This is the next installment of our player review series, where we look back at the individual performance of each Wizard this season. With so many players set to hit free agency this summer, we’ll also examine what kind of value they’ll have this summer. In this installment, we’ll look at Dwight Howard.
Positives this season
Howard only played nine games this season due to back issues. Despite issues so severe that he couldn’t even sit down, he still averaged more rebounds per game than any other Wizard this season in the limited time he played.
...That’s all we’ve got. Sorry.
Spots for improvement
It all starts with getting healthy. If Howard can’t get on the floor, he won’t be able to make difference, and if he’s not playing like his usual self, his limitations could make it difficult for the Wizards to be effective when he’s on the floor. Washington was outscored by 8.8 points per 100 possessions when he was out there, which was the worst net rating posted by any Wizard who played at least 200 minutes this season.
You can’t even blame a skewed sample size for his disastrous on/off numbers. Four of the nine games he played in were against teams that finished in the lottery, and two others came against the Magic who just barely finished with a winning record.
To be fair to Howard, his spent most of his time on the floor alongside John Wall and Markieff Morris, who were struggling with their own injury issues. He played little or not at all with Jeff Green, Tomas Satoransky, Troy Brown Jr., Jabari Parker, and Bobby Portis. If Howard had gotten the surgery sooner and returned for the second half of the season at full health, we’re looking at his performance differently right now.
Dwight Howard made the right decision opting in for the second year of his deal, which will pay out $5.6 million. Centers aren’t getting paid these days unless they can do everything like Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, or Karl-Anthony Towns. Otherwise, you’re better off putting together a committee of cheaper centers who can give you a variety of looks for different situations.
Howard could be a useful part of a platoon approach at center next season alongside Thomas Bryant, Bobby Portis, and/or whoever else they add to the mix over the summer. He’ll probably be the best rebounder and the best defender against low post scorers no matter who they bring in next season.
It will take more than that to solidify playing time next year, however. He turns 34 in December, so you can’t count on him getting back into Defensive Player of the Year form, but he can still be a difference maker on the offensive end. Last season, he shot 62.3 percent from the field, which was the second-highest percentage of his career, but that was in part because of cutting back on his shot attempts. Although it was good to see Howard trim out some of the ineffective shots that have limited him in the past, they need him to be that much devastating off screens and putbacks to offset his diminishing returns elsewhere.
Unless the Wizards can add some proven talent this summer, the Wizards need to prioritize developing for the future. At that point, it only makes sense to play him if he’s playing at a high enough level to garner trade interest. If he can get back to playing like he did in Charlotte, and shows he can be a good mentor, Howard could be a viable trade candidate, or at least an intriguing buyout candidate.