The 2013 NBA free agency period has begun, and although it's not necessarily the deepest or most star-studded class in recent memory, there are plenty of sign-and-trade rumors already surfacing.
Dwight Howard is the biggest name among the bunch, and a lot of the action involving the best of the rest hinges on where the Los Angeles Lakers superstar decides to play in the next stage of his career.
Some chatter indicates that others with All-Star potential such as Atlanta Hawks veteran Josh Smith and Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin could also be up for grabs in certain scenarios.
Let's take a closer look at the buzz involving Howard and a perceptive dark horse to obtain his services in the Golden State Warriors, along with what's going on with both Smith and Lin in terms of trade talks.
Balancing Act for Warriors to Land Dwight Howard
Golden State has to be careful in its pursuit of Howard not to offer up too much of its promising young core in exchange for what the 27-year-old center would bring to the table.
Bay Area News Group beat writer Marcus Thompson reports that co-owner Joe Lacob, GM Bob Myers and head coach Mark Jackson were all in L.A. on Monday to meet with Howard and pitch to him the idea of taking his talents to Oakland.
The cost could be dearly, though, if the Lakers are seeking truly viable assets in return and not merely salary cap relief. While Andrew Bogut is an obvious candidate to be swapped, sources tell Thompson the team is willing to offer either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes as part of the package.
He may have reported it, but Marcus Thompson personally doesn't like the idea:
Klay Thompson has emerged as one of the premier sharp shooters in the NBA, and Barnes came on very strong during the Warriors' run to the Western Conference semis as a rookie.
Losing either of those valuable members of the team's young nucleus would likely throw off some of the chemistry established last year, though a frontcourt of David Lee and Howard would be incredible.
It's a bold proposition from Golden State, who isn't considered a huge threat to ultimately acquire Howard, according to this report.
However, it's at least worth monitoring, because the presence of star Stephen Curry and the Warriors' style of offense lends to a mutually beneficial and versatile attack. Golden State's plethora of perimeter shooters and Howard's imposing post presence could be a lethal combination.
Hawks Want Omer Asik if Josh Smith Flies to Rockets
Atlanta is Howard's hometown, and the Hawks are certainly going to make an effort to lure him.
If they don't win the sweepstakes though, the hope is that Howard will go to the Houston Rockets—the team that met with Howard first and are apparently the front-runners, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!
Should it play out that way, GM Danny Ferry would reportedly engage the Rockets in a sign-and-trade proposition involving the nine-year veteran Smith to acquire Omer Asik, per NBA insider Jason McLaed:
Asik is a double-double machine who averaged 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds this past season for the Rockets. Rebounding is something Atlanta needs especially if Smith leaves, and the combination of Asik and Al Horford would provide plenty of that.
When Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com reported on Smith's meeting with the Detroit Pistons earlier on Monday, he noted how Smith was teammates with Howard during AAU basketball.
Making matters more interesting is this tweet from Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, which implies Howard wants another superstar to join him and James Harden in Houston:
If Smith is considered a superstar in Howard's eyes, this deal could definitely work.
Jeremy Lin to Pistons for Jose Calderon?
Despite the incredible hype generated by Linsanity, a lucrative free-agent contract last offseason and a stellar 2012-13 campaign as a starter, it's possible Lin will be playing for his third team in as many seasons.
Ken Berger of CBS Sports cites a source who says that the Rockets are seeking out Calderon to possibly run the point as opposed to Lin:
Berger also reports the Rockets are confident that they will emerge from free agency with Howard in the fold.
CBS Detroit's Matt Dery directly responded to Berger's tweet regarding the potential Lin-for-Calderon deal:
A great point is raised above by Dery in that Calderon is more of a pass-first point guard who will get out of James Harden's way—and also take fewer shots away from Howard, who will want to get his touches in the post.
It all depends on what the Pistons decide to do with Calderon though, because he's an unrestricted free agent. Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld.com suggests that Rockets are far more interested in Calderon than the Pistons are in Lin, but that it's still feasible:
Lin has thrived in up-tempo styles of offense, which he ran with the New York Knicks under Mike D'Antoni and has run in Houston so far under Kevin McHale. A transition to Calderon would create a more methodical pace and give Howard a better chance to establish himself down low.
The Pistons already have Brandon Knight as a point guard, so it would be interesting to see how Lin would fit in Detroit if he indeed does wind up there.