Dwight Howard would leave Lakers in free agency if it improved his chances at a ring

Is Dwight one and done in La-La land?
When the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard this summer it seemed like it was just a matter of time before he inked a max deal with LA, and played out the rest of his prime in Hollywood (before the Lakers somehow traded the 35 year old version of him for whoever the best player in the NBA in 2021 is, of course). However Howard made a few comments recently to John Denton of the Magic's team website saying, in short, that he plans on putting himself in the best position to win a ring, whether that's the Lakers or not.

You only get one shot. People might not ever understand that, but at the end of the day it's not their life. So I want to do it the best that I can and I'm going to take everything in I can to get what I can out of the NBA. Which, for me, is winning a championship. So if I have to play on another team or do whatever I have to do to get one, that's my goal.

Ok, so Howard says he's going to play for a championship contender, why is that news? After all the Lakers will be a contender for the foreseeable future, right? Not so fast my friend. Now I'm never one to count the Lake Show out, after all they've only missed the playoffs 5 times in their 64 seasons in the league (preposterous stat right there). However, things are about to get ugly in LA unless the fountain of youth is hidden underneath Staples.

Heading into next season Kobe will be entering the last year of his deal (at a ridiculously ridiculous $30.4 million), Gasol will be in the last year of his as well (at a slightly less ridiculous $19.3 million), while MWP will most likely pick up his $7.7 million dollar player option. And what does all this mean exactly? Well let's just take a look at the Lakers currently under contract for 2013-14, assuming Metta picks up that option.

Starting line-up

PG Steve Nash - Age (as of opening day 2013): 39
SG Kobe Bryant, Age: 35
SF: Metta World Peace, Age: 34
PF: Pau Gasol, Age: 33
C: ?


PG Steve Blake - Age: 33
PG Chris Duhon - Age: 31
PF Jordan Hill - Age: 26

Combined salaries for 7 players under contract: $78.2 million

In 2006, that team contends for a title without Dwight. In 2009, they cruise to the playoffs. In 2013? Yeesh. For all of his faults, the Lakers are now in a position where if Howard walks after this season they are in big trouble. Granted that trouble won't last all that long thanks to the oodles of cap space they have available at the end of 2013-14, but still.

If Howard really is serious about contending for a title during the apex of his career, LA honestly might not be the best choice for him. So what are some better options?

1. New Orleans - No the Hornets do not have much of a past, but damn they have a future. Anthony Davis is a stud at PF, and pairing him with Howard in the middle would be a nightmare for the rest of the league. And if Eric Gordon's knee ever gets right, the Gordon-Rivers back-court would be extremely talented. They have the cap space.

2. Atlanta - Would Howard go home and join Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Lou Williams on a suddenly transformed Hawks team? Keep in mind the Hawks have so much cap room, that they could possibly lure both Howard and another max (or close to max) free agent to the ATL, depending on what happens with a few guys hitting restricted free agency.

3. Dallas - This one is a bit of a stretch but hear me out. If the Mavs could find someone under the cap willing to trade for Shawn Marion, and O.J. Mayo decided to decline his player option (likely considering it's only $4.2 million and he's averaging 20+ a game), the Mavs would have enough cap room to make a run at both Howard and Chris Paul. It would take Mark Cuban's best sell job ever, but it's possible that Dallas could become a major player for Howard this summer.

Of course, Howard would have to leave money on the table to sign anywhere but LA, so the lakers have to be considered the odds on favorites to retain him. But still, if the Lakers early season struggles (just 8-9 thus far) and their aging roster make it conceivable that Howard would want to at least take a look at other options at seasons end.

Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13