However, you can expect Howard to look south this summer for a few reasons.
D-12 is from Atlanta, Georgia. Howard attended high school at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. For those that can't tell by the title of the school, that is in Atlanta, Georgia.
Where the Hawks are based.
While a return home may be ideal for some, we can't say that this factor will determine Howard's future. There is just as strong a chance that he decides that the money and allure that the Los Angeles Lakers can offer him is too much to turn down.
With that being said, we would be naive to believe that Howard won't, at least, consider the Hawks.
Atlanta is a team that has been preparing for a run at a superstar talent ever since they traded Joe Johnson and his $20,609,682 per year average contract. One has to imagine that Howard is at the top of their list.
After all, the city is familiar with D-12 and he is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
The question is, what will it be that Atlanta offers to Howard that no other team can? Considering L.A. owns his bird rights, money is not the answer to that question.
Well, not exactly.
Endless Cap Space
Entering the 2013 period of NBA free agency, the Atlanta Hawks will have just $21,513,122 guaranteed to current players. For those wondering what that leaves them, the luxury tax level for the 2012-13 season was $70,307,000.
Upon doing the math, that leaves the Hawks with a difference of $48,793,878. Expect a number in that ball park to be available for general manager Danny Ferry to spend.
Do you still think Dwight Howard won't consider it?
This not only enables the Hawks to create depth, but acquire legitimate NBA superstars. For perspective as to who they might be able to acquire, one must understand who is available.
Howard, Chris Paul, Josh Smith, Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and David West are all unrestricted free agents.
Beyond them, the likes of Andre Iguodala, O.J. Mayo, Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans and Kyle Lowry could become free agents. If that's not enough, veterans Tony Allen and Manu Ginobili highlight a class of available veterans.
In case you aren't getting the picture, the Hawks could construct one of the most powerful teams in basketball if they play their cards right.
With that being known, who's to say that Howard won't re-consider signing with his hometown team? After all, they would give him just as much of a chance to play with stars as the Los Angeles Lakers.
They would also offer him the opportunity to play with his younger friends—not older enemies.
Building A Contender With Friends, Not Foes
For those who have yet to understand, this cap flexibility could potentially enable the Hawks to sign three superstars. Unlike the Miami Heat in 2010, Atlanta would already have an All-Star on their roster.
Center, but natural power forward, Al Horford.
By the time free agency concludes, the Hawks would be able to sign Dwight Howard and move Horford to his more natural position. They could also re-sign Josh Smith, Howard's childhood friend, and move him to the 3.
From there, the availability of the likes of Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala and company becomes all the more intriguing.
As for Howard's current team, the Los Angeles Lakers owe $66,767,435 to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace alone. Although they could offer Howard the most money individually, there's something they can't do.
The Lakers can't build a team with any form of youth until 2014—when Kobe, Gasol, Nash and MWP all become free agents.
With Howard's history of clashing with his teammates in L.A., one is inclined to believe he'll explore other options. That belief begins to hold weight when you consider the opportunity Howard has in Atlanta.
Whether or not he signs with the Hawks is a question in its own right—just don't think D-12 isn't considering going back home.
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