Dwight Howard has had one of the most polarizing careers of any player in NBA history. When he was in Orlando and winning Defensive Player of the Year back-to-back-to-back, the public loved him. He was funny, he was charming, and he was the only player who could keep LeBron out of the NBA finals. The way he left the Magic was horrifying, and his season with the Lakers showed a side of the big man that we never expected. In hindsight, Howard left a team that was about to become the laughing stock of the NBA so it’s hard to fault him, but his attitude and his teammates critiques proved that Howard was a jerk and the public turned on him.
His time in Houston has been shaky at best. He was constantly hurt and his play was often deemed lazy. It’s not fair to just point to Howard when discussing what went wrong with the Rockets, but because he was such a “bad guy” in Orlando and LA, the public and media targeted him specifically. They rarely brought up the front office’s disrespectful treatment of their players (lying to Chandler Parsons about a contract, signing and trading Josh Smith a dozen times over), and rarely seemed to mention James Harden’s decision to play one-on-five basketball on offense or four-on-five basketball on defense.
He’s not perfect, but Howard is an extremely talented player with an ego that needs to be checked. We think he can get back to being a star depending on what team chooses to sign him. Here are 15 destinations that would love to have Dwight Howard.
15 Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks have openly shown interest in Dwight Howard since he was in Orlando. Mark Cuban tried to get his team in the trade talks that eventually ended up with Howard in Los Angeles, and he unsuccessfully tried to woo Howard in 2013, but lost out to the Rockets. This offseason is going to be a busy one for Dallas because they will have money to throw around, especially if Dirk signs a cap friendly deal and Chandler Parsons leaves. However, Parsons has been open about his friendship with Dwight, and there is a chance that the two free agents will try to play with each other during next year. Dallas is one of the few places that would be able to give them both contracts that they desire. There are a lot of reasons as to why Howard would choose Dallas; the opportunity to play with his friends Chandler Parsons and Deron Williams, the opportunity to be part of a playoff team, and the opportunity to beat the Rockets as many times as possible. He seems a bit bitter about the way things ended up in Houston, and going to a rival squad would be a huge “screw you” to his old team. Dallas has a huge need for a defensive big man, something they’ve been seeking since Tyson Chandler left in 2011, so this would be exactly what they want.
14 Orlando Magic
Dwight has made some comments that indicate he has a desire to go back to Orlando and play for the team that drafted him. It’s not hard to see why this may interest him as Orlando does look like a young team that may be on the rise, and Howard may want to be part of it. He’s probably looking at Lebron winning a championship for Cleveland, and saying, “well if he did it than so can I.” It’s obvious why Howard would want to win back the love of his old fans, but the question is would the Magic even want him? When he left Orlando, it was one of the messiest breakups in NBA history. First he made the team fire a coach who took them to their second finals in franchise history, then he demanded trades to specific teams which made sure the Magic would get nothing in return for him, and then he continued to blast the team in the media for doing things like letting other players wear his number “too soon.” The Magic have some talent in the front court with youngsters Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon, but they could use Dwight’s rebounding ability by playing him at Center and Vicevic at the 4. However, the young team has a new coach in Frank Vogel, and it’s unlikely he would want to bring in a player who demands to be given authority, like Dwight, into his locker room.
13 Phoenix Suns
They just need anything. The Suns are one of the sorriest team in the NBA right now, and would love whatever help that can be gotten. Tyson Chandler was serviceable last year, but he is aging and not a player the Suns can trust to stay healthy or even stay on the team. Behind Chandler, Phoenix’s frontcourt is abysmal and their backcourt is consistently injured. If Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Brandon Knight are able to play next year, you’d still be seeing Alex Len, and Chase Budinger getting significant play time as there’s no one else to take the role. If Howard were to join the Suns, it would be because no one else is willing to give him a max contract. There is very little chance the Suns will compete for a title in the next 5 years and Howard should see that his window to win a ring is closing. If Phoenix makes a max offer, and no one else does, Howard will copy Shaq one more time and you’ll see a new Big Cactus in Phoenix.
12 Milwaukee Bucks
Rumors have been circulating recently that the Bucks are interested in trading Greg Monroe. This may be for salary reasons, or it may be because Monroe looked absolutely awful for the Bucks. He was often criticized for not hustling on defense and losing focus during games. How can they fix this problem? Replacing him with a player who had similar criticisms; Dwight Howard. Despite having a front court that consisted of Jabari Parker and Monroe, last year the Bucks were one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA. Monroe was their leading rebounder collecting 8.8 a game. Dwight would be a massive upgrade as he not only averaged 2 more rebounds a game, but is a much better defensive player. Jabari Parker, Michael Carter-Williams, and Giannis Antetokounmpo would be able to move around the floor and play their game of “positionless” basketball much more efficiently if they had a defensive presence like Howard to guard the paint and collect rebounds. Monroe was brought in purely to do that, but he didn’t click with the team and became a liability. It’s incredibly similar to what happened to Howard in Houston, but going to a young Milwaukee team in a mentor style role may help Howard finally get along with his teammates.
11 LA Clippers
Much of the Clippers offseason has been focused on whether they are going to strip their team for parts and move forward rebuilding, or if they’ll give it another year to see if Lob City can finally get past the conference semi-finals. In this scenario they are going all in again. Howard may look strange on a team that already features one of the NBA’s best centers in DeAndre Jordon, and one of the premier Power Forwards in Blake Griffin. Also with teams like the Warriors in their division, having 3 players who cannot guard the perimeter is very dangerous. But if they were to play all three big men at once to guard the interior and then strike the small forward position in favor of a defensive guard, you’d be looking at the scariest rebounding corp. in NBA History. Every play for the Clippers would be: make the opponent take long 3s, get the rebound, pass to point guard, throw the ball into the air, and alley-oop it. This formula might do real damage to teams like the Spurs and Thunder who don’t rely so heavily on 3 pointers. This scenario is a fantasy and the Clippers probably should not try it, but we aren’t counting them out.
10 Houston Rockets
Look, it makes sense. The Rockets and Howard did not have a happy season, but if you remember they were 3 wins away from going to the NBA finals a season before. That year everyone accepted their roles. Howard would guard the paint and wait for the ball. Harden would run around looking for space to shoot, or dish it inside if there was no space. And the rest of the team would run around hoping their opponents would fall down. This year the league caught onto Harden’s antics and the team could not compensate. To fix the issues, Howard felt that he should control the game and the offense should be run through the post, Harden felt the opposite way. Both men decided that defense wasn’t an important part of the game and chose to no longer play it. The coach just sat and watched as his team melted down, and that’s why he’s no longer the coach. Hiring Mike D’Antoni shows that the front office agrees with Harden’s method of run and gun without defense. That doesn’t mean Howard isn’t a fit, a big man in the paint is essential for D’Antoni’s offense. However, as long as Harden isn’t willing to play as part of a team, Howard will not be back.
9 Philadelphia 76ers
Yea we hear you, Philadelphia has more Centers than is actually viable in today’s NBA. Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, and Nerlens Noel are all very young and talented big men and adding in Ben Simmons basically means none of them are moving to the 4 any time soon. So where does Howard fit in with this? No where. If this were to work out, the 76ers would have to find a way to trade Nerlens Noel (for an established shooter) and accept that Embiid will never play in the NBA. Howard would coach Okafor for a year or two and then move on. It would be completely out of character for Dwight, and considering that he has no allegiance to Philadelphia there’s no reason why he would want to go there. For the 76ers this would be a dream scenario. Howard and Simmons would pair well together with a distributor like Ish Smith or TJ McConnell, and it would give fans a reason to go watch the game. In a weak Eastern Conference, the Howard/Simmons pairing could even lead to a playoffs berth. This is the best case scenario for the 76ers as they have no shot at signing the likes of Durant or Lebron, but it’s the worst case scenario for Dwight Howard.
8 Boston Celtics
Part of the reason they were trashed in the playoffs by the Hawks is because the Celtics don’t have a good big man who has significant playoff experience. Adding a player like Dwight gives Brad Stevens’ squad just that. Howard actually fits in the Celtics roster pretty well. They have been starting guys like Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, and Jared Sullinger at the 5, but when the playoffs came along, all of them were completely ineffective. Only Johnson was able to average more than 7 rebounds a game (getting 7.2), and none of them averaged double digits points per game. Meanwhile Howard averaged a double-double while unhappily playing lazy basketball. Could you imagine the numbers Howard would have if he enjoyed playing? Isaiah Thomas is a very effective ball distributor, Jae Crowder is an excellent perimeter defender and rebounder, and the rest of the team is a great collection of role players. Howard can come in to complete a big 3 in Boston that could compete with Cleveland to get to the finals.
7 Denver Nuggets
We are pretty sure that adding Howard to the Nuggets would create the best rebounding team in the NBA. Denver hasn’t shown an interest in Howard because they seem to be content with mediocrity, but he would be a significant impact for a team that hasn’t seen the playoffs since George Karl was their coach. Kenneth Faried is one of the league’s best rebounders, no matter what the numbers say, and Danilo Gallinari has been an efficient scorer as long as he can stay healthy. Plugging in Howard instead of the likes of Jusuf Nurik would add a player who could put up 15 points and 15 rebounds. That alone pushes the Nuggets from going 33-49 to a team that can win 45 games and compete for a playoff spot. Giving youngster Emmanuel Mudiay that front court would facilitate his growth to help him become of the next great point guard. The Nuggets should seriously consider chasing Howard to help boost them to the next level.
6 Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have been hungry for a real big man since Roy Hibbert started to regress in the 2014 playoffs. The Pacers recognized that they needed a team revamp and wasted no time doing so. Before the dust settled from their loss to the Raptors in the playoffs, Larry Bird had fired head coach Frank Vogel and replaced him with Nate McMillan. McMillan has had success coaching big men such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Rashard Lewis, and Marcus Camby. After the McMillan hiring, Bird was not done. He went out and traded starting point guard George Hill for Atlanta’s All-Star Jeff Teague. Teague and Howard pair nicely as Jeff has played for a team in Atlanta who’s offense was run through the big men in the front court. We feel that the Pacers getting Teague is a sign that they are going all in for Al Horford this offseason, but even if they try it’s hard to imagine Atlanta letting him walk. Howard would be a good option if the Pacers miss out on Horford, but it may be difficult for him to accept being the third option behind Paul George and Teague.
5 Golden State Warriors
The flaws with the Warriors squad were put under the microscope in the playoffs this year. It’s great that every player on the team can take a shot from anywhere on the court and make it, but when games came down to a battle of size, the Warriors shrunk. Players like Steven Adams and Tristan Thompson embarrassed the Warriors’ “big men” on the glass, and taller players like LeBron and Durant gave them fits. After Andrew Bogut went down in the championship, Tristan Thompson was easily able to collect every rebound. Draymond Green cannot man the paint at his size when he’s up against someone who is 5 inches taller. Putting Howard on the team may mean that the Warriors will take less 3’s overall, but it also gives them a post game and a rebounder when they play the likes of Cleveland, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City. It also gives someone that Curry can dish the ball to when his shots aren’t falling. Curry can make 400 3 pointers in a season, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t make one in June. The Warriors have said that Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant are their preferred free agents, but they may be bluffing and are interested in a typical big man like Howard.
4 Chicago Bulls
The Bulls are in a transitional time. Derrick Rose was sent to the Knicks for a pack of bubble gum, and theres a chance that Jimmy Butler will be gone by the end of the month. Pau Gasol is a free agent and will probably be gone by July, same with Joakim Noah. Someone has to put butts in seats in Chicago, and unfortunately Robin Lopez and Mike Dunleavy just don’t draw a crowd. The Bulls should fix that by signing Dwight. It wouldn’t put either the Bulls or Howard in a position to win a championship, but it does give the Bulls a way to build without alienating fans, and this is one of the few opportunities where Dwight could go to a big market team and be “the man” like he’s always wanted. Howard could take a 5-year deal in Chicago and play there while the Bulls go through what looks to be a long rebuilding process. It would be a huge win for Chicago as they could sign a player who can potentially put up 20 points and 20 rebounds a season, while they stack up young talent. It would be a lot like how Minnesota looked a few years ago when they had Kevin Love putting up massive numbers while they collected draft picks.
3 Minnesota Timberwolves
Every aging veteran should have their eye on the Timberwolves as the place to be. The roster is stacked with young talent like Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns. This would be the ideal situation for Howard to hide his mistakes. His lack of energy on defense will be covered up by the fact that the younger players will constantly be hustling. It would be a lot like when Shaq went to Miami to help Dwayne Wade win a title. He may not have been the Shaq from LA, but he was effective, especially in the paint. Giving Minnesota a solid center would help them greatly, especially as Karl learns to play defense in the NBA. The question is; Would Minnesota bring the baggage that comes with Howard? Things are on the rise there and the last thing they want is for a guy like Howard to come in and demand the ball, and clog up all the headlines. They do not need stories like “Is Howard Beefing with Wiggins” popping up on ESPN, and that inevitably will happen in some form. It makes sense for a veteran Center to play up north, but it doesn’t make sense for it to be Howard.
2 Portland Trail Blazers
Wow! The more we think about this situation, the more it looks better. When looking at the Trail Blazer’s roster you can’t help thinking “how was this team good?” They have a dominating point guard in Damian Lillard, an efficient scorer in CJ McCollum, and a bunch of player that may not make it onto 28 other NBA teams. It was a blessing and a curse that the Blazers got to the playoffs (and won a round), because they couldn’t get a higher draft pick. Instead of gambling with the roster as it stands now, they should offer Howard a max deal to come and play with Lillard. The team could swing one of two ways, it would look like Houston from the 2015 playoffs, or Houston from the 2016 playoffs. If Lillard and Howard can gel like we believe they can, you’d see the best “big 3” in the Western conference in Portland. Howard can replace Lamarcus Aldridge, which is something they could not do last offseason, and take much of the scoring pressure out of the backcourt and allow the young team to grow into a potential championship contender.
1 New York Knicks
Many people are predicting Howard to New York, especially in the wake of the Derrick Rose trade. The Knicks last year ran a frontcourt of Carmelo Anthony, Robin Lopez, and Kristaps Porzingas, and they were the only good things happening for the Knicks. To get Rose they had to give away Lopez, who happened to be the only player on the team who could play solid defense. Between Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks now have two players who have been unable to play defense at an NBA level since they were drafted. Both are some of the greatest offensive weapons we have ever seen, but someone needs to come in to play some sort of defense. Enter Dwight Howard. We feel like there are too many big personalities on that roster and Howard has not shown that he is able to play second banana. Carmelo will demand the ball, Rose will demand the ball, and Howard will demand the ball. Phil Jackson has had a lot of experience handling these kinds of players, but he is not the coach. Howard is the perfect player for the Knicks, but is the worst personality to mix in.