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Beck: Blazers More interested In Hassan Whiteside Than Dwight Howard

Free agency is nearly upon us and the Trail Blazers are expected to pursue a defensive big man.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Bleacher Report's Howard Beck reports that the Portland Trail Blazers are more interested in pursuing Miami center Hassan Whiteside than Dwight Howard in free agency, according to league sources. Both have been frequently noted as a possible fit for the Trail Blazers:

Portland needs a frontcourt anchor to complement its brilliant guard tandem of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. But the Trail Blazers are more interested in Miami center Hassan Whiteside, according to league sources.

Whiteside, 27, will command top dollar on the open market, but Beck notes that Howard may have to settle for less when he has finished making the rounds. Fair or not, league perception is that Howard lacks seriousness and simply does not understand what he needs to be in the current NBA landscape. There is no realistic situation where he is the No. 1 scorer, playing post-up ball, on a winning team.

Team executives who spoke to B/R predicted Howard might command $10-15 million in a starting salary—far short of the $23.3 million he just opted out of in Houston, and less than half the $31 million max salary he is said to be seeking. He might also have to settle for a short deal.

Three years ago, the Rockets, Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers practically trampled each other in their attempts to woo Howard. Billboards were erected. Cartoons were created. Hall of Famers were enlisted.

"The most competitive thing I've been part of," said one person involved in the chase.

Not this time.

Howard is already slated to meet with the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks (both inquired about trading for him at the February deadline), but does not appear to be drawing significant interest from the league's heaviest hitters.

Whiteside, on the other hand, is expected to be pursued by the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, and the Portland Trail Blazers, among others.

It is generally advisable to be wary of league sources since different reports do not always line up, as evidenced by this tweet by The Oregonian's John Canzano:

Regardless, both players would be a significant upgrade for Portland at the center position.