Signing Dwight Howard Is Good but Not Great If the Hawks Don't Re-Sign Al Horford
*Photo via IBItimes via Getty Images
The Atlanta Hawks’ majority owner Antony Ressler and the rest of the team’s ownership conglomerate is now on the clock. NBA free agency frenzy started at midnight on Thursday night and less than two days later the Hawks finally have a legitimate center in free agent signee and Atlanta native Dwight Howard. The signing immediately makes an already good defensive team better. Howard’s contract (3 years, $70.5 million, take that Jon Koncack) will keep Atlanta in the Eastern Conference mix for it’s entirety. At the same time Atlanta was getting better, the Indiana Pacers were getting EVEN better by signing one of the league’s best post scorers in Al Jefferson (3 years, $30 million). Your turn Atlanta.
With the Miami Heat re-signing center Hassan Whiteside (4 years, 98 million), Joakim Noah signing with the New York Knicks, Jefferson, Demar Derozan remaining with the Toronto Raptors , Bradley Beal sticking with the Washington Wizards (5 years, $128 million) and Nicolas Batum staying at home in Charlotte (5 years for a whopping $120 million), the Hawks have no choice but to hold on to their top free agent Al Horford. The only other Eastern Conference superstar free agent remaining is LeBron James and he’s going back to the conference’s best team in Cleveland. In order to keep pace (The Hawks were swept by Cleveland in the second round of the 2016 playoffs) Atlanta HAS to re-sign Al Horford and allow him to finally play his natural power forward position. Otherwise the Dwight Howard signing is good, not great.
Atlanta has it’s starting small forward in Kent Bazemore (re-signed for 4 years, $70 million) and it has it’s point guard in Dennis Schroder (following the trade of 4-year starter Jeff Teague to Indiana for the rights to the 12th pick in the 2016 draft). Paul Millsap, a two-time all-star at forward will remain a starter and a stalwart, Howard will anchor the middle. Horford has spent his entire career in Atlanta and is a fan favorite of the highest capacity, his re-signing is as important to Atlanta as LeBron James’ is to Cleveland and Kevin Durant’s potential re-signing to Oklahoma City. Al Horford is that important to the Hawks franchise, luxury tax aside, he must remain an Atlanta Hawk.
As of 11:57 pm Horford has already met with Hawks representatives and has plans to meet with Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder reps. Outside of locking him in a hotel room in downtown Atlanta or barricading him and his family (his wife, Amelia Vega, was named Ms. Universe at the age of 18 in 2003) in their home, The Hawks ownership and braintrust need to do whatever it takes to keep Horford here in Atlanta. Otherwise Dwight Howard’s signing will become less of a homecoming than a consolation prize.