Why Houston Rockets Are LA Lakers Greatest Threat in Dwight Howard Sweepstakes

Dwight Howard doesn't have many options as a free agent this summer, but because the Houston Rockets have the best available combination of money, young talent and a system that would best accommodate his skills, they're the most likely destination for the big man if he decides to leave the Los Angeles Lakers.

There are plenty of reasons for Howard to stick around in Los Angeles, and they're worth chronicling before we get into the potential advantages of a relocation to Houston.

First, the Lakers can pay Howard more money than any other team—a lot more.

The NBA's collective bargaining agreement has a couple of provisions that are designed to help teams retain their own talent. Consequently, the Lakers are allowed to offer Howard a five-year deal for $118 million. The best any other team could do is a four-year offer worth a decidedly less enticing $88 million.

In addition to a bigger chunk of change, the Lakers can offer Howard a few other things that other teams won't be able to match: a championship legacy, the bright lights of Los Angeles and the big market the ad-hungry Howard seems to crave.

It's unclear exactly how important a championship is to Howard. Most of the recent evidence tends to paint him as a self-absorbed egomaniac who would rather sound like a winning player than be one. Conversely, we know that his insatiable desire for attention would seem to indicate that the commercial notoriety and media appeal he'd get by staying in Los Angeles are both things he'd value highly.

Just for the sake of argument, if Howard actually does want to be a part of a title-winning team, the Lakers could, theoretically, give him one...if he waits until the season after next. L.A.'s books are a disaster in 2013-14, and re-signing Howard would probably make them bad enough to earn some relief from the Red Cross. With over $78 million already committed to next year, retaining Howard would ...

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