Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets plans to opt out of his contract this summer. Would the Atlanta native want to potentially play for his hometown team?
Dwight Howard, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, plans to opt out of his contract with the Houston Rockets at the end of the 2015-16 NBA season to become an unrestricted free agent. One of the places Howard reportedly has interest in playing in 2016-17 is for his hometown team Atlanta Hawks.
Howard went No. 1 overall in the 2004 NBA Draft to the Hawks’ division rival Orlando Magic. Under then head coach Stan Van Gundy, Dwight Howard was an all-world defensive player and an MVP candidate at center for the Magic. The two-year run the Magic had from 2009 to 2011 was one of the best group of teams to not win an NBA Championship in the last 25 years.
After leaving Orlando and tumultuous tenures with the Los Angeles Lakers and now the Houston Rockets, Howard is exiting his prime as a prototypical back-to-the-basket center in an era of the NBA that relies so heavily on jump shooting and stretching the floor.
The once dominant big man for the Magic has to carefully look at the free agent market this summer, as this could stand as his last big pay-day as a professional. Dwight Howard is 30 years old and never really became the offensive juggernaut inside many thought he would.
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Besides having the unique opportunity to suit up for his hometown team, Dwight Howard realizes that the Atlanta Hawks might need an All-Star caliber center should four-time NBA All-Star center Al Horford leave Atlanta in free agency this summer.
In the last two years, the Atlanta Hawks have had their organization linked to potential free agent big men like the Milwaukee Bucks’ Greg Monroe, the Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside, and now the Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard as suitable frontcourt replacements for Al Horford should he leave. Howard, Monroe, and Whiteside are all defensive studs with limited shooting range as traditional NBA centers.
While Dwight Howard does have a certain aloofness to his game, he may end up giving his all for his hometown Atlanta Hawks should he sign with the club this summer. He did visit with the Atlanta Hawks in Summer 2013 before ultimately signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Keep in mind that a ton has changed in the last three years. The Atlanta Hawks have emerged as a contending team in the Eastern Conference under head coach Mike Budenholzer. Howard is no longer a sure-fired NBA All-Star or a top 10 player in the league.
While Dwight Howard may want a maximum contract, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the Atlanta Hawks organization are willing to give Howard a max, but not Al Horford, a player with whom the club has Bird Rights to offer him money more and an extra year to incentivize him to stay in Atlanta.
That being said, the Atlanta Hawks will need a strong player in the frontcourt to play alongside three-time NBA All-Star Paul Millsap for the next few years. Millsap signed a near maximum contract last summer to stay in Atlanta through the 2017-18 NBA season. Millsap has played his best basketball since joining the Atlanta Hawks before the 2013-14 NBA season.
It is still several months away, but expect the Atlanta Hawks and free agent center Dwight Howard to at least entertain possibly bringing the big man to Atlanta as a potential replacement for Al Horford should the Hawks let him walk this summer. Dwight Howard is one of a handful of players that could start at the five if Al Horford does not return to the Atlanta Hawks for a tenth NBA season.