At least once per day (okay, maybe not every day, but most days) someone on Twitter or that I know personally asks me about the chances that the Brooklyn Nets have to acquire unrestricted free agent Dwight Howard this offseason.
For those unaware, the Nets spent a better part of a full season in 2011-12 decimating their team, coming up with crapshot proposals with three and four teams involved, and putting on a fireworks show when Howard came to town in Newark (no, really, a fireworks show, inside the arena) trying to woo him, before the Magic eventually flipped Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers for spare parts in the offseason. Now, there's a report this morning that Howard wants to leave Los Angeles for good.
It won't be to go to the Nets.
The Nets have absolutely zero cap room. Period. None. Zip. The salary cap is set at $58.5 million this upcoming season and the Nets have about $85 million committed in salaries. So there's no chance the Nets could sign him with their cap. They'd have to shed about $45 million in salary -- not trade away, literally shed -- to have a shot at signing Howard. Basically, they'd have to trade away Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, and Brook Lopez while literally receiving nothing in return. Not only is that never going to happen in any stretch of infinite universes with infinite monkeys on infinite GM telephones, what would the point of it be?
The Nets can't sign any contracts bigger than the taxpayer midlevel exception, or about $10 million over three years. That's less than Howard will make in the first year of his contract. The Nets are expected to give that exception to Bojan Bogdanovic, because that's the quality of player that deserves the taxpayer midlevel exception.
If Howard wants to sign with the Nets for the taxpayer midlevel exception, well, he's free to. But I'm checking with those infinite monkeys again. None have convinced him to give up $65 million yet.
But a sign-and-trade!
This is the most common thing people ask me and it's probably the most common misconception (or complete non-perception) about the new collective bargaining agreement. The Nets cannot do any sign-and-trades. They're over what's called the "luxury tax apron," which is a number set roughly $4 million over the luxury tax. Starting this season, teams above the apron cannot do any sign-and-trade that keeps them above the apron. The apron is expected to be around $75 million this year. (The number won't be official until July.)
For the Nets to get a max contract's worth under the apron (for Dwight, that's about $20.2 million in the first year), they'd need to slash about $30 million in salary -- again, that's a straight salary dump, without adding any salary. That would mean they'd have to convince teams under the cap to take on Kris Humphries ($12 million) and Joe Johnson ($21 million next year, $69 million over the next three years) without taking more than $3 million in salary back. Or to take on Humphries, Brook Lopez ($15 million next year, $47 million over the next three years), and Mirza Teletovic ($3 million) in straight salary dumps.
It is just not going to happen.
So please, stop asking me about Dwight Howard already. Let him stay in Los Angeles, or go to Houston, or leave basketball forever to pursue his dream of becoming a Skittles spokesman. If you see him in Barclays Center next season, he'll either be in an opponent's uniform, or in a suit, or some weird Ed Hardy shirt with a tongue on it that has an "I'M A CHAMPION" tattoo even though Dwight has never won a championship. And frankly, I'm fine with that. You should be, too.