By all accounts, Dwight Howard was the most readily available star coming into the trade deadline. The Rockets were prepared to part ways with the veteran center before he could opt out and become a free agent in the offseason, and Howard had no power to prevent a trade from happening. With a competitive offer, Houston was ready to move on from the eight-time All-Star.
It didn't happen. The trade deadline has passed, and Howard is still wearing a Rockets uniform. None of the teams that were interested in the former Defensive Player of the Year were willing to pay the price the Rockets demanded for him and now he will finish the season with a team that is clearly ready to part ways with him.
The Hornets were one of his suitors but their reported offer centered around Al Jefferson and Spencer Hawes. It wasn't enough to entice Daryl Morey into pulling the trigger and it's not hard to see why. It would have been a lateral move at best. Jefferson is a quality player but is out with injury and has an expiring contract, just like Howard. More importantly, Houston's problem is defense and neither Jefferson nor Hawes excel on that end.
The Hawks were rumored to be interested in getting Howard back to his hometown but nothing materialized. Atlanta was supposed to be one of the most active teams during the deadline, only to decide to keep its core together at the last moment. With Al Horford not going anywhere, there was simply no need to go hard after Howard, so that possibility quickly evaporated.
The Celtics, another franchise that was supposed to be motivated to make a trade, were reluctant to surrender any of their valuable assets to land Howard on a rental. Boston needed a talent boost inside to really make a leap in the Eastern Conference but decided against trading for Howard despite the fact that he has the playoff experience the rest of the roster lacks.
It's very tempting to suggest that no one pounced on the opportunity to get Howard because of his damaged reputation. After all, he's still a good defensive player who averages 14 points and 12 rebounds. He's not the star he once was but there are not many centers around who can claim to be better than Howard on the court.
While his messy exits from the Magic and the Lakers are likely still fresh in executives' minds, the reality is that there were simply too many factors that had nothing to do with his personality or past incidents that impacted his value negatively.
The Rockets got a first-round pick that could land in the lottery for Donatas Motiejunas, so they were surely asking for more than that for their starting center. Howard's impending free agency was also likely a problem for the teams that weren't sure they were going to be able to retain him. His age and recent injury history certainly didn't help matters.
For whatever reason, Howard simply wasn't considered worthy of the asking price or the risk. He is still with the Rockets and will have to try to make the best of an awkward situation for a few more months. This summer he will get a chance to test the waters and see if he's worth the max contract he will seek out, either to Houston or, more likely, some other franchise.