Zach Lowe brought up an interesting idea that I've been bouncing around in my head for some time: The Wizards making a trade for Dwight Howard:
Failing to make the playoffs in the Year of Durant would be catastrophic, and possibly lead to blood-letting across the organization. The Wizards are getting Alan Anderson back soon as a pseudo-deadline acquisition, but that doesn't feel like enough, and teams that fall short of expectations are prone to bad short-term moves. Washington is already asking around about reserve big men, league sources say.
The Wiz could send Marcin Gortat, salary filler, and either a young player or a protected first-round pick. If Houston demands both, the Wiz probably walk away. The Rockets could absorb Gortat's salary and still wriggle their way to Durant-level cap space this summer -- especially since either Terrence Jones or Donatas Motiejunas is a lock to jet in free agency.
For all of Dwight Howard's well-known shortcoming as a player and as a guy to build a team around, he's an upgrade over Marcin Gortat. Yes, he could make things more challenging in the locker room, but you can't use locker room chemistry as a reason to keep together a team that's five games under .500 in mid-February.
If it was simply a matter of rolling the dice on someone, the Wizards would be silly not to seriously investigate a trade for Dwight Howard. Even if he doesn't take them to contender status, he takes them to a better spot than they are right now. Plus, playing alongside John Wall would help boost Howard's efficiency as his athleticism wanes. If it worked out the right way, he's probably a better addition than anyone the Wizards could get in free agency this summer, unless the WIzards can lure Kevin Durant.
That said, there are some logistical issues that would make a deal hard to pull off:
1. Howard's current contract makes trades difficult
Howard is making $22 million this season and the Rockets, like the Wizards, have used up all 15 roster spots. That means both teams would have to include the same number of players to make the deal work. So yeah, a Nene/Gortat deal works, but the Rockets would still need to add someone else to the trade on a low salary.
Problem is, the Rockets' low-salary players are mostly young prospects like Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker they don't want to move. Jason Terry is also on a cheap deal, but he has the right to veto a trade. Josh Smith is also on a cheap deal, but since he was already dealt once this season, he can't be packaged with a teammate in a trade package, per NBA rules.
Yes, you can throw Marcus Thornton's cheap deal in there and the trade works. But then you're asking the Rockets to give up Howard for an equally old, not as good center and Nene's expiring deal. Remember, you can't throw Oubre in the deal without asking for one of Houston's young guys back (which renders the trade pointless) or hoping Jason Terry is wooed by the idea of playing in Washington (good luck). Assuming that doesn't happen, Washington would need to throw in some serious draft pick consideration to make a deal palatable for Houston, which brings us to our next problem.
2. Howard is expected to be an unrestricted free agent this summer
Assuming Howard opts out of his deal this summer, he'll be free to join any team he wants next summer. Whichever team has him when he opts out would have his Bird rights, which means they could offer him a five-year deal instead of a four-year deal. But Howard has already shown in the past he'll forego an extra year on a contract to sign somewhere he feels wanted, so Washington can't hang their hat on that being enough to keep Howard around.
And if that's the case, how much do you really want to give up here for someone who could be with a new team in July?
3. Howard is going to get PAID this summer
Even if you can keep Howard around, he's going to ask for big money this summer. Let's assume he signs a $129 million deal over the next five seasons, like Lowe suggests in his column. That locks you into a core of Wall & Howard for a long time with Beal and Porter as your only hopes of meaningful improvement.
It also means you're relying Beal and Howard, to miss less games than they've each missed in recent years. Otherwise, it's just going to be more of John Wall trying to make things happen by himself for the rest of his prime years, but with even less help than he has now.
4. The Durant thing
It probably goes without saying, but if you're maxing out Howard, you can kiss KD2DC goodbye.