Dallas Mavericks

Dwight Howard tops Dallas Mavericks’ free-agent wish list

Once again this summer, the Dallas Mavericks will take another swing at landing a big-fish free agent.

It seems like the Mavericks have been striking out forever when it comes to signing a big-name free agent.

At the top of the Mavericks’ wish list this year is Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, who plans to opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent this summer. Howard, it would seem, has absolutely everything the Mavericks need from a center.

Plus, Howard constantly draws a double team, which would allow Dirk Nowitzki to hang out on the perimeter and basically enjoy target practice during the twilight of his career.

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, Chicago’s Pau Gasol and Atlanta’s Al Horford are the other centers the Mavericks will probably pursue if they can’t land Howard, who is good friends with Mavs forward Chandler Parsons.

The negatives with Howard are many: He wants a long-term contract with an annual salary of around $30 million, he’s a career 56.8 percent shooter from the free-throw line, and, according to his critics, he doesn’t take the game seriously.

A look at the free agents the Mavs might pursue:

Dwight Howard, center, Rockets: A center who can score, rebound, block shots and play defense is all that’s missing from the Mavericks’ being a legitimate title contender.

Hassan Whiteside, center, Heat: Talk about a windshield wiper who blocks everything in his path — that’s Whiteside. He scores, rebounds, blocks shots and is a threat to get a triple-double.

Ryan Anderson, forward, Pelicans: Anderson probably should have won the Sixth Man Award this season, and probably would be an All-Star if he played all 82 games against the Mavericks. He has Stephen Curry-like 3-point range.

Pau Gasol, center, Bulls: Gasol never seems to age, his skills never seem to diminish. This season he averaged 16.5 points and 11 rebounds and was seventh in the NBA in double-doubles with 46.

Nicolas Batum, forward, Hornets: Batum is a solid all-around player who averaged 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists this season. All he does is fill up the stat sheet.

Mike Conley, guard, Grizzlies: Hard to imagine Conley leaving the Grizzlies. But if point guard Deron Williams doesn’t give the Mavs a hometown discount after opting out of his final contract year, Conley would be a nice backup plan.

Kent Bazemore, forward, Hawks: An Energizer Bunny, Bazemore is in constant motion, creating havoc on the floor. This season he averaged 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals.

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