Dwight Howard

Wizards are the latest to take a risk on Howard

While the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden St. Warriors fight to see who can grab the most off-season headlines the Washington Wizards made a big move both figuratively and literally. According the Jared Weiss of the Atlantic, the Washington Wizards will be the latest stop for Dwight Howard.

There might not be a situation in the NBA where a team and a player need each other this bad.

With LeBron James leaving the Eastern Conference, every team is scrambling to add pieces to fill the void. Most NBA experts assume the Boston Celtics are head and shoulders the most prepared to step into the top of the East with Toronto and Philadelphia a step behind.

Just two seasons ago, the Wizards and Celtics went seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Celtics were in complete control most of the game and they scored a 115-105 victory. Since that game so much as has changed. For the Celtics, they’ve acquired Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Then Danny Ainge worked his magic in a trade with Philadelphia that enabled the Celtics to get Jayson Tatum in a draft day trade.

Unfortunately for the Wizards, things have gone the other way. They spent a lot of last season dealing with John Wall’s injuries and Marcin Gortat constant sniping. Gortat was traded to the Clippers last week. This caused a void at center with the undependable Ian Mahinmi being their own center. GM Ernie Grunfeld decided to pass on Texas A&M’s Robert Williams.

This left the Wizards in a familiar position… bargain hunting. After striking out on Nerlens Noel, the Wizards struck gold with the troubled Dwight Howard.

No matter what you think of Howard, he’s a sure fire Hall of Famer who averaged 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds a game last season in Charlotte. Howard gives the Wizards the rim protector they sorely need. The Hornets dealt Howard to the Nets who turned around and bought him out.

Part of the reason why Howard has bounced around the league is because he has a reputation of being a locker room malcontent. This might not play well in Washington where there’s always been questions about John Wall’s leadership. Gortat’s departure will help but the Wizards need to be careful not to have Howard replace Gortat’s negativity. The only way this acquisition has any chance of working is if Wall and Howard get along. If not, it’s going to be a long year in a city who frequently view the Wizards as the local team on the bottom of the food chain.

On the court, Howard’s rebounding will certainly help start the Wizards fast break. Howard averaged 9.3 defensive rebounds a game last season. That was his highest average in that category in six seasons. This will help the Wizards limit the minutes of Mahinmi.

On the offensive end, Howard’s shooting percentage was his lowest since his second season in the league. He’s also a poor free throw shooter which is never good for a guy who, if active on the boards, will go to the free throw line but he’s well worth the risk. Howard’s contract is a one year deal for the taxpayer mid-level exception.

A motivated Howard, healthy Wall and Bradley Beal could finally get the Wizards to the Eastern Conference. If it doesn’t, it was still worth the risk.

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