If allowed to reach free agency in the summer of 2012, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard will almost certainly choose to join New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams with the Dallas Mavericks, says Chad Ford of ESPN.com. "Lots of signals pointing to this being the preferred outcome for both players," Ford reported in a chat with ESPN.com readers.
Dallas is among the three teams with which Dan Fegan, Howard's agent, has permission to discuss a trade; he received that permission from Orlando management prior to the start of the 2011/12 season, with the other teams being New Jersey and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Unless the Nets trade for Howard before the March 15th deadline, Ford believes Williams will leave for Dallas, a short drive from The Colony, where he attended high school. Howard, in turn, is said to want to join Williams, a close friend of his, for the chance to play for a championship alongside Dirk Nowitzki, the 2011 NBA Finals MVP. If New Jersey manages to swing a trade for Howard, however, Ford expects Williams to re-sign with the Nets.
To have enough salary-cap space to sign both Williams and Howard outright, the Mavs would need to ditch at least two hefty contracts. Dallas is certain to waive center Brendan Haywood using the amnesty clause, who is owed roughly $37 million in the four seasons following this one. The next most-obvious player for Dallas to dump is combo forward Shawn Marion, who has $17 million owed him after the 2011/12 season. Through Tuesday's games, Marion's season averages stood at 12 points, 6.4 boards, and two assists.
Ford says "Howard is likely going to leave," so he advises Orlando against letting its franchise cornerstone hit free agency. "Waiting until the summer to make a deal would be a major mistake for them."