With Dwightmare 2.0 in full force and the world literally getting up to the second updates on twitter from some random 16 year old Californian dude out-sourcing WOJ by shadowing Dwight’s every move, I thought it prudent to sort through which destinations are actually in play as the end of this circus draws nearer. As a ardent Dwight in LA supporter I obviously want him to re-up with the Lakers, but as the following discloses and removing bias from the equation, I don’t see the Lakers as the favorites for Dwight’s services. With the Houston meeting in the rear-view, Golden State and Atlanta on the docket today and Dallas and incumbent LA tomorrow, we should have clarity as the largest domino of free agency falls by hopefully Wednesday night. Below is my take on how each potential suitor fares, starting with where I believe Dwight will ultimately end up (and I’m praying I’m wrong here).
Positioned with a young all-star locked in for 5 years in Harden, ultra-cost efficient Chandler Parsons and run by the second best GM in the business armed with mechanisms to still improve, Daryl Morey’s bunch look like the favorite at this juncture to land Dwight. The Rockets have very tradable pieces to add to their core in Lin and Asik, along with young prospects in the form of Donatas Montiejunas, Terrence Jones, and Royce White. Asik is one of the best defensive/rebounding centers in the league and has already drawn interest from Atlanta and Portland, while Lin is a box office draw/seat filler for any tanking team. Basically, it is foolish to bet against Daryl Morey, especially now that he finally has a star.
Schematically, Dwight makes a great deal of sense for what Houston did last season offensively. The Rockets spread pick and roll system was one of the most efficient in basketball largely due to Harden and Lin being P&R savants (even though Lin would likely be moved for a floor spacing point guard who can spot up and play off the ball). Dwight is the best pick and roll big in the game, converting almost 80% of his touches in P&R sets for LA last season. Unfortunately, Dwight is compelled to post up, and is significantly less effective there, converting a substandard 45% last year. If Dwight accepts partaking in more screen rolls with Harden Houston could have an elite offense, and depending on who Morey can conjure up in trades to put around them Houston could make some noise in the West. Regardless, it sounds like Kevin McHale sold Dwight on offensive system tweaks that cater to him, and given Houston’s clear path to both immediate and long term potential success, they appear to be in the lead as of midday source day.
Still In Play
2. LA Lakers
As the incumbent under CBA rules the Lakers can offer an extra year and $30M to Dwight plus higher annual raises (7.5% compared to 4.5%). However, that figure doesn’t exactly hold form for multiple reasons. First, states such as Texas don’t have an income tax, which tips the scale in Houston’s favor. NBA players pay taxes based on the states they play in on a game-by-game basis, thus Dwight would have the benefit of playing an extra 41 home games without tax considerations. There are also other forms of tax that aren’t really worth elaborating on. The main takeaway is that over the first 4 years of the deal Dwight actually makes more money in Houston.
The second and biggest issue at play is the new television deal kicking in four years from now when both the league and the union have opt-outs from the current CBA. Thus, with expected increased revenue streams and more money available, what was originally thought as an extra year of security might not even be coveted by Dwight if he plans on exercising his early termination option anyway (which we can presume he’d have if he re-signed with LA). So LA’s biggest selling point of more guaranteed money might not actually have much substance.
In terms of roster fit, Dwight’s concerns about D’Antoni’s system fit are well documented. It took D’Antoni almost half the season last year to start incorporating Dwight and Pau effectively via predominately the horns set, and D’Antoni (rightfully so) isn’t committing to just Dwight post-ups offensively (though Dwight posted up last season more than anyone save for Al Jefferson).
The main issue however might be the Kobe factor. It was originally thought that Kobe would retire after his contract expired next season. However, with him recently coming out and saying he could potentially play for 3 more years that could give Dwight cause for concern in what was originally supposed to be Dwight’s team in 2014. Does Kobe stop being the alpha, accept less money and share the wealth more with Dwight? Can the Lakers walk away from Kobe if need be and turn the page? LA’s future is all of the question marks.
Overall, the Lakers have the #1 market in the league, great weather, star glamor and a winning pedigree to fall back on. The question is whether that combination is enough. In terms of just winning the Lakers can point to the past, but as of this instant can’t point concretely to anything in the future for a plan to win championships. They don’t have a James Harden or Steph Curry who Dwight can pair with. All they can promise is cap space next offseason in a vastly overrated unrestricted free agent class (listen up Laker fans, you aren’t getting Paul George). Basically, it’s LeBron or bust if Miami loses the title next year, or Love in ’15. And even then, does Dwight want to play second fiddle to LeBron? Who knows. History is on LA’s side in regards to building a winner, that’s for sure. The question is whether LA can sell Dwight on trusting them, because there isn’t a clear path laid out to winning a title right now. Playing the Phil Jackson card in a prominent decision-making role definitely couldn’t hurt.
The Mavericks really only have one selling point to Dwight, and that’s whatever standing Mark Cuban still holds as an owner. Dallas would have no roster flexibility short-term with Dirk, Marion, Vinsanity and Dwight’s $20.5M on the books. While Dirk is great fit next to Dwight as THE stretch 4, at the age of 35 there is not a nucleus or vision for long-term sustained success. The best pitch Dallas can make is the same as the Lakers: chasing Bron next year if Miami doesn’t win the title. Given LA’s superior history attracting free agents it’s difficult to see how Dallas has a legit horse in the race.
4. LA Clippers
I truly believe this is Dwight’s #1 desired destination, staying in LA but switching teams to pair with his boy Chris Paul under Doc Rivers. It is also conveniently LA’s best avenue to acquire desperately needed assets in the event Dwight walks in the form of Griffin and Bledsoe (if he hasn’t been dealt already, which it looks like he will be). Having Griffin locked in for 5 years as a trade asset would be incredibly valuable, especially if moved to a small market team seeking box office appeal. LA could tank next year, acquire a high lottery pick, and either use Griffin to move up in the lottery for Wiggins (granted, the likelihood of anyone trading the #1 pick next year is slim, but a man can irrationally dream), or swap him for a guy like Kevin Love, someone who Bron has always valued highly to use as bait for said LeBron. For the Clips it would give them a superior player in his prime with Dwight, albeit they’d need to find a taker for Jordan.
I don’t ascribe to the philosophy that both LA teams wouldn’t trade with each other based on principle. Any team is going to strike a deal that improves their team (unless you’re based in New York apparently). CP3 calls the shots in Clipperland, and if he wants Dwight this scenario has legs.
5. Golden State
The Warriors have some enticing pieces to pair next to Dwight with their prolific shooting, but there are several impediments to Dwight moving North to the bay. Most predominately is the fact they obviously don’t have cap space, thus any deal would have to be via sign and trade. The Lakers have already noted they wont cooperate in any sign and trade, but what the hell else do you expect them to say being in full win Dwight over mode? If push comes to shove and D12 tells LA he’s leaving for Houston if LA doesn’t sign and trade him to G-State, the Lakers would explore it. No question.
The question in that scenario would be what is the price LA demands from the Warriors knowing they have some leverage because the Dubs need their signature. Given Mitch’s track record he’s going to demand the iron price of Thompson, Barnes and a third team eating Bogut’s contract because LA isn’t biting on the luxury tax ramifications of that albatross deal. The issue there is not whether the Warriors would oblige (which they still should because you always trade quarters for a dollar), it’s that Dwight wouldn’t consent to depleting the roster to that degree. Steph and Lee isn’t Harden/Parsons and a great deal more flexibility. That would put G-State behind Houston for sure.
Another sticking point is the Dubs can’t take Dwight via sign and trade if they eclipse the tax apron at any point, which they are currently hovering on. Dwight will command $20.5M in year one, which would probably require the Dubs to unload an additional salary in the form of Rush to LA or either Biedrins’ or Jefferson’s expiring to another team to maintain some flexibility and duck the apron. They’d also likely have to say goodbye to either Jack or Landry. In any event, the Warriors are a long shot here to say the least with limited cap flexibility and maneuverability (you can thank the Charlie Bell amnesty for that) unless they can find a taker for Lee.
With CP3 committing to the Clips Atlanta is exactly the same as they were before CP3 committed to the Clips: dead in the water.