Charlotte Hornets Wise To Make Offer For Dwight Howard

Apr 13, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) smiles while walking off the court after defeating the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) smiles while walking off the court after defeating the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /

The Charlotte Hornets made an offer for Dwight Howard that Houston declined, but as the trade deadline gets closer, the Rockets get increasingly desperate …

In September 2012, just under three and a half years ago, ESPN had Dwight Howard placed third on their annual #NBARank list.

In 2016, though, Howard is considered a hard-to-trade asset. Fortunately, that may end up working in the Charlotte Hornets‘ favor.

The Houston Rockets have been attempting to find a suitor for their disgruntled big man, working with the latter’s agent, Dan Fegan, to do so before today’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

This has been a long time coming. Howard excitedly jumped ship in the summer of 2013, leaving the Los Angeles Lakers to team up with James Harden in Houston — an up-and-coming squad at the time.

Related Story: 25 Best Players to Play for the Charlotte Hornets

The Rockets saw regular season success, winning 54 games, but were stunned in the first round by the Portland Trail Blazers, who ended Houston’s season on a buzzer-beating three from Damian Lillard.

That shot marked the beginning of Houston’s fragmentation. A locker room culture that was already under question took another major blow when Harden and Howard attempted to plot against one another:

So nearly two years later, after a heck of a playoff run last year by Houston, the Rockets are struggling to stay above .500 and are looking to move Howard because of it. One team that’s emerged as a potential trade partner is none other than the Charlotte Hornets, who are in major need of star power.

Early Thursday, the Hornets threw an offer at Houston for Dwight:

The Rockets are reportedly looking to add young talent and picks in exchange for their 30-year-old center. Considering that — as well as the timing of the deal (it came rather early) — it’s no surprise that Houston rejected Charlotte’s offer. Still, if general manager Rich Cho is interested in acquiring Dwight, the Hornets have the pieces to do so.

With the Rockets beginning to realize the lack of a market for Howard, at least with regard to their ridiculous asking price, it’s reasonable to expect said price to go down before Howard is actually dealt. Houston is under the impression that Howard will walk this summer, when he will reportedly decline his player option and enter free agency.

The fact that Howard — a notorious flip-flopper — will be looking to test the market in the offseason detracts from his trade value significantly. Not only has he struggled to stay both healthy and effective, but there’s a chance that any trade for Howard will be nothing more than a two-month rental.

That’s a risk, however, that’s worth taking for Charlotte.

Dec 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) prepares to shoot the ball between Charlotte Hornets forward Spencer Hawes (00) and guard Troy Daniels (30) during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) prepares to shoot the ball between Charlotte Hornets forward Spencer Hawes (00) and guard Troy Daniels (30) during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The Hornets, though they’ve looked better as of late, are in need of a shakeup. Prized offseason acquisition Nicolas Batum is in a contract year, and Charlotte needs to be in a position to retain him when he clears the books. He’s been integral to Charlotte’s success this season, averaging 14.9 points, 5.6 assists, and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Charlotte has about $41 million in committed salary for next season as it stands right now. The salary cap is expected to jump from $70 million to over $90 million next season, which is great news for the Hornets. The team acquired impending free agent Courtney Lee on Tuesday, who they will almost surely be looking to re-sign in the summer in addition to Batum.

If the team were to acquire Howard in a trade, and the Hornets subsequently saw success this season, there would be a good chance to re-sign all three (Howard, Batum, Lee) in the upcoming summer.

The untouchables on Charlotte’s roster are scarce in number — in fact, Kemba Walker may be the only one. With that in mind, there are a number of assets Charlotte could offer Houston, should the team make the wise decision to re-engage the Rockets as the 3 p.m. deadline gets closer.

Jefferson would likely be involved in any deal for Howard. Aside from his replacement value as a fellow center, Jefferson is owed $13.5 million this year, and will see his contract expire at season’s end — making him a slightly more valuable chip. His relatively high salary makes him a good catalyst in any deal for Howard, who makes more than $22 million this year.

Jefferson and Hawes clearly wasn’t enough to make Houston budge, and understandably so. Neither is young or of star-caliber. So, instead, Charlotte could make an offer like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 10.26.29 AM
Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 10.26.29 AM /

By including Jeremy Lin and Cody Zeller alongside Jefferson, Charlotte addresses two of the Rockets’ needs: a young big with high potential, and a starting-caliber point guard who can hold down the fort and cater to Houston’s offensive style for the remainder of the season.

Jeremy Lin was signed and eventually traded by the Rockets in 2012 and 2014, respectively. In his one season as a full-time starter with Houston, Lin averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game.

The emergence of Patrick Beverley made Lin expendable, but he has struggled to stay healthy in the past two seasons, and bringing Lin back to town would give them insurance at the point guard spot, which Ty Lawson failed to do.

Zeller is having the best season of his young career behind averages of 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds, all while shooting a career-best percentage from the field. He has shown a big spike in his confidence this season, and has looked more comfortable as a full-time center.

The 7-footer is a fantastic athlete who would benefit tremendously from teaming with James Harden, one of the best pick-and-roll players in the NBA.

For Charlotte, it would be tough to part with Zeller and Lin. Both have been key in adding depth, which has been a big strength for this club. Considering how injury-ridden this Hornets squad has been throughout the year, it may seem absurd to surrender some of that depth for yet another player prone to nagging injuries in Howard.

But Howard would bring too much to the table for Charlotte to pass up.

The Hornets are playing a space-oriented offense that would very much cater to Howard’s strength as an offensive rebounder and pick-and-roll player. Al Jefferson loves to post up on the left block, and is quite good at it, but Charlotte has attempted to move away from isolation offense this year. Jefferson isn’t a mobile athlete by any means, which can impede his PnR effectiveness.

Howard isn’t a polished low-post scorer, nor is he as explosive of a finisher as he was in Orlando, but his mobility makes him a good fit for the Hornets. When the team started Bismack Biyombo last year (who we can call a poor man’s Howard) in the midst of a Jefferson injury, Charlotte surged.

With Howard — who is more skilled than Biyombo — the same result could be expected. Dwight is putting up 14.6 points per game this year as a fourth option for Houston. He’s attempting a meager 8.8 field goals per game, and converting on them at a 61 percent clip. Make no mistake; he’s still plenty capable of explosive games, too:

The 6-foot-11 center is just three years removed from being considered a freak athletic specimen, one comparable to LeBron James. Though he has slowed down considerably due to age and back injuries, Howard, who weighs in at 265 pounds, is a glass-cleaner and defensive presence. He’s averaging 12 rebounds per game to go alongside his 1.5 blocks, and of course, multiple altered shots.

Howard is no longer sending shots into the 10th row numerous times per game as he did in his Orlando Magic tenure, but Howard is still a presence in the middle the offenses fear.

He plays for a team that has zero defensive accountability, and when perimeter players (most notably Lawson and Harden) barely make an effort to stay in front of their men on the perimeter, it’s Howard — the last line of defense, sure, but also just one cog in Houston’s scheme — who gets the flak.

If there’s one team that can re-establish D-12 as a defensive force, it’s going to be Charlotte. Steve Clifford was an assistant coach and the primary defensive architect for the 2008-09 Magic, who reached the Finals on the massive shoulders of Howard. The two still have a close relationship:

The Hornets have had an excellent defense under Clifford since he joined the franchise in 2012, but this year, Charlotte is outside of the top-10 in points allowed. They rank 13th in opponent field goal percentage. With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist now set to miss the remainder of the season, Charlotte needs extra bodies to shore up its defense.

Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, could be that guy.

Given Dwight Howard’s contract situation, age, and attitude, many Charlotte Hornets fans may not consider him an ideal option. Still, if the team were able to re-sign him over the summer as well as their other marquee free agents, it would be a force in the East for years to come.

The clock ticks, and the Houston Rockets become more desperate.

Will it be the Charlotte Hornets that emerge from the chaos with Dwight Howard?