NBA superstar center Dwight Howard has yet to provide any public indication of where he will choose to sign his new deal, but the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets feel good enough about their chances that they've apparently started to prepare sign-and-trade offers for the Los Angeles Lakers that feature players like Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.
Howard has the raw talent to fundamentally alter the course of a franchise. With a variety of rumors swirling around, the Lakers have realized the need to prepare contingency plans. L.A. is now "bracing for the worst" and reconsidering its stance on sign-and-trade scenarios, so the Rockets and Warriors are priming fresh offers, according to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
Most experts had initially assumed that the Lakers would be unwilling to take on any obligations in a sign-and-trade because the franchise will certainly be involved in free agent bidding during the summer of 2014. L.A. is losing confidence that Howard will re-sign, though, and both the Warriors and Rockets appear willing to part with valuable pieces to facilitate a trade to give them more salary cap flexibility.
The Warriors are "aggressively attempting to trade away players" to clear space, but they would need to shed roughly $30 million in obligations to do so. Trading Andrew Bogut ($14 million), Richard Jefferson ($11 million) and Andris Biedrins ($9 million) would do the trick, but that's not an easy task.
The ESPN report also suggests that the Lakers would be willing to consider a sign-and-trade deal if either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes is added to a package that includes Bogut. A future first-round pick could always be used to sweeten the deal, too, and a third team could be used to take on any additional veterans.
The Rockets plan to offer Jeremy Lin -- who played his best basketball under Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni -- and Omer Asik if the opportunity arises, but that deal would test L.A.'s dedication to the 2014 free agent class because those are long-term contracts that run beyond next year. Houston would aim for such a trade as a way to free up space to sign free agent forward Josh Smith, too, who is a friend of Howard.
At this point, though, everyone is waiting on Howard's next move.