Despite no Stan Van Gundy, there is still no new contract between Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. This could mean a trade will still happen before NBA free agency in the fall. So where will the All-Star center land?
Los Angeles Lakers have Andrew Bynum as bait for a trade
No team has a better knack for switching from superstar to superstar more than the Los Angeles Lakers. They're hoping to keep that streak alive when NBA free agency starts. With their current roster centered around Kobe Bryant, L.A. failed to reach the Finals again. This means the team may need changes, and several grumblings have hinted the time is right for a move on Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. Most experts think the Lakers have the best pieces for trade bait. While draft picks and role players would likely become part of the exchange, the real deal would focus on inconsistent but talented center Andrew Bynum and veteran power forward Pau Gasol. Bryant didn't make a trade easy when he called Howard a second or third option on a real championship team, but Los Angeles can't afford to listen to a man who turns 36 when the season starts again. Howard is already a top 5 talent in the league and will only get better as he matures. Like or not, the time to think about life after Bryant started two seconds after the Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to the Western Conference Finals. They aren't alone in the hunt, though.
Chicago Bulls have draft picks along with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah
Another team that just won't disappear off the Howard radar are the Chicago Bulls. Of every team in the NBA, the Windy City has everything the center could want: a big money market, loyal fans, a rich history, a respected head coach in Tom Thibodeau, and a superstar point guard in Derrick Rose who would compliment his talents perfectly. Most importantly for Bulls fans, outside of L.A. they have the trade bait to offer Orlando. Aside from a projected lottery draft pick from the Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago also has All-Star Luol Deng and young center Joakim Noah. Together with some of the Bulls vaunted bench talent, the Magic would likely jump on a deal if Howard were open to it. Many fans hope Deng and Noah stay and the team deal Carlos Boozer instead, but given his contract size and lack of quality play, it's likely he won't interest Orlando since they have several bad contracts to handle, too.
Much of how a trade will play out depends on what the Orlando Magic want. The Los Angeles Lakers have better players in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, but the Chicago Bulls have the draft picks and the building blocks in Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. Either deal would work out well but becomes pointless if Dwight Howard hits free agency.