Howard will be a free agent next offseason and will have the choice to play wherever he wants to—that is, with the teams that are under the salary cap.
Let's say for the sake of argument the Orlando Magic trade Howard to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum and Orlando is able to get rid of one of its bad contracts in the deal.
While the argument can be made that the Lakers are better, the individual matchups actually favor the Thunder.
At the end of the day, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will still have their way with Los Angeles as they did this past postseason. Steve Nash is not a better defender than any of Los Angeles' other point guards and will be eaten up by the young Thunder point guard.
Serge Ibaka will likely slow down Pau Gasol as he did this past postseason, putting most of the scoring burden on Bryant. In addition, Kendrick Perkins has proven to be one of the best one-on-one defenders, especially when put on Howard.
The Thunder, quite frankly, could still beat the Lakers, and Los Angeles might crash out of the playoffs before even making the Finals. Even if the Lakers do, Miami would likely be up next and similar matchup problems would face the Lakers in this Finals matchup.
Will Howard consider bolting from Los Angeles in a scenario where the Lakers fail to win a title?
He might, but he won't have many options. His only realistic options at that point would be signing with Dallas, Los Angeles and Atlanta outright, or engaging in a sign-and-trade to Brooklyn or Chicago.
With that in mind, I find it hard to believe the Lakers would consider trading Howard to two contending teams, even if they did receive a huge package in return.
Signing with Dallas would not provide Howard with the best situation to win now because the core is aging fast.
Atlanta lets D-12 play in his hometown. In addition, he would likely play with his childhood friend Josh Smith and center Al Horford, who would be far more effective as a power forward. Yet, the Hawks are not a big-market team, something Howard yearns for.
The Brooklyn pipe dream had it all for D-12. He would be on a contender. He would be in a big market. He would be the man, something he will never be while Kobe is in Los Angeles.
His indecision has led him to be forced to settle. Because Howard is a top-five talent, he had the option to choose where he wanted to play.
Don't get me wrong, Los Angeles does provide Howard with his best chance at a title, but best options do not always yield multiple championships.
However, Howard chose to please others, failing to see the big picture repercussions by opting into his contract.
Because of this, Dwight Howard's future is foggy—unless he chooses to suck up his pride and to join the "Lakeshow" long term.
In all likelihood, D-12 will be a Laker in 2013.