Warriors interested in Dwight Howard?

Ladies and gentlemen, the Dwight Howard sweepstakes have reached a critical point in their level of annoyingness: even teams without cap space are now rumored to be destinations.

That latest team to throw its proverbial hat into the ring — or at least into the rumor mill — is the Golden State Warriors, a destination that looks far more attractive after its playoff run this spring and with its abundance of young talent. That said, the Warriors’ salary for next season is over $75 million, and thus over the luxury tax threshold, so it would take some maneuvering in the form of a sign-and-trade for the team to get its hands on Howard.

So what does this all mean? Certainly not that fans in the Bay Area should be ordering up their D12 jerseys just yet. No, rather, this is just the beginning, just the end of May, and it’s a reminder that this crusade to land the Lakers’ big man is only going to get more complicated in the weeks to come.

Another report this week in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram added fuel to the Howard-to-Texas rumors. There’s been rampant chatter of Houston, with its ample cap space and young, talented core, would be a prime target for Howard, but Dallas is also emerging in pursuit. The Mavericks, who pasted a team together in 2012-13 out of short-term contracts in the hopes of landing a player of Howard’s caliber this offseason, are primed to offer big money. They want to surround Dirk Nowitzki with enough talent to get him one last championship, and that effort has now focused on Howard and only Howard, according to the Star-Telegram report.
The team reportedly pulled back on its efforts to land point guard Chris Paul after the Los Angeles Clippers decided not to bring head coach Vinny Del Negro back, and now Mavs owner Mark Cuban and company are setting their sights on Howard.

So that leaves us with Houston, Dallas, and also Atlanta as attractive prospects with the space to sign the big man. That leaves Golden State with the ability to send about $20 million in salary (think Andrew Bogut’s expiring deal and a young player like Harrison Barnes) to Los Angeles in a sign-and-trade for the big guy. And, of course, that leaves the Lakers as well, the increasingly less attractive contender that has one advantage: their ability to offer Howard five years and $118 million rather than four years and $87 million.

More names will surface. You can bet on that. July 1 is a long way off.

There’s another wrinkle (of course there is) to all this, a wrinkle in the form of Texas’ tax laws that should certainly factor into the weighing of these rumors. In the end, this is going to come down to money as much as the core Howard will surround himself with, and in that department, the Lakers have a simple advantage. The Rockets and Mavericks, though, have the promise of no state income tax on Howard’s sizeable contract, thus closing the gap a bit between their offers and the Lakers’.

This puts Golden State at a distinct disadvantage. Even if they were to acquire Howard in a sign-and-trade, it could still only be for the four-year deal, no matter that the Lakers would technically be signing him. With the same income tax situation as the Lakers face, the money becomes increasingly less attractive, and though that’s not to say it’ll come down to money so simply, it’s certainly something to ponder as the summer progresses.