Dwight Howard completed his redemption arc with Lakers this season. After being the most scrutinized professional athlete in Los Angeles for nearly a decade, Howard returned to the Lakers last summer and helped them get back to the promised land, where he won his first-ever NBA championship. You can’t script it better than that.
However, it appears Howard isn’t ready for his Hollywood story to be over just yet. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Howard, who will be an unrestricted free agent this fall, has interest in re-signing with the Lakers, and that interest is reportedly mutual. The Lakers aren’t the only Western Conference powerhouse rumored to have interest in Howard, though:
Dwight Howard, who was a pillar to the frontcourt this season, and the Lakers have mutual interest in a deal. Among the contenders also expected to have interest in Howard, sources say: The Golden State Warriors.
Last summer, Howard agreed to sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers that didn’t become fully-guaranteed until January. It should go without saying, but Howard won’t be signing any non-guaranteed contracts this offseason.
Not only did Howard prove that he’s still physically able to provide minutes for a contending team, but he also showed that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win. For example, in the postseason, Howard went from playing 15 total minutes in the Western Conference semifinals to starting the final two games of the Western Conference Finals and the first five games of the NBA Finals. He took on every challenge that was thrown at him with zero complaints.
For those same reasons, the Lakers likely won’t be able to sign Howard for the veteran’s minimum again. Money isn’t expected to be the gap between the Lakers in their negotiations, though. The Lakers have two exceptions — the mid-level exception and bi-annual exception — that they can dip into to re-sign Howard. Howard’s role is where things have the potential to get dicey.
The Lakers currently only only have one center under contract for next season: JaVale McGee, who completely fell out of Frank Vogel’s rotation in the final two rounds of the playoffs because of how effective Anthony Davis was at the center position. Whether Davis likes it or not, he’ll play some center next season too.
In addition to Davis, Howard might have to go against DeMarcus Cousins for playing time. The Lakers waived Cousins in February, but they’ve kept an open line of communication with him through Davis, who reportedly called Cousins after Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Health permitting, Cousins will likely get another look from the Lakers next season.
One possible solution to that problem would be for the Lakers to trade JaVale McGee, but the Warriors might still have Howard’s interest if they promise him the starting job. Howard’s free agency saga might not be 2013 all over again, but it will definitely be worth monitoring.