Welcome to Lakers Linkedin, our new free agency preview series (inspired by our friends over at Liberty Ballers' own "Sixers Tinder") where we look at the "resumes" of various free agents, and determine whether or not we think the Lakers' should hire them. Today, we kick things off with a familiar face: Dwight Howard.
Dwight Howard's Resume:
-6-11, 265 lbs, Center
-8 time All-Star
-5 time All-NBA First Team
-3 time Defensive Player of the Year
-4 time All-NBA Defensive First Team
Dwight Howard is an accomplished NBA center, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He is the first player in the history of the league to win the Defensive Player of the Year award three seasons in a row. Howard even made an appearance in the NBA Finals in 2009. He is also the first player to lead the league in rebounding for five consecutive seasons, surpassing the previous record of four by a guy named Wilt Chamberlain. Howard has long been considered one of the best centers in the league.
Despite all this, Howard reportedly wants out of Houston. The big man was already planning to opt out of his contract for a maximum pay day, but he might be headed to a new destination. This leads to the biggest concern with Howard; he never seems to be satisfied.
Jeff Van Gundy said something on a broadcast about Howard during his tenure with the Lakers that equated to "Dwight Howard wants to be treated like a superstar, but without the expectations of being a superstar." Lakers fans wouldn’t want Howard again, especially after it seemed like his poor relationship with Kobe Bryant torpedoed a promising season. Lakers fans should reconsider, at the right price.
Look inside the numbers and Howard was not the issue. He was tied for fifth in scoring at his position with 17.1 points per game and led the league in rebounding with 12.4 boards per game. He was blocking 2.45 shots per game, good for fourth at his position. Sure Howard has declined as a player and the changing landscape of the league may have rendered his position less critical than it was even three years ago, but the big man still has value.
This past season, a season where many felt Howard’s play fell off a cliff, he was 10th among centers in scoring, second in FG percentage, tied for third in rebounding and ninth in blocks. Not the dominant force he once was, but not terrible. Howard can still provide value on the defensive end as a rebounder and rim protector, something the Lakers desperately need.
I know what everyone’s thinking here: Dwight Howard will torpedo this young team. There is no evidence that Howard alone was the cause of the dysfunction in LA during the 2012-13 season. Maybe not having championship expectations for the first time in his career will help the big man get back on track. I think there are still a few more elite years in that 30-year old body of his. He just needs the right situation, which I think LA is at this stage. Young, exciting players and a coach who has a great understanding of the game might benefit him.
The problem here is price. Howard reportedly wants a max deal and I don’t doubt that he will get one somewhere. The Lakers shouldn’t blow their cap space on a max deal for Howard, but if he’s willing to listen for a slightly longer deal in the $10-12 million range they should sign him. He’s still a force on the defensive end and he could still be the old Dwight Howard.
Should the Lakers hire him? Yes, but only if the price is right.