Addressing the Dwight Howard Speculation
Free agency officially begins tomorrow. With it will come ten more days of Dwight Howard rumors. In fact, the speculation has begun to make it all the way down to South Florida.
Some Heat fans may be focused on a hypothetical trade of Chris Bosh. It won’t happen. Not even if, say, Howard were available.
The Lakers are literary begging Howard to re-sign. They’ve resorted to billboards and hashtag campaigns to convince their superstar to re-sign. It reportedly hasn’t worked. Howard is planning a free agency tour that includes the Rockets at midnight; the Hawks and Warriors on Monday; and the Mavericks and Lakers on Tuesday. The Rockets are thought to be his preferred destination.
The Lakers might not be so keen on losing him for nothing. Howard might not be so keen on moving to a team that doesn’t have a great shot to win an NBA title.
If he wants to win, there’s no better landing spot for Howard than the Miami Heat. If the Lakers want a return, there is no better package than one that features Chris Bosh.
But here’s the thing: it won’t happen.
It’s not about assessing whether Dwight would want Miami. It’s not about whether the Heat would want Dwight (or if they’d be willing to part with Bosh to get him). It’s not because LeBron James would need to sign off for it to happen. Rather, it’s because it can’t happen.
It’s not possible. As in, technically impossible – a violation of NBA rules.
Howard officially becomes a free agent tomorrow. For him to make his way down to Miami for anything above Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception money ($3.2 million), a sign-and-trade transaction would be required. But, in the case of the Heat, it wouldn’t be allowed.
Starting in 2013-14, teams that are above the “apron” – the line of demarcation exactly $4 million above the tax threshold – are precluded from acquiring outside free agents via sign-and-trade, unless the trade takes them below the apron upon completion and at all times thereafter. In other words, any team that acquires an outside free agent by means of a sign-and-trade is hard-capped at the apron for the rest of the season.
The Heat has a team payroll of $86.5 million for the 13 players it currently has under contract. Teams are required to carry no fewer than 13 players into the regular season. Therefore, any potential player subtractions from this point forth would need to be accompanied by future additions.
The luxury tax threshold is currently being projected at $71.6 million. The apron is thus projected to be $75.6 million. The final numbers will be released by the end of moratorium, no later than July 9. They could rise, but probably not materially.
So, unless you can find a way to trade Bosh – who is scheduled to make $19.1 million for the Heat next season – for Howard – who can command a maximum salary of $20.5 million – and at the same time reduce the Heat’s payroll by roughly $11 million, and be willing to be hard-capped at that level for the rest of the season, dreams of Howard are impossible.
Forget about being creative also, trying to find an innovative way around these rules – something like first fostering a sign-and-trade of Howard between the Lakers and a third party team, and then completing a swap between that third party team and the Heat. That not only adds complexity, it’s classic circumvention. And you saw how the league feels about that when they barred Kevin Garnett from being traded to the Clippers.
Hypotheticals are fun to ponder. But they almost never come to fruition.
A potential Dwight Howard acquisition is no different.