Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard, the league's three-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, can become a free agent in the summer of 2012 and is set to be among the hottest commodities on the trade market this season. Unless Orlando can convince the seven-year veteran to re-sign with it long term, it might be in the franchise's best interest to trade him before risking losing him for nothing in free agency.
As with last season's months-long Carmelo Anthony trade saga, the rumors surrounding Howard have come quickly and furiously. It began early Wednesday morning when Chad Ford and Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported the New Jersey Nets had prepared a trade offer for Howard based around 23-year-old center Brook Lopez, future first-round draft picks, and a willingness to take on the contract of Magic small forward Hedo Turkoglu in the deal.
In the wake of the ESPN report, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel asked Otis Smith, the Magic's President of Basketball Operations, to comment. When asked if he would consider trading Howard, Smith responded thusly:
I think you have to look at everything. I don't think you can take anything out of consideration.
Thursday night brought word from Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports that New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul had contacted Howard and expressed an interest in playing together. Paul, like Howard, currently plays for a small-market team without a realistic chance for a championship and is eligible to become a free agent in 2012.
Also on Thursday, Stein reported that sentiment among NBA executives is that Orlando is growing receptive to the idea of trading Howard before the season starts this Dec. 25.
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