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Celtics Pivotal to Dwight Howard's Free Agency

Even if Dwight Howard has no interest in leaving for Boston when he becomes a free agent, the Celtics could hold the key to his future. (Sports Illustrated)

"Sometime in the summer of 2012, Dwight Howard will be faced with a decision. He could sign a lucrative new deal with the Magic, a contract that would undoubtedly swell his bank account and guarantee he spends the rest of his formative years with the team that drafted him. Or he could walk away, turning his back on the team and its slightly higher salary offer in favor of the glamour and profile that comes with playing in the New York or Los Angeles markets.

There will be many factors that will influence Howard's decision but none bigger than this: Winning. Yes, Orlando's best chance to keep its franchise center in Magic blue is to win and emerge as the class of the Eastern Conference, outgunning Chicago, Miami and most importantly, Boston."

So the Magic likely have to be a true contender to keep Howard around. Are they? Even after yesterday, I still say no. They have two fatal flaws, if you ask me.

1) I just don't see a go-to scorer come crunch time. Not unless Hedo Turkoglu or Gilbert Arenas re-find their old form, at least. Dwight Howard's an MVP candidate, and the Magic have a lot of skilled players, indeed. But who creates a shot in the waning minutes? J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson hit some big shots yesterday, but do you guys really trust those two players to create shots in a playoff series? Or, for that matter, anybody else on Orlando's roster? Me neither.

And the other problem...

2) Where's the size? Brandon Bass is only 6'8, and Ryan Anderson is the only halfway-decent big man off Orlando's bench. And "halfway-decent" might be too generous. Malik Allen stinks, Earl Clark's awful, and Daniel Orton isn't even close to ready. Winning regular season games with an undersized team is manageable, but the playoffs are a different animal. Size matters, and the Magic don't have enough of it.

Orlando will almost definitely flip J.J. Redick or Jameer Nelson (or someone else) for a backup big. I understand that. Or maybe they'll just convince Sheed to come out of retirement. (Note: I think I'm kidding. Retirement don't lie.) But these Magic are flawed, and I can't consider them in Miami or Boston's league. At least, not unless Arenas or Turkoglu somehow grab hold of the flux capacitor.

Maybe the worst part, for the Magic's hopes of convincing Howard to stay in the future, is this: they will be paying Arenas and Turkoglu a combined $34.5 million.

In 2013-2014.

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