Dwight Howard has begun to formally schedule meetings with potential suitors, according to Marc Stein and Chris Broussard of ESPN.com, who report that the free agent center is set to meet with the Hawks and the Celtics when the recruiting period gets underway. Howard will likely meet with as many as five teams, with the Heat among the other teams to show “preliminary interest,” per the ESPN duo.
Howard, 30, declined his 2016/17 player option with the Rockets, opting to hit the open market in July instead. Howard would have earned more than $23MM had he exercised his option, and while it remains to be seen if he’ll match that ’16/17 figure on his new deal, there’s no shortage of teams with interest, and the eight-time All-Star should have no problem landing a multiyear contract.
Stein reported on Tuesday that Atlanta would seriously consider Howard as a free agent target if the team was unable to wedge its way into the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. According to Stein, the Hawks would go after Howard with the idea of playing him alongside Al Horford in their frontcourt. Of course, Horford himself is a free-agent-to-be and he’s not a lock to re-sign with the Hawks, so Howard could also represent a viable replacement at center for Atlanta.
As for the Celtics, they have a ton of cap room and have been linked to a handful of free agent centers, including Horford and Hassan Whiteside. The Heat, meanwhile, could enter the Howard derby if Whiteside departs in free agency.
Besides Atlanta, Boston, and Miami, some of the teams that have been mentioned as possible suitors for Howard this summer include the Bucks, the Trail Blazers, the Hornets, the Knicks, and even the Rockets, who reportedly tried to encourage D12 to opt in for 2016/17. However, Stein and Broussard indicate a reunion between Howard and the Rockets is unlikely.
Howard’s time in Houston probably can’t be considered a huge success, despite the fact that the Rockets made the Western Conference Finals in his second year with the franchise. The former first overall pick was never really a perfect complement for star shooting guard James Harden, and saw his involvement in the team’s offense decline during the past two seasons. Howard made 71 appearances for the Rockets in 2015/16, averaging 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.63 blocks in 32.1 minutes per game. He shot 62% from the field, but just 48.9% from the free-throw line.