There is little argument that Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are the two prizes in this year's free agency "class." While Paul is generally seen as a lock to re-sign with the Clippers, the same is not true with Howard returning to the Lakers. The only real certainty is that someone is going to pay him 20.5M next year to play for them. To an extent, this puts many of the remaining free agents on hold as some such as Al Jefferson and Josh Smith will become consolation signings. Even some of the guards like Korver and Redick could be on hold while teams wait to see what they can offer after the shake out from Howard's signing somewhere. The same can prove true for trades.
Beginning with the Lakers, money is not the issue. They have deep pockets thanks to a Time-Warner Cable deal and can afford literally almost any luxury tax hit, and they have his Bird rights. The real problem for them is that Howard is reported to not be happy there. Do you trade Gasol for a player or players that might make Howard happier and more likely to return? What if you trade Gasol and Dwight signs elsewhere anyway? There went the player that could be your center. Why do Celtics fans care? For those clamoring for a Pierce trade, Pierce for Gasol is not terrible.
Four other teams are reported to be in the mix or possible destinations. Two of them, Atlanta (only three players totaling 22.5M guaranteed for next year) and Dallas (four players 29.5M), have stripped their rosters to the bare bones. Five teams with only one "winner." If either of these two do not land Howard, both will have to be big players in the rest of the FA market as they have no one left to trade.
Houston is rumored to be a frontrunner to land Howard, but would need to make some roster adjustments to afford him. This would probably put Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in play. The Rockets would also need a suitable power forward who plays outside the paint and on a reasonable contract. Brandon Bass could fit the bill and is a former teammate of Howard which again could be an added attraction for Dwight. Do you look at maybe a Bass for Asik deal?
Howard is also rumored to have interest in going to Golden State. For that to happen, the Warriors would need to shed some serious salary in a hurry. If they knew they would get Howard, then Andrew Bogut and his 14M expiring deal would be the first that would need to go. The Celts need a good center. Bogut could be a good option IF he can stay healthy and IF you convince Golden State to include Harrison Barnes as a sweetener in case Bogut can't. If he doesn't work out, his contract expires and you retain your cap flexibility for next year.
Still other scenarios include someone like Portland for example, who is also in desperate need of a center. Maybe Danny can slip in as a third team facilitator and sneak out with a Wes Matthews or Nicolas Batum. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Scalabrine says " I think they have a couple issues to resolve." Danny Ainge says the Celtics are more than one player away from a championship. Since a couple is two and more than one could also be two, I don't see the two views as incompatible. I tend to lean more towards Scal's view, but even if Danny's view is three or more pieces, it is not insurmountable for the team to rebuild on the fly. But a lot of it depends on who is actually available and a lot of that depends on where Howard lands.
Last season's disappointment is still fresh on our minds prompting many to feel that we need to do something right now. For better or worse, the outsized influence that one player, Howard (or two if you prefer to include Paul) has on this year's free agent trade market could be profound. Patience might well be the best course of (in)action. Since timing is everything, moving too early could preclude getting a real bargain in just a few weeks from now. The only issue remotely pressing is a decision on a Pierce buyout. There is still a month before that would have to happen and Wyc has already said he wants him back. So even that is not all that pressing.
In many ways, the off season is like musical chairs. The music has barely begun, let alone stopped.