What Type of Sting Can Dwight Bring to the Hornets
Last summer the Atlanta Hawks signed Dwight Howard to a 3 year $70 million contract and practically nobody cared. The previous contract he signed, with the Houston Rockets, was when he was the marquee free agent in what was considered a coup for Daryl Morey. Flash forward to 2017 and Howard is traded to the hinterlands of the NBA, Charlotte, North Carolina, to join the flailing Hornets franchise.
In what looks like a mutual salary dump of two horrendous contracts, the Hawks and Hornets swapped Howard ($23.5 million)for Miles Plumlee ($12.5 million) and Marco Belinelli ($6.6 million). In no universe from 2004-2016 would anyone have predicted Plumlee and Belinelli could net Howard in return, yet the Hawks were more than happy to shake hands, cementing this deal.
Howard wasn’t bad for the Hawks in his lone homecoming season in the ATL. He posted numbers of 13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds on 63% shooting. A PER of 20.8 and a Defensive Box Dcore +/- of 2.8 looks pretty respectable. On the court, Howard won’t hurt his team at this stage of his career. He isn’t eating up a huge percentage of possessions with his usage rate of 19.2 and scores relatively effectively for what he was asked to do for the Hawks.
Stats and on-court productivity have never been the problem for Dwight Howard. The reason he isn’t sticking around on any one team for very long since his Orlando Magic days is that his teammates don’t seem to think too much of D12. Long known for his late nights in establishments for gentlemen, truckloads of skittles and infusing the locker-room with his own eau de Dwight he appears to wear on the patience of those around him. His final season in Houston witnessed a team chemistry meltdown that registered as radioactive on a Geiger counter with a Western Conference Finals squad losing a coach and dissolving in the first round of the playoffs. When he left as a free agent, the city collectively sighed relief, or felt safe to breath deeply again, and looked forward to Clint Capela manning the middle for the Rockets.
On his new Hornets squad, he brings name recognition and solid rebounding. Built around the offensive wizardry of Kemba Walker and Nic Batum’s swiss-army game, the Hornets should be respectable in the East. Howard will team with Cody Zeller in the frontcourt and anchor a defense that should be better than last year’s 14th ranked unit. The starting five should eventually look like a playoff squad:
Look for his scoring average to drop from 13.5 to around 11 points per game as his usage rate decreases as well. He will probably continue to harvest rebounds at an elite rate by hovering near 12 per game. The most exciting part of projecting what Howard will do for the Hornets is that defensive tandem with Zeller. Combining forces, they will be in the right places at the right time and lockdown the paint while funneling drives toward the help. Howard is nowhere near the Superman that he was athletically at his apex but he is still a smart defensive player.
No parades or photo-ops with Hall of Famers accompanied Dwight Howard to Charlotte this offseason. $23 million is a huge investment in an aging center with diminishing returns. The hope for this franchise is that he drops his superstar aspirations and comes to grip with his current standing in the league. If he buys into anchoring a solid defense, rebounding and dunking easy dimes this acquisition will be a success for Rich Cho and Michael Jordan. A return to the playoffs is very much within reach in the East this season and D12 should help punch that ticket.