The Mavs don't have the assets to acquire the 6-foot-11 center in a trade, so they need Howard to reach free agency this summer and take their chances from there.
Howard has listed the Mavs, Los Angeles Lakers and New Jersey Nets as his top three choices, with some reports making the Nets his preferred new home. The franchise is moving into a new arena in Brooklyn next summer and if it can't work a trade with Orlando -- which still hopes to convince Howard to stay -- has hopes of landing Howard in free agency and then retaining point guard and Dallas native Deron Williams, who is also on the Mavs' free agency radar.
If Howard is not traded and becomes a free agent, it would effectively take the Lakers out of the running. The Mavs and Nets will have plenty of cap space to try to entice the game's most dominant big man, who is averaging 21.0 points and 15.4 rebounds.
The lockout has pushed the NBA's trade deadline back to 2 p.m. CT on March 15.