NBA TRADE RUMORS: Dwight Howard To The Celtics?
The Boston Celtics have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. Like, almost too deep -- but that's how general manager Danny Ainge likes it. The team's logjam at point guard has him on every other GM's speed dial, and when you consider Jae Crowder's emergence as an elite small forward, David Lee's expiring contract and the Celtics' bounty of future draft picks (Brooklyn's 2016 and 2017 first-rounders), Ainge is likely a very popular dude around the trade deadline (Feb. 18).
Danny Ainge has made himself the GM-equivalent of Whole Foods. He's got everything you want; you're just going to have to pay through the nose for it.
For the Houston Rockets, that price might be perennial trade-rumor-candidate Dwight Howard.
[NY Daily News] Meanwhile, the Celtics have engaged the Houston Rockets in talks about a possible deal for Dwight Howard, the Daily News has learned. Howard can opt out of his contract this summer, and considering his back and knee issues, it doesn’t make much sense for Boston GM Danny Ainge to use the assets on a player with declining skills and a battered body.
Boston, which either owns or controls the Brooklyn Nets’ next three first-round picks, are positioned to make a major move either before the trade deadline or this summer around the draft. Another division rival, Toronto, owns the Knicks’ pick.
So what could Daryl Morey possibly want in return for the 30-year-old Howard? Well, the short answer would be "options," as the Rockets currently find themselves on the cusp of missing the playoffs heading into an offseason where they'll have $77 million on the books (should Howard accept his $22 million player option, which he almost certainly will). Taking on the expiring contracts of David Lee (one year, $15 million) and Evan Turner (one year, $3.4 million) not only clears cap room to sign free agents this offseason, but might actually make them a better basketball team right now, seeing as that tends to happen when a malcontent is sent packing. I'm not insinuating that David Lee would actually make an impact or even see the floor in Houston, I'm just noting the reality that in 2016, a lumbering big man (like the hobbled Howard) often clogs up the paint on offense and hinders perimeter defense -- a category which the Rockets currently rank 23rd in (their opponents are shooting 36.5% from behind the arc this season). Those aren't things you want if you're playing against the sharp-shooting Warriors, Spurs or Thunder every night.
But the real lynchpin of this deal probably doesn't involve acquiring an immediate upgrade for Houston. It's whether Danny Ainge is willing to include the Brooklyn Nets' coveted 2016 first-round draft pick, which he famously swiped in the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett shakedown two years ago. That's likely what Daryl Morey has his eyes on, because as it stands, trading away Howard would be a move toward something of a rebuild -- or at least a move that gives him an asset to make yet another trade this offseason, when they'll inevitably have to reconfigure their roster for a new coach. With James Harden under contract until 2018, it's hard to know where Morey sees this team in two years, but he's almost certainly going to try and coax Ainge into a Ben Simmons lottery ticket. Either that, or Brooklyn's 2017 first-round pick (which the Celtics also have), which undoubtedly is also in play.
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