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, who both stand at 6’11. Seven-footer Joel Embiid is also on the roster, recovering from a foot injury.
Since both teams are potentially looking to make a move, they could help one another out. According to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia has contacted Atlanta in regards to their point guard situation. No official offer was made, however, and it seems unlikely that a deal will get done before Feb. 18.
The 76ers are more likely to make a trade this summer than this month. The team reportedly wants to know more about Embiid’s future before they move Okafor or Noel. Embiid was the No.3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but he has yet to play one game in the NBA because of injuries.
Philadelphia is in no rush to make a move. The team has the NBA’s worst record after going 8-45 before the All-Star Break, and they appears to be years away from being competitive. But when they do hope to finally make a playoff run, it probably won't be with a roster that includes Okafor, Noel and Embiid. Small-ball lineups have become an essential part of the NBA’s top teams, and the 76ers won’t be able to play much of that style with three key players that stand close to seven feet tall.
Okafor leads all rookies with 17.1 points per game and ranks third among first-year players with 7.4 rebounds per game. Noel is averaging 10.2 points per game in two seasons, but he’s proven to be much better defensively.
Atlanta is more likely to make a trade before the deadline, considering they are playoff-bound as the No.4 seed in the East. Averaging 15.1 points and 5.5 assists per game, Teague is an attractive trade piece for teams that are looking to make an upgrade at point guard. Schroder is averaging 10.7 points per game, but Atlanta believes he would be a comparable starter to Teague, given that their numbers per 36 minutes are similar.
Teague probably isn’t headed to Philadelphia, but a few other teams in the East are interested in the veteran. The Indiana Pacers would reportedly trade George Hill for Teague, though the Hawks likely want to upgrade a different position instead of getting another point guard in return. A trade with the Orlando Magic involving Victor Oladipo could be an option, according to reports. In his third season, Oladipo is averaging 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
Having an elite point guard has proven to almost be a necessity for teams looking to win a championship in today’s NBA. Of the teams with the six best records entering the All-Star break, four have point guards that will be playing in Sunday’s game. That number would be five if Kyrie Irving hadn’t missed the first half of the season with a broken left knee cap.
Ben McLemore and Omri Casspi of the Sacramento Kings have also been involved in the latest trade rumors. McLemore, 22, is in his third season, but the shooting guard has seen his average minutes drop from 32.6 to 21.0 this season despite shooting 45.1 percent from the field. Casspi, meanwhile, is averaging a career high 12.1 points per game.
General manager Vlade Divac, who recently gave a vote of confidence to embattled head coach George Karl, may consider making a deal due to the Kings' recent struggles. Sacramento has lost eight of their last 10 games and are 4.5 games out of the No. 8 seed.