Over the next few weeks, we will be evaluating the 2010/11 seasons of all the players who ended the year on the Wizards' roster. We'll offer our quick thoughts, then ask you to grade their season on a 1-10 scale in the comments. For the purposes of this exercise, we'll start with the key players and work our way down. Next in line: Josh Howard.
#5 / Forward / Washington Wizards
Apr 28, 1980
Years in NBA: 8
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
|2010 - Josh Howard||18||22.7||3.2||9.0||35.8||0.4||1.6||24.1||1.6||2.6||61.7||1.0||3.1||4.1||1.3||1.1||0.7||0.3||1.9||8.4|
When the Wizards gave Howard a one-year, $3 million deal in the offseason, it was pretty hard for it to fail. That's because Howard was potentially many different things to the Wizards organization. If he returned fully from his torn ACL injury, he would have given the Wizards above-average production from the small forward position. If not, then at least he would provide leadership and demonstrate to potential free agents that the Wizards will take care of them if misfortune strikes.
Key advanced stat: Howard's true shooting percentage was 41.6% in 18 games last year. That's ... bad.
So it's wrong to suggest that Howard's contract was a mistake. Of course, the Wizards probably expected more out of Howard than they ultimately got. As it turned out, his injuries meant he was not the same player he once was. He rushed back so quickly that I think he never was fully recovered. Even when he played, he was a shell of his former self. There were glimpses of the old Howard at times, when he would dominate a few possessions with his all-around game, but mostly, he just fired errant shots. On the court, the Wizards had to hope they would get more than that.
Off the court, the leadership role Howard was purported to take on was legitimate. His past includes several bouts of immaturity, but getting out of Dallas did wonders for his psyche. He was given a new lease on his basketball life (for more on that, this Jemele Hill article is a must-read), and he took advantage by aggressively engaging his new teammates. He was there to provide pointers, sitting in on preseason informal scrimmages despite being injured. He also wasn't afraid to tell it like it is when times were rough. Whereas Rashard Lewis was a pro, Howard was much more vocal. It didn't always have its intended effect, because it's tough to lead when you're injured, but it wasn't because of lack of effort. If you ask anyone in the organization about Howard's leadership, I think they'll say it exceeded expectations.
So we're left now to weight Howard's off-court contributions against some other free-agent small forward's production. I still think that the three-point shooting of Dorell Wright or the defense of Tony Allen would have been more valuable to have than Howard. But it was hard to predict both Wright and Allen starring like that. Otherwise, one year of Howard passing through is about as good as the Wizards could have hoped.
Howard will probably go elsewhere next season, and I wish him well. Say what you want about Ted Leonsis' philosophy of bringing in veterans on short-term contracts to pass down leadership to a teams' young core. Perhaps it works better in hockey than basketball. Nevertheless, it's hard to think of someone that better embodied that philosophy than Howard. I just wish he could have played more.
A LIMERICK ON JOSH HOWARD'S 2010/11 SEASON, BY JAKE WHITACRE
At first, Howard brought us a glimmer
Refreshed, upbeat and slimmer
But his knee wasn't back
'Twas a futile comeback
Like Jordan, but shorter and dimmer
FAVORITE JOSH HOWARD QUOTE, BY MIKE PRADA
It's the same stuff I've been saying all year. Its just time to play. Stop looking to point the finger elsewhere and just look at yourself. Basically, just hold yourself accountable. That's what I said. -Howard after a blowout loss
Were Howard's off-court contributions enough to outweigh the better on-court production and longer-term contract other free-agent small forwards would have provided last summer?