Analyzing Dwight Howard’s Top 5 Potential Suitors
Dwight Howard isn’t long for Houston and will reportedly opt out of his current contract at the end of the 2015-16 NBA season. Howard is likely hitting free agency just to maximize his earning potential, but the move could also mean his days with the Rockets are ending.
Per reports, Howard has been “frustrated” with his dwindling role in Houston’s offense, as well as chatter surrounding his perceived drop in play. Constantly dealing with back issues and other ailments, Howard hasn’t been the player most are accustomed to seeing, while the Rockets have been just a fringe playoff team during a trying season.
A combination of a new contract, Howard turning 31 next December and a clash with the team could lead to his exit. If Howard is indeed heading elsewhere, it’s only natural to start painting the picture of his next stop.
Howard recently commented about his role and status in the league:
“You watch a guy like Shaq (O’Neal) or Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) and all these guys, and I don’t know if they would want to just play with guys shooting threes and stuff like that. They want to be fed, but it’s the evolution of the game. And the way you stay relevant is trying to find ways to play without focusing on not getting the ball … I think it’s all just a mindset. Some teams are better at it than others.”
Still a borderline elite talent and in his prime, Howard could still be a championship asset to the right team, or he could just go to the highest bidder. Let’s take a look at five NBA cities that could make him a little richer this summer:
New York Knicks
It’s anyone’s guess what Phil Jackson’s ideal image of the Knicks looks like, but as it stands, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis anchor a struggling franchise. Those two are solid building blocks, but if New York wants to get back into the playoffs, they need to keep adding talent.
That could be where Howard comes in, as he could man the center, push Robin Lopez to a reserve role to help improve the team’s depth and also give the team an even better defensive enforcer. It’s worth debating if Howard is already in heavy decline and just how much he can help an offense or defense improve, but hypothetically speaking, he could be a big piece of the puzzle for the Knicks.
New York would still be a big name point guard away from making serious noise, but Howard would be a huge draw and could be a step in the right direction.
Miami makes a lot of sense if Dwight jumps ship, as the Heat already currently have a playoff contender – one that could be a viable title threat under the right circumstances.
That being said, Dwight Howard to Miami trade rumors sparked up earlier this year and there were even talks of a Howard for Hassan Whiteside deal at one point.
As they’re currently constructed, there isn’t much room for Howard. However, Chris Bosh seems to have an endless bout with blood clots and Hassan Whiteside is scheduled to hit free agency. With Whiteside set to make some serious coin, Howard could be a better signing if he can give Miami a discount and offer more stability than Whiteside has. Both are possibilities and why this is a potential suitor to monitor.
With Howard in town, Miami would be a legit title threat – especially if Bosh can make his way back from his blood clot issue.
The Howard to Boston talks heating up near the trade deadline last year and if Howard jets, Boston could be one of the first places he visits. Boston has great guard play and really is just lacking a defensive enforced down low, or even a stable post presence they can rely on every single game.
Howard could kill two birds with one stone and per the rumors, he seems somewhat interested in making the move. Boston has long been on the hunt for a big name to anchor a very solid roster, and Howard just might fit the bill. Should that scenario play out, the Celtics could go from mere playoff team to a very real threat in the Eastern Conference.
Howard could also always go home. The Hawks could be watching center Al Horford walk this summer, and suddenly a hole could open up on Howard’s hometown Hawks. Atlanta is just a year removed from the best record in the Eastern Conference and still has the pieces to do some serious damage in the event they land Howard and he can regain his previous form.
That is a move that would involve letting Horford walk, but the improvement on defense could be worth the gamble. Atlanta wouldn’t turn into immediate title threats on that move alone, but having Howard around certainly wouldn’t hurt them, either.
Howard has had nothing but love for the Magic ever since leaving, but with how he departed several years ago, it’d be odd to see him go back. Still, Howard is interested in going back to Orlando, per reports, so we need to consider it.
It’s an interesting idea, seeing as Orlando’s youth movement hasn’t gotten them back to the playoffs since his departure, and as good as center Nikola Vucevic has been offensively, he’s never touched what Howard has been able to do as a defender. The two of them co-existing together isn’t an option, but Vooch could potentially land a big haul via trade. Combine the young talent with Howard and whatever a Vucevic trade brings in, and Orlando could quickly become a big player in the playoff chase again.
It’s certainly worth debating if Howard alone can take a playoff contender to the next level anymore, but someone will need/want him enough to pay him this summer. We can’t rule out things still working out between him and the Rockets, either. For now, though, we have to brace for the possibility that he could leave, and if he does, it could shake up the playoff picture considerable heading into the 2016-17 NBA season.
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