Dwight Howard is arguably the most perplexing figure in the basketball world. With the potential to be the best big man in the sport and the production that continually backs that up the 30 year old center should be a dream free agent this summer. However, Howard’s dominant physical attributes and career double-double average are coupled with intangibles comparable to those of Randy Moss. And that takes Howard from a player that every team would want to a player that might have trouble getting the money a big man with his numbers deserves.
So where does he end up? Where should he end up? Well hopefully the answer to both of those questions is the same, so that instead of being remembered as the disappointing signing for underachieving Lakers and Rockets teams, he is remembered as a player who put it all together to help win a ring.
Of course places looking for a quality big man are quite common, but putting up with the baggage that seems to come along with Howard’s presence makes the list of possible landing spots quite a bit smaller.
After getting his coach fired in Orlando, not producing any playoff wins in LA, and an inconsistent run in Houston where he played second fiddle to James Harden, the big man looks like he has narrowed his market to teams that can handle a player deemed a prima donna by the media.
What teams are set up to handle a player like that? Only a few have a roster set up to win with a player like Howard brought in, and even fewer have the team culture and locker room atmosphere to handle a player who brings an attitude seemingly as large as his production.
One of those spots is Boston, where teamed up with a young core of players like Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, and Evan Turner, Howard could take the Celtics from a 5th seed in the Eastern Conference to a team competing in the NBA Finals next summer. And head coach Brad Stevens seems to have done a great job making the culture in TD Garden one of team oriented basketball, something Howard has never been a part of.
His eight years in Orlando he was the best player on a team that ran its entire offense and defense through him. In LA the team was a disaster that seemed hell-bent on playing isolation basketball. And his last three years with the Houston Rockets his teammate, shooting guard James Harden, has been arguably the most irreplaceable player in the league, carrying the Houston team on his back almost single handedly.
In Boston there would be none of that. Instead Howard would be a cog in a system for the Celtics. A very important cog. The Celtics have been without a true center since Kendrick Perkins was traded to the Thunder in 2011. And they have been playing true power forward Jared Sullinger out of position where he averaged only 10.3 points per game this season. If head coach Brad Stevens was able to move Sullinger over to power forward, his more natural position, and replace the league’s shortest center (6’9”) with one of the league’s most dominant centers, Boston would become a team that could dethrone Cleveland as the King of the Eastern Conference.
Another team that could benefit from the 6’11” center’s presence? The Charlotte Hornets, who were forced to start Cody Zeller at center for 60 games this season. Adding Dwight Howard to a talented young team like the Hornets would make solid players like Marvin Williams and Kemba Walker even more dangerous. Not only that, but this would allow for head coach Steve Clifford to play last year’s 1st round pick Frank Kaminsky as a stretch-4, hopefully making the former Wisconsin Badger a more productive player.
And adding him to Charlotte’s roster is seemingly realistic. Nearly half of the Hornets’ roster is set to hit free agency this offseason, making it very possible that the Charlotte front office makes enough moves to allow for the signing of a player whose price tag has diminished more than his skill.
And as both the Celtics and the Hornets saw this season, a 1st round postseason knockout is what happens when your team is void of a true superstar, a player who can if need be take over a game. Either team equipped with Howard would finally have what Cleveland has in Lebron, what the Heat have in D-Wade, what the Raptors have in Lowry, and that is why I expect both of these teams to make serious runs at one of the most dominant big men we have seen in years.
And either signing, whether it be in Boston or Charlotte, would put Dwight Howard in a situation where he should excel, and with him the team’s would instantly go from saying goodbye in the 1st round of the playoffs to being in the thick of things when June rolls around. If the former self-named “Superman” does decide to go somewhere other than these two spots, the rest of the league should be put on notice. Either a top 5 player is going to take a team to the top of standings or a top 5 headache is going to bury them and himself under the sad story of Dwight Howard.