The Washington Wizards are quickly approaching one of the most important and unpredictable summers in the history of their franchise. The team will have plenty of money to spend on talent and lots of roster spots that need to be filled, even once you factor in the max deal they'll likely offer Bradley Beal to keep him in Washington.
To help guide the process (and give us something to talk about because the Wizards don't have a draft pick this summer) we've created a list ranking the Top 30 players available, based strictly on their talent and how they would help the Wizards.
Previously, we ranked Evan Fournier, Courtney Lee, Bismack Biyombo, Kent Bazemore, and Jeremy Lin. Now we continue our series with a look at the 10th ranked player on our list: Dwight Howard.
The Washington Wizards signing Dwight Howard in 2016 seems like a move that Washington’s NFL team would have made a decade or two ago.
The burgundy and gold have been known to throw big money to players with high profile names and tons of accolades, but those same guys just didn’t have that same spark on the field anymore. Think: Dana Stubblefield, Deion Sanders, Adam Archuleta, Jeff George, Jeremiah Trotter, Bruce Smith, Antwaan Randle El, Albert Haynesworth.
If Dwight Howard was a 30-year-old defensive end in 2005, Dan Snyder would have been all over him.
Howard, who is 30, has spent 12 seasons in the NBA and will most certainly be a free agent this summer after he elects to opt out of the one year remaining on his contract with the Houston Rockets.
The Wizards could be active in the free agent market this summer. Should they go after Howard? A case can be made for, yes, they should.
Howard showed this past season that he can still be effective. At 6-foot-10 and 265 pounds, he averaged a double-double for the 12th straight season – a feat that few have pulled off. Howard put up per-game averages of 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and a steal per-game this past season.
He can still move on offense too and showed some flashes of that athleticism that he had in Orlando. Off pick and rolls, he can still get open at the rim and dunk on defenders, and he can also put back missed shots with ease.
Howard would also probably enjoy when he’s playing with John Wall or another true point guard instead of James Harden.
But, it’s difficult to argue that the Wizards should throw money at Howard he’ll likely command when all of the cons are considered.
For starters, Howard is still considered to be detrimental to a locker room. It’s been well-documented that he and Harden didn’t get along. Howard didn’t get along with Kobe Bryant, Stan Van Gundy and a host of other teammates and coaches, either.
Managing Howard’s personality is something Scott Brooks probably doesn’t want to deal with in his first season in Washington.
Plus, if the Wizards do sign Howard and then try to after Kevin Durant this year or next, who do you think Durant – or any other star - is going to call to get an opinion on Howard?
“Hey James, it’s KD.”
“What up bro.”
“So, uh, what was it like playing with Dwight How-“
/Harden hangs up. Texts back: “NO.”
Signing Howard is not going to be cheap either. If he were to opt-in with the Rockets, he would make a little over $23 million next season. But Howard is likely to opt out, and he’s not doing that because he hates the Rockets and hates playing with James Harden. He’s doing it because he thinks he can get a bigger paycheck.
For the Wizards, a team who is going to have give John Wall and Bradley Beal more money soon and a team that wants to sign a superstar who is actually in their prime, signing Howard makes little sense on a dollars and cents level.
Besides, the Wizards have Marcin Gortat locked up through 2019 and at 32 years old, his numbers were about the same as Howard’s this season on a per-game basis.
There just isn’t enough of a difference in those numbers to justify spending an extra $10 million or more in salary per year.
And Howard and Gortat would not be able to co-exist on the Wizards. At 32, Gortat would likely not be happy about backing up Howard, who he was stuck behind in Orlando for over three years, for another portion of his career. The Wizards would have to trade him and wouldn’t get back as much as what they gave up to get him back in 2014, now that he’s older.
Here’s the other thing: in the past three years, Howard has missed 63 games while Gortat has only missed eight.
In a league where the old-school big man is becoming more expendable and trending towards irrelevant, it doesn’t make sense for the Wizards to throw money at a guy like Howard who isn’t a great passer, can’t make three’s and isn’t great at defending the perimeter, when they already have that player for much cheaper in Gortat.
Howard is still talented, no question. But at his age with the way that the league has changed, his value has become diminished. He can no longer be the best or second best player on a championship team. His skills and stats don’t justify the headache that comes with him.
Someone will probably throw a max deal at Howard this summer, but it shouldn’t be the Wizards.