The biggest domino of free agency finally fell on Friday, with Dwight Howard leaving the Los Angeles Lakers to agree to terms with the Houston Rockets. While his move to Houston cannot become official until July 10, he informed the remaining suitors of his decision, setting up the post-decision scramble for the remaining talent in the free agent market.
The Golden State Warriors' inclusion on the list of suitors was an upset in and of itself, since they were the only team over the salary cap to be in the running for Howard's services. Creating enough flexibility to sign him outright would have required moving more than $30 million of salary in trades to teams with cap space to absorb the incoming players without having to send anything back. Trying to engage the Lakers in a sign-and-trade for Howard would have come at the cost of one or several of the young assets that make the Warriors a desirable destination in the first place: Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes, or Klay Thompson. But ultimately, the biggest risk was in relying on Howard to make a decision to take his talents to the Bay Area; without a solid plan B, the Warriors were risking breaking up a solid young nucleus, damaging incredible team chemistry and then ending up empty-handed.
While the other suitors' Plan B allowed them the flexibility to pursue the "next best available player" (a la the draft), Golden State had to act proactively. That meant gambling that Howard would not choose the Warriors and going after another marquee free agent before Howard made his decision. The gamble paid off, as Andre Iguodala agreed to a 4-year, $48 million contract after Golden State created the room to sign him by trading more than $24 million in expiring contracts to Utah.
Let's take a look at where the Warriors stand now, post-Howard decision: what they got, what they gave up and what's next.