Could the Sixers be the Third Team in a Dwight Howard Trade to the Warriors?

Neither guy above will be playing much next year, for very different reasons. - Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard's free agency extravaganza could provide the Sixers another opportunity to gain assets. The only thing we've ever wanted is to be the third team in a 3-team deal.

Reports yesterday indicated that the Warriors believe they have a shot to land Dwight Howard. ESPN reported that the Warriors, thinking the Lakers would not agree to sign-and-trade Howard to a division rival, would look to clear three gigantic expiring contracts to make enough cap room to land The Big Waffler. I'll just give you all the rumors and speculation from ESPN's Marc Stein and Chris "Mempis" Broussard:

The Golden State Warriors, increasingly convinced they have a legitimate shot at winning the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, have begun aggressively attempting to trade away players to clear the requisite salary-cap space to sign the All-Star center, according to sources with knowledge of the team's thinking.

But Golden State's hopes of actually acquiring Howard always have been clouded by the fact they would need the Lakers to agree to a sign-and-trade.

The Lakers have been adamant for weeks they would prefer to let Howard leave for nothing and bank the resultant salary-cap space in the summer of 2014, with many rival executives likewise convinced that L.A. would have real reservations about helping Howard land with a division rival. So sources say that the Warriors, in an effort to manufacture some financial flexibility to help their chances, have begun calling teams with salary-cap space to try to entice them to take expiring contracts off their books so they can clear a $20 million hole for Howard.

Such a scenario would be challenging, some executives have said, but not impossible. The Warriors have three huge expiring contracts in Andrew Bogut ($14 million), Richard Jefferson ($11 million) and Andris Biedrins ($9 million). According to sources, they have tried to unload all three players this week to teams with cap room. Yet, Golden State likely would have to be willing to add assets to any potential deals to get teams interested. Sources say the Warriors have been willing to attach a future first-round pick to move one of their bad contracts since last February's trade deadline, but potential partners tend to ask for prized youngsters such as Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson -- two of the more attractive young players in the league -- when the subject of absorbing one of the Warriors' big contracts is broached.

How does this relate to the Sixers? Well, they actually have the cap space, especially once the Jrue Holiday trade officially goes through. As Derek wrote on Monday, the Sixers should have around $18.6 million in cap space when considering just the 9 players on the roster with guaranteed or soon-to-be guaranteed contracts (that is, not including the very annoying and convoluted cap holds that remain on the books, or guys whose contracts can be voided).

The Sixers can absorb any of the Golden State contracts individually without sending any money back if they renounce their cap holds and/or lose those players to free agency. If they get creative with who they send back, they could actually absorb two contracts. Obtaining Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson for Spencer Hawes would knock nearly $14 million off Golden State's books and get rid of the two albatross contracts for something that could be useful.

In return, as reported by Stein and Broussard, the Sixers would get draft picks and/or young players. Those are nice things. Furthermore, taking on the money would help the Sixers reach the NBA's salary floor. The NBA requires teams to spend 90% of salary cap on players each season for the rest of the current CBA, according to Larry Coon's excellent FAQ. With a projected $58.5 million salary cap, the Sixers would need to spend $52.65 million in player salary at some point during the season*. Jefferson and/or Biedrins can get them much closer to the floor, without committing to a good player or to long-term salary, helping the tanking effort and finances. It's a good spot to be in.

*If they don't, the shortfall is distributed to players on the roster as a bonus. No other penalty is levied, but you would rather use the salary and cap space to make the team better.

The Sixers could also play a similar role if Dwight decides on Dallas - Shawn Marion's $9 million deal should be expendable, and the Sixers could grab something sweet from them in exchange for the salary. Unlike Jefferson or Biedrins, Marion is actually valuable, and he can be bought out or sent to another team needing a good perimeter defender. He helps with the salary floor, but not with the tanking.

Other teams without much salary, including Atlanta, Utah, and Milwaukee, could conceivably help Golden State out as well. Likely, Golden State will turn to teams who demand picks and not Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson. Could the Sixers be one of those teams? Maybe. Peter Vescey is reporting that Golden State has found teams willing to take on the salary, and considering the limitations on trades the Sixers could very well be among them.

We're hearing the Sixers may be one of those teams on hold with Golden State. This would mean that the Sixers are again facilitating a Dwight Howard transaction, hoping to benefit from the team looking to obtain Dwight. Hopefully, if this happens, it works out better than the last time. It, uh, couldn't be worse.

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