Which team is the best fit for Dwight Howard?
Howard could find comfort zone
The Mavs have met with Dwight Howard, and if they laid out a case anything along the lines of what is about to be offered here, their case for Howard should be considered irresistible.
1. Style of play: Kevin McHale made the case that the Rockets will change their chuck-and-duck style to suit Howard. However, the Rockets launched more than 29 3-point shots a game (the second-highest total in the history of the NBA). The Mavericks are much more comfortable in their half-court "flow" offense, which can put the ball in Howard's hands on the block more often. The Mavericks shot 19.9 3-pointers per game, which was right at the NBA average.
2. Coaching: McHale was a great player, one of the great low post players of the last 30 years. But as a coach, whether in Minnesota or Houston, he has been decidedly mediocre. Rick Carlisle has made the playoffs in nine of his 11 years as a head coach. He has won 50-plus games in six of those seasons and has an NBA championship on his résumé. He has shown himself able to adapt to whatever his personnel might be. Howard might be interested to see what a Carlisle offense did for Jermaine O'Neal with the Pacers in the four years he coached there. O'Neal averaged 20.9 points and was an All-Star each of those years.
3. Management: The Mavericks have been a pillar of consistency in the Mark Cuban era. Eleven straight 50-win seasons. Twelve straight playoff seasons. Two Finals trips and a title in 2011. They have been able to repeatedly retool their team around their star to keep them viable and relevant. The Rockets have had no such consistency. In the last 16 seasons, they have made the postseason just eight times and have one playoff series win (in 2009 vs. Portland).
4. Dirk Nowitzki: His presence on the floor will allow Howard to have more room than he has ever had, because Dirk's mid-range game is just so lethal. Nowitzki's low-key style will allow Howard to have as much of the spotlight as he wants, while Dirk still takes on the spokesman role when things aren't going so great. Finally, Dirk's contract ends after this season and his subsequent pay cut will allow Howard to have a hand in choosing the players who will move the Mavericks beyond the Dirk era.
The Mavericks have a compelling story to tell. Throw in some bells and whistles that Mark Cuban undoubtedly has up his sleeve, and it just might be good enough for Howard to throw down some roots in Dallas.
Houston has pieces to contend now
The great Chuck Cooperstein will try to tell you that Dallas is the better destination for Howard, but he typed that case while wearing a Mavericks golf shirt and a 2011 NBA championship ring.
I would love nothing more than seeing Howard in a Mavs jersey next season, too, but there's no comparison between the current states of the two destinations. If we are talking about which location is better for Howard, the answer is easy -- Houston.
Both teams have already met with Howard, but only one team had a pitch based on how things are rather than how they have been or could be. Houston is ready to win right now, while Dallas is living in the past and future.
The Mavericks hope they can land another "big fish" to pair with Howard next summer when they have significant cap space, while the Rockets already have a 23-year-old All-Star in James Harden. The Rockets also have assets that could be traded -- including Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin -- to improve their team further. The Mavs have few, if any, assets.
Mark Cuban and company will hang their hat on the winning culture they have developed since 1999, but that culture was developed under the old CBA. On the other hand, no team has manipulated the new CBA better than Houston, which is why they're in a position to land Howard and pair him with Harden.
The Rockets have an exciting, young team built around a 23-year-old All Star; the Mavs have an old team built around an aging 35-year-old German, who missed 29 games last season. Houston made the playoffs last season; Dallas didn't.
The one significant advantage Dallas has over Houston is at head coach. Rick Carlisle is among the best coaches in the league, and Kevin McHale has been a very average NBA coach. However, the possibility of McHale, one of the craftiest post players in NBA history, working with Howard, who has a limited offensive skill set, should intrigue the free-agent big man.
Any rational thinker in Howard's position would pick Houston over Dallas.
The good news for Mavs fans is that Dwight Howard isn't a rational thinker, and the next rational decision he makes will be his first one in over two years.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
ESPN NBA senior analyst Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest developments in NBA free agency. The Rockets are a slight favorite to land Dwight Howard, but the Mavericks are in the running.
Dirk Nowitzki and ESPN's Chris Broussard join Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the possibility of Dwight Howard joining the Mavericks and how Dallas should approach the situation.
Tim MacMahon joins Galloway and Company to discuss the NBA draft and where the Mavericks stand on getting Dwight Howard.