2013 NBA Free Agency: The Bobcats’ Pitch for Dwight Howard


Apr 28, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) during the game against the San Antonio Spurs in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

I’m getting ahead of myself here; I know that for a fact.

It seems I do that with practically every front office and/or basketball operations-type related move the Bobcats could make.

Months ago, when many media outlets claimed this year’s upcoming Draft would be one of the weakest in recent memory, I scoffed at the idea.  I figured that more prospects would show their true colors during the NCAA Tournament and make those media outlets eat those words, and that the Bobcats should make a push to acquire another draft pick.

The usual suspects (Trey Burke, Ben McLemore, Gorgui Dieng) showed up to play; the rest didn’t.

So I was 0-for-1, but I couldn’t be wrong about the Bobcats name change…could I?

I wrote a couple months back that while changing the team’s name back to the Hornets would be great for fans that miss the glory days, it would go against the teams’ new-found motto of “sticking by their product through thick and thin”.  Surely the front office would think twice before going against their own wishes.

Wrong again.  0-for-2.  Third time’s the charm, though, right?  I would surely peg the new coaching search.

I anticipated that the Bobcats would wait before making a selection on who would become the sixth head coach in franchise history.  I figured they would make a run at Pacers assistant Brian Shaw after the playoffs ran their course.

Apparently, the third time was not the charm for me.

Yet with all these moves that the front office have made (or haven’t made, depending how you want to view things), I’m confident about my next prediction: the Charlotte Bobcats will be major players for Dwight Howard during free agency this summer.

You may ridicule the idea, but while my last predictions were made off of hope and gut feelings, there are more concrete facts that indicate that the Cats will play big this season.

First and foremost has to do exclusively with the draft.  While many still say that this is a weak draft class, there are several big men who could become game changers at the next level; Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk, and Cody Zeller lead a deep class at the five position and all of them could easily carve out 10 years in the league.  Yet the Bobcats still own only one pick for this draft, sitting pretty at No. 4 overall, and they surely won’t be picking any of those players with that pick.  With the way many mocks are shaping up, the Cats could use this pick on the likes of Victor Oladipo or –should he fall that far –Ben McLemore.

With the Cats fixing their shooting guard woes, that leaves only the two low-post positions –power forward and center –as problem areas for Charlotte.  We know that Tyrus Thomas and Byron Mullens aren’t long term answers, Bismack Biyombo still hasn’t proven himself on the offensive end, and Josh McRoberts is an unrestricted free-agent this offseason.  This gives the Bobcats two definite returners (Biyombo and Thomas), but neither of whom can hold down the paint completely.  That big hole could easily be filled out by Howard, who would become the offensive centerpiece down low.  Coupled with the likes of Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions to run the pick and roll, and the Cats could turn into a much more efficient offense.

Dwight Howard will be asking for big money this season.  Should he not return to the Lakers (who can offer him a 5-year, $118 million contract), the most he could make elsewhere is $22 million (4-year, $88 million from anyone else).  As it stands now, the Bobcats have close to $18 million in cap space heading into the 2013-2014 season and –should they decide to finally amnesty the likes of Tyrus Thomas (expected to make $8.6 million this season) or Ben Gordon (player option for $13.2 million) –could have close to $29 million of cap space depending on what moves they make.  This would easily give the Cats the opportunity to sign Howard, as well as make an extending offer to retain McRoberts.

Finally, the Bobcats have as good a chance to get Dwight to Charlotte due to the recent hiring of Steve Clifford as the Cats newest head coach, and the potential hiring of Patrick Ewing as a lead assistant.  Both have worked with Dwight in Orlando before and Clifford also worked with Howard in his lone season in Lakerland last season.  Some may see this as insignificant, but the fact that Clifford has spent the last six seasons with Dwight in some capacity will probably be an underrated selling point in trying to get Superman to the Queen City.

It’s a far cry from what many are probably expecting from this summer of free agency.  Many probably expect the Cats to play it safe, sign a few mid-level exceptions, and continue to build through the draft; yet it wouldn’t surprise me to see Charlotte try to make a run at the most heralded free agent center that’s been on the market in years.

I can only hope I’m not as far off with this prediction as I have been in the past.