We have all heard the narratives surrounding Dwight Howard for years now: He isn’t a team player, doesn’t want to put in the work, and can appear as a distraction in the locker room. With that, why would the Washington Wizards decide to take a “leap of faith” at this point in “Superman’s” career?
For starters, they left a glaring need for the starting center position depth when the front office traded Marcin Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Austin Rivers. General manager Ernie Grunfeld even went on record to say that before the signing of Howard, the team was “comfortable” with starting Ian Mahinmi at the position.
Luckily, Grunfeld made a wise move, on paper, by signing Howard to a two-year contract. Whether the team has done enough this offseason remains to be seen, and personally I would not be surprised to see the front office make another move (or two) before the start of the season in October. The reasoning behind this is that the Wizards have not “moved the needle” in terms of being a top-three team in the Eastern Conference. Yes, LeBron James has taken his talents to the West for the first time in his career, but that does not automatically catapult the Wizards into the Eastern Conference Finals by itself.
Instead, the Toronto Raptors did a curious move by trading All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for the prize trade piece, Kawhi Leonard. Additionally, the Boston Celtics are getting back healthy championship pieces in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Have the Wizards really done enough to leap frog either of these two teams?
Instead, Washington is left in a familiar spot of having to “put up, or shut up”. John Wall and Bradley Beal are still the stars of this squad, but having Dwight Howard as a reliable rebounding force under the basket should only help improve a team that barely qualified for the playoffs last season.
Ideally, the Wizards should have enough fire-power to finish in the top-four of the Eastern Conference, but it would be advantageous of them to try to finish with a top-three seed to ensure that they don’t meet Boston in the semifinals of the postseason. Health was a major consistency issue for this Wizards squad last year, so head coach Scott Brooks needs to be careful with his offseason conditioning program in order for this roster to reach their full potential in the 2018-2019 season.
So, which Dwight Howard have the Wizards gained? A locker room cancer, or the missing piece to an Eastern Conference contender puzzle? Come October, we should see exactly what will transpire in DC.
Photo Credit: MASN Sports