Free agency means about the same amount to teams and their front offices as it does to the players. This is the time to fill a need or multiple needs if the cap space allows. Whether there is a 3 and D wing player on the market or a point guard who can run an offense, if the price is right GMs will most assuredly have no issues getting out the checkbooks. Players can also enjoy the feeling of being courted and having the option to choose between a team that can aid them in revitalizing their respective careers or have a chance to finally compete for that elusive NBA title.
For Dwight Howard the answer is simple. The Boston Celtics, according to ESPN reports, could be a potential landing spot. Should such an event occur, it wouldn’t be a bad move for either party.
The Boston Celtics could add some rim protection and frontcourt depth to their guard-centric roster. While giving Howard an opportunity to prove he can be mature enough to provide not only his physical gifts but, also veteran leadership to a team that still might be a couple of years away from true contention.
If the Celtics want to take a jump past the Atlanta Hawks and maybe even the Toronto Raptors it wouldn’t hurt to give Howard a chance. The center position is still an important one even in the days of pace and space. The Oklahoma City Thunder took down the 67-win San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinals. This was in part to their fantastic frontcourt play from Enes Kanter and Steven Adams. While he isn’t as young and spry as those players, Howard still has the experience and desire to play at a high level.
Last season Howard averaged 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and shot 62% from the field. He also pitched in 1.6 blocks. The 13 points were among the lowest of his now 12 year career. Even in 2011 where he only played 54 games due to back injuries and subsequently back surgery, he averaged 20 points a game. Howard’s rebounds were also among the lowest outputs of his career.
Some of this can be attributed to his diminished role in Houston, particularly on offense (he averaged only 8 shot attempts, the lowest since his rookie season). The bulk of which played out in the media. His low rebounding numbers can probably be a sign of athletic regression. This is common among players his age that play such an unforgiving and punishing position.
With all of that said, Boston still shouldn’t feel hesitant to pay him. He still very much provides what they need from an interior player standpoint. The Celtics ranked 22nd in blocks per game last season. Conversely, the Houston Rockets were middle of the pack ranking 13th. However, Howard’s 1.6 blocks a game are more than team leading shot blocker Amir Johnson at barely over 1 a game.
While his defensive impact wasn’t felt a whole lot in Houston, his 3.1 Defensive Win Shares (DWS) would rank tops on the team, 2nd to only Jared Sullinger. For the Celtic’s, who had 4th best defense in the league last year, Howard’s presence shouldn’t hurt it all. In fact, the way head coach Brad Stevens has his team playing defense, Dwight should have more of an opportunity to be an above average rim protector. This is true even in a year where he’ll be on the wrong side of 30.
Dwight Howard should take this free agency and look at teams that can give him a couple more years of contention. Danny Ainge should use the same period of time to convince Howard that Boston can give him a taste of what winning, and winning with a smile, feels like again. It’s a win-win for both.