The Orlando Magic want to keep Dwight Howard.
The problem is, the NBA’s most dominating big man has said that he will not exercise his player option next offseason and will opt to become a free agent in 2012.
Essentially, winning a title—or at least competing in the Finals—is the only way Howard will stay in Orlando, although that’s unlikely given the current cast of characters surrounding Howard. Instead, the Magic must find a way to bring in premier player, although doing so via trade is just as farfetched because of undesirable contracts.
So, the Magic’s best chance at keeping Howard is by bringing in point guards Chris Paul or Deron Williams, via free agency.
Exactly how can that happen given that Orlando has the second highest payroll in the NBA?
Well it will take a lot of luck.
What you are about to see is a best-case scenario for the Orlando Magic in regards to getting cap space to re-sign Howard and add either Paul or Williams, who will also likely be available.
Per HoopsHype.com, Orlando’s salary entering the 2012 offseason without Howard would be $56.4 million.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Gilbert Arenas- $20.8
- Hedo Turkoglu- $11.4 million
- Jameer Nelson- $7.9 million
- J.J. Redick- $6 milliom
- Brandon Bass- $4 million
- Chris Duhon- $3.7 million
- Quentin Richardson- $2.6 million
- Ryan Anderson- $3.2 million
- Daniel Orton- $1.2 million
Now, it is hard to predict exactly what Orlando needs to happen because there is no CBA in place, thus who knows what a max contract will be. So a lot of this is admittedly presumptive.
A $62 million hard salary cap is what we could be looking at whenever the NBA lockout ends. For the sake of the article, let’s assume that’s where the cap ends.
Going from there, Orlando’s team payroll would need to be at around $32 million in order to retain Howard and bring back either point guard if they were both willing to take a little less like the Big Three in Miami did.
So how can that happen?
First, Orlando would need to hope for an amnesty clause, which would allow the team to drop one player without any ramification.
That means if the Magic used that on Arenas, they would get down to $35.6 million, which would be close.
Or if the Magic somehow got lucky, they could use the clause on Turkoglu and then pray that Arenas does general manager Otis Smith a favor and opts out of his contract. That would put Orlando’s salary at $24 million.
The Magic could trim another $4.4 million if they chose not to use an option on Orton and didn’t make a qualifying offer for Anderson.
If all that were to happen, Orlando would have enough money (roughly $42 million) to bring back Howard and two other high-quality players if they were all willing to take a little bit less (roughly $14.5 million each) to be part of a winning team.
Obviously this is all far away and what has been presented is a best-case scenario filled with many variables. But the point is that there are some potential outcomes in which Orlando can retain Howard while upgrading the roster around him next offseason.