Daryl Morey dodges question about re-signing Dwight Howard

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The fact Houston Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey was speaking on a panel at the 2016 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference is about as surprising as violence at a Trump rally.

But things did get a little interesting when the name of Dwight Howard came up.

Howard is widely expected to exercise his opt-out this summer and become a free agent, which leads to the question “will the Rockets re-sign him?” The better questions are at what price and for how long? Morey tried to dodge all of them when pressed at Sloan, reports Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated.

During the front office panel, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, who was moderating, asked Morey about re-signing Dwight Howard. Morey immediately replied: “Uh oh.” MacMullan pressed the Rockets GM on negotiations. He responded that the NBA’s max salary threshold keeps things simple. MacMullan asked, So you’re re-signing him? To which Morey responded: “I just said they had the concept.”

Howard is going to want a max salary, which will likely start in the $30 million range (depending on the final salary cap number). If your first reaction is “I wouldn’t give him that much” you’re not alone, there are plenty of people in NBA front offices who will say the same thing. But it only takes one to say yes — one who likely struck out on other high-profile targets. Howard will get paid. And Howard still has a lot more value than his detractors give him credit for — 14.8 points per game on 61.7 percent shooting this season, 12.1 rebounds a game, he’s still a strong defender in the paint, and he’s got an All-Star level PER of 20. He shouldn’t want all the post touches he demands, but he still has value.

That said, Howard has a long injury history as well, and the toughest question is how many years do teams want to give Howard because of it? Also, the years is an issue because he may not mesh in their locker room, as has happened with the stars in his last couple stops. The Rockets in theory could offer five years, other teams four. My guess is teams will want a team option or cheap buyout in that final season (or, ideally, two seasons).

We’ll see what kind of offer Morey makes this summer. But he doesn’t sound enthusiastic.