Dwight Howard will undergo surgery for the gluteal issue that’s kept him out for all but 9 games this season, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports and Shams Charania of The Athletic. Both reporters indicate Howard is hopeful he can return within two months.
If the procedure is successful, a typical recovery timeline is 2-3 months. But Howard could return to action sooner. https://t.co/4BoYkahXSo— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) November 30, 2018
Dwight Howard is undergoing surgery on L4/L5 discs in his spine and hopeful of return within eight weeks, league sources said. https://t.co/fF9j6vBrRz— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 30, 2018
If Howard were to return eight weeks from today, his first game back would be Friday, January 25 in Orlando against the Magic, which would be the 48th game of the season. If you go with the three month timetable, that would set him up to return March 1 against the Celtics in the Wizards’ 62nd game of the season.
It’s hard to be optimistic given Howard’s age and long-standing back issues. Even if he’s back by late January, Washington could potentially be at the point where they could be making big decisions about the team’s future if the team is still out of the playoff picture.
Regardless of how quickly Howard returns, adding a solid center now has to be the team’s top priority as the team approaches the trade deadline. Thomas Bryant has been okay as the team’s stopgap starter, but you can only expect so much from a 21-year-old who spent most of last season in the G-League. Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith have both been buried on the bench as Scott Brooks has turned to Markieff Morris and Jeff Green to make things work when Bryant isn’t in the game.
But then the question is how much does the team invest in addressing the issue? They have some expiring contracts they can move like Markieff Morris, Austin Rivers, Jeff Green, etc. but then you’re just moving the depth problem to another position.
Attaching a first round pick to someone out of the rotation like Smith or Mahinmi would get around that issue, but it would be the fourth time in the last six years they’ve traded away a first round pick. If they go that route, they’d need to do something similar to what they did in the Markieff Morris deal where they get someone productive locked up on a cheap, long-term deal to make it worthwhile.
The only silver lining to this news is that Howard hasn’t made much of an impact for Washington this season. Although he made the team much more effective on the glass, he hasn’t been as versatile on the offensive or defensive end, which has negated that benefit. The Wizards have been outscored by 8.8 points per 100 possessions with Howard on the floor. They’ve only been outscored by 3.6 when he isn’t on the floor.
Hopefully those numbers are just out of balance because Howard was trying to play through injury but either way, he wasn’t the cure to what ailed Washington, at least in his current state. We’ll have to wait and see if he can make a bigger impact once he’s healthy again.