Dwight Howard proved that he still has value to a championship-contending team in his comeback season with the Los Angeles Lakers. While he wasn’t the same defensive stalwart he used to he, he provided steady shot-blocking, rebounding and post defense in his limited role.
The Lakers reportedly have interest in bringing Howard back in a similar role, and it doesn’t sound like they’re going to have to break the bank for him. According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, Howard likely won’t get more than the veteran’s minimum in free agency:
“No, not right now, anyway, at least not above the veteran’s minimum,” Mannix wrote when answering if there is a market for Howard beyond the Los Angeles Lakers. “Howard repaired his reputation with the Lakers last season, accepting a bench role and showing a willingness to sacrifice scoring opportunities to be a defender/rebounder. And he was a key player during the Lakers championship run. However a market for the 34-year old Howard just isn’t there.”
If that ends up being the case even as other teams’ options fall through, the Lakers have a slight edge over every other team, at least in terms of what they can offer. That’s because the Lakers will have Howard’s non-bird rights, meaning that they can re-sign him to a multi-year for 120% of the veteran’s minimum (or $3.08 million) in the first year and 5% raises in the following years, up to four years. The same is true with Markieff Morris.
Where things have the potential to get interesting is Howard’s role. Howard started just nine games for the Lakers season, including seven games in the playoffs. If another team like the Golden State Warriors, who reportedly have interest in signing him, offered him a starting job for less money, would he take it? The answer is probably no, but it’s a possibility.
Ultimately, though, the Lakers are in a good position to re-sign Howard. He seems to like Los Angeles, especially since his wife Te’a Cooper will likely get a second look by the Sparks. Simply put, there are more reasons for him to stay than there is for him to leave ... again.