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From ESPN's Chris Broussard.



Now before you say it, I know what you're thinking..it's Broussard. But the guy seems to be on top of the Doc story, and at the very least is plugged in to the NBA scene.

Ok now to the story itself, Howard and CP3 texting feverishly trying to figure out the best way for them to team up next season. In this era of super teams, it's not a surprise that two of the best players in basketball would want to join forces for the next 4 seasons, and see if they can win a title or two. Now of course the question becomes; where?

Broussard's article mentions one team in particular with the cash to get it done.

The Atlanta Hawks could make it happen. Atlanta, which is Howard's hometown, has the cap room to sign both players to maximum-salaried contracts.

Howard is not particularly fond of the idea of returning to Atlanta, but he would do so to team up with Paul, the sources said.

...

"It would be very tough for him to go to Atlanta," the source said. "He loved Atlanta when they should have drafted him in '05 but not so much since then. But hey, everybody is an option at this point."

Ok, let's talk about Atlanta. The Hawks have more cap space than any team in NBA history with only $18 million in money on the books for next season, Atlanta could lure both Howard and Paul by simply non-tendering Ivan Johnson and Jeff Teague, and getting someone to take John Jenkins off their hands (1st round pick last year, $1.3 million cap hit). The Hawks would then field a roster of Paul-Lou Williams-Al Horford and Howard, with 2 first round picks and the ability to use their mid-level exception. Not too shabby. Of course the question becomes, would Paul go to Atlanta? Howard is from the A-T-L and seemingly would welcome a return trip home if it meant joining forces with Paul. But would Paul leave L.A., and the extra $31 million that comes with it (Max deal if you stay with your team, 5 years $118 million, max deal signing with another club, 4 years $87.6 mill), to go play in Atlanta? Seems unlikely.

The next most logical choice is Houston. With James Harden in tow, the Rockets could very easily trim their salary down to $34.5 million by simply declining player options and having a team under the cap take Thomas Robinson off their hands. They would still need to clear $12-13 million to dish out two max deals, but that may end up being easier then you'd think. Both Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik make $5.2 million next year, extremely affordable contracts that many teams under the cap would be intrigued by. They also happen to play the same positions as Paul and Howard, rendering their services unnecessary. If Houston could deal both guys, they'd suddenly have $35 million in cap space, just shy of the $38 million they'd need. They could try and convince the duo to take slightly less than a max deal, or look to deal some combination of crazy Royce White, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas. If Houston could pull this off, a tri of Howard-Paul and Harden would instantly become an NBA title contender.

Of course, neither L.A. team would just let this happen, they'd fight hard to retain their superstars, offering more money than any other team, and also, you'd have to imagine, trying to build a super team themselves by shedding salary. Could either Los Angeles team get it done?

The Lakers are a fast no. They'd have to amnesty Kobe, but even that wouldn't create enough room with the money owed to Nash, Gasol, World Peace and others. Sorry Lake Show.

How about the Clippers? Well according to Broussard, that's the dream destination for the duo.

The preference for both players would be to play together for the Clippers, according to the sources. Because the Clippers don't have enough cap room to sign Howard as a free agent, it would take a sign-and-trade deal with the Lakers to make it happen.

The Clippers would be open to working out a deal, but they fear the Lakers would never trade Howard to them, according to the sources.

But while trading Howard to a team in their own building seems unthinkable, the Lakers are not likely to get a better trade package elsewhere than say, Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe.
Obviously a sign and trade could be on the table, and if Howard forces their hand, the Lakers may have no better option. But what about the Clips signing both outright? They would have an outside shot, but it would require dumping Caron Butler, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford to teams under the cap. While Bledsoe and Crawford would be easy moves, no team under the cap wants $8 million worth of Butler, and Jordan's $11 million price tag makes him a bit tricky to deal. If the Clippers could get it done, they'd have a remaining roster of Paul-Howard and Blake Griffin, which to me pales in comparison to the Hawks and Rockets potential teams.

No other teams are realistic. Dallas would try desperately to create the cap space, but it would be damn near impossible as they have too much money tied up in Dirk, Marion and Vince Carter to seriously make a bid at both.

If Paul and Howard are seriously going to make a run at this, it seems likely to be in either Atlanta or Houston. And if they pull it off, look out Miami, there's a younger, more athletic super team in town.

(P.S. totally going out there with this, but if CP3 doesn't want to go to Atlanta, couldn't Howard sign there and secretly text LeBron "meet me in the ATL". Hawks are "meh" next season with Howard-Horford but then LeBron signs there in 2014 and they become the best team in the league. I know, insane. But this is the NBA we're talking about.)

Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13

Michael Dyer 6/14/2013 12:15:00 PM Edit
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