The Rockets seem like the most likely option for Dwight Howard this offseason. Houston will be roughly $20 million under the luxury tax in 2013-14, and that is before you calculate in the fact that they will decline Francisco Garcia’s team option and likely trade Thomas Robinson. This would put them an additional $10 million under the soft cap which would mean they would be about $34 million under the luxury tax.
With all of this cleared up money, the Rockets have received “hopeful signs” regarding the All-Star center coming to Houston.
There are several important factors that would influence this decision.
First, the team. The Rockets boast an average age of under 24, while the Los Angeles Lakers average age is nearly 29. The difference of these cannot be understated. The Rockets have a young cast of players including fellow Western Conference All-Star James Harden. They also boast young talents like Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons, players that would be developed in tandem and not against Howard. Compare this to a 35-year-old Kobe Bryant and a 32-year-old Pau Gasol, and tell me which is more intriguing?
Not only are the Rockets a younger team, but they run a similar style of offense that Howard is used to from his tenure with the Orlando Magic. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is extremely adept at running the pick and roll, a play also favored by Harden.
Second, the money. Although the Lakers could sign Howard to a deal with one more year and $30 million more than any other team, the fifth year would be a player option, meaning the All-Star center would probably opt out to pursue other deals.
While the Lakers could offer an additional year of security, he will likely play as many years for the Lakers (four) as he would for any other team. The importance of this is that Texas offers no state income taxes which stands in opposition to California’s state-income tax, which is the highest of the 50 states. Howard would make an additional eight million dollars by playing in Houston. For the combined team experience (let’s not forget Howard would be coached by Hall of Fame center Kevin McHale) and the money advantage, Houston makes the most sense for the next season.
Probability: 30 percent