Looking Ahead: 4 Centers the Clippers Can Target in 2016

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Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)

May 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers in game seven of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When you have the cap space Los Angeles is projected to have a year from now you set your sights high for potential free agent signings, and in the coup of 2016 free agent centers you can’t aim any higher than Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, who can hit the open market by declining his player option.

With the Clippers and Rockets having a similar trajectory in Howard’s two years with the team, a move to Los Angeles may be perceived as a lateral one by many (the Rockets and Clippers finished #2 & #3 in the West last year), leaving the league-best shooting guard James Harden in his rearview. But what Daryl Morey has tried his hardest to obtain in two summers with Howard in the picture is something the Clippers already have in place: Blake Griffin, the best power forward in the NBA not named Anthony Davis, to compliment an All-Star guard (Chris Paul) and a center threat, or Howard in this hypothetical.

A championship window with two post-30 superstars, both who’ve dealt with injuries in the last two years, isn’t the best situation to be involved in, especially for a player of Griffin’s status — Blake can decline his player option to become an unrestricted free agent in 2017 — things could certainly be worse. More importantly, it shows Griffin the organization is all-in on winning a championship after losing out on a year of the Paul-Griffin’s window due to Jordan’s untimely free agent departure.

It’s easy to forget how good Howard is, and has been, when you focus on the negatives in his game (Hi Shaq!) — in 17 playoffs games, the 3x Defensive Player of the Year averaged 16.4 points, 14 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks while forcing opponents to shoot 45% from the field — but even in a simmering decline accelerated by nagging injury, Howard at 31 could be better-than-the-best version of DeAndre Jordan Clippers fans won’t get a chance to witness under their own roof.

The lone question about this potential Clippers-D12 pairing? Would Howard want to return to the city he spurned just two summer ago to join the Houston Rockets.

It’d make for one hell of a storyline.

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