The Charlotte Hornets is the latest team to join the Dwight Howard trade sweepstake, according to trade rumours buzzing around the league.
The rumour mill was in motion earlier this week after several reports claimed that the Houston Rockets is shopping Howard before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. Fox 26 Houston reported that the Rockets are talking with NBA rivals in an attempt to ship Howard, adding that the team are already at the “beginning stages of the process.”
There is a growing sense that Howard will become a free agent in the summer because of his opt-out clause in his contract, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. “Howard, 30, plans to exercise an opt-out in his contract this summer to become an unrestricted free agent, and uncertainty surrounding the commitment both sides are willing to make has pushed Houston general manager Daryl Morey toward seeking potential trades on the market,” Wojnarowski wrote.
Howard has been strongly linked to several teams, including the Boston Celtics, who appears the favourite to land the All-Star big man, according to former GM Bobby Marks of The Vertical. But according to Spencer Percy of ESPN’s Charlotte Hornets blog Queen City Hoops, the Hornets are in the mix to land Howard, and are “serious” about their intentions of getting the superstar centre.
— Spencer Percy (@QCHspencer) February 13, 2016
The Hornets are currently eighth in the Eastern Conference, but the stiff competition does not guarantee Charlotte a spot in the postseason. Trading for Howard gives the Hornets a dominating centre, who they can use as an upgrade over a struggling Al Jefferson.
Jefferson has not played for the Hornets ever since December last year due to a torn meniscus in his right knee. He is hopeful to return after the All-Star break, but the Hornets cannot expect Jefferson to immediately contribute.
However, the Hornets do not have much pieces to give if they try to trade for Howard, although they would probably include a first round draft pick in a proposed deal. But one possible trade scenario that succeeds ESPN’s trade machine is sending Howard and Donatas Motiejunas to the Hornets for Jefferson and Nicolas Batum.
Sending Batum could be considered as a head-scratcher, but his pending free agency is still something the Hornets should think about, especially when NBA teams have plenty to offer once the new TV deal kicks in. Meanwhile, Jefferson becomes Rockets’ centre, who could fit well with the team’s James Harden-centred offense.
Motiejunas and Howard, on the other hand, would give the Hornets big bodies in their frontcourt rotation.
It remains to be seen whether the Hornets truly has a chance to land Howard, but for a team who is looking to be part of the playoff picture, trading for D12 looks worth the try.