Charlotte Hornets: Why Dwight Howard was a good move this offseason

Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images /

The Charlotte Hornets’ Dwight Howard is one of the best centers in the league. If he improves his perimeter defense, the Hornets will reach the playoffs.

This offseason, the Charlotte Hornets acquired Dwight Howard from the Atlanta Hawks. Howard was touched by the King himself, when Hornets owner Michael Jordan personally called Howard and asked him to play for his team.

One could easily see why His Airness wanted Howard. He is a dominant center, and during his time in Atlanta last season, he played an integral role in leading the Hawks to the playoffs. While attending one of the Wizards’ playoff games, Howard’s rebounding skills were on full display. So much so, that I wrote afterwards that the Wizards should pick him up.

However, in a recent ESPN article, Howard topped their list as this offseason’s worst acquisition.

One of the reasons provided as to why Howard was labeled the “worst newcomer” for the 2017-18 season, was the belief that he’s “no longer the game-changing defensive presence that made him a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.”

I don’t believe Howard is the worst newcomer, nor would I place anyone on that list before the season has even started. But there are definitely strengths and weaknesses to Howard’s game.

What Howard needs to bring to the table

Last season, Howard averaged 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds per game, but there’s no need to regale you with all of the feats and wonders Howard has performed over his illustrious career. I recently wrote about Howard’s basketball acumen, which you can read all about here.

Howard is one of the best centers in the league and has been for quite some time. In his entire 13-year NBA career, he has consistently recorded a double-double every season.

His strength is his domination inside the paint, and that’s where he feels most comfortable out on the floor. As ESPN noted, Howard “quietly set a career high in rebound percentage last season while ranking 14th among 62 centers in Defensive Real Plus-Minus.”

Live Feed

5 worst starters of the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard era
5 worst starters of the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard era /

Orlando Magic Daily

  • Into the Orlando Magic-verse: Top 5 What-If’s in Orlando Magic HistoryOrlando Magic Daily
  • Dwight Howard seems ready to come home to OrlandoOrlando Magic Daily
  • The 2009 Orlando Magic's legacy is tied to Dwight Howard's memoryOrlando Magic Daily
  • 9 stars who played for the Washington Wizards after their primeWiz of Awes
  • Memphis Grizzlies put on blast by 8-time NBA All-StarBeale Street Bears
  • Defensively, Howard can crash the glass like no other, and he’s a beast on both the offensive and defensive boards.

    Yet, there is some truth to the argument about his defensive presence, because the game has changed and it’s played at a much faster pace, with centers now stretching the floor.

    Centers such as DeMarcus Cousins and Al Horford have added the 3-point shot to their resume, such that they’re a dual threat inside and outside the paint. Therefore, Howard has to pick up his speed to defend the perimeter, and also learn how to defend the 3-point line.

    In other words, he has to get out of his defensive comfort zone, which is inside the paint, because the other big men he’s defending are sometimes now living at the 3-point line, or taking long twos.

    In fact, a lot of teams are moving towards position-less basketball. That’s why during the playoffs last season, one would see Horford playing point, center and forward all in the same game.

    However, it’s not just the centers, but rather all players who must learn to adapt to this new run-and-gun style of play.

    The game has indeed changed, with everyone trying to perfect their 3-point shot (no need to add that though, Howard). Therefore, Howard must change with it and start defending the outside just as aggressively as he has been defending the inside.

    Charity stripe can be unforgiving

    In addition, one of Howard’s weaknesses is the free-throw line. But looking at his free throw percentage, he was a 53 percent free throw shooter last season, and commendably his stat line went up in the postseason to 63 percent.

    More from Charlotte Hornets

    Interesting enough, Howard’s free throw percentage steadily went up every season. And as I’ve noted before, there’s no reason why that trajectory shouldn’t continue, and even rise to the 70 percentile.

    But because Howard has to defend the 3-point line, he needs to watch out for his man jumping into him, thus allowing his opponents three attempts at the basket. Not that he’ll ever be defending James Harden, but jumping into defenders is Harden’s bread and butter.

    Therefore, not only must Howard learn to defend bigs such as Cousins and Horford out at the perimeter, he must also be careful not to foul them simultaneously. Otherwise, he will be both a defensive and offensive liability to Charlotte.

    Howard can help lead Charlotte to the playoffs

    If Howard can bring his defensive intensity outside the paint, he will be a dual threat for the Hornets. Offensively, he might be the second-best player on the Hornets, and someone that they sorely needed to complement Kemba Walker. Having Howard on the inside will also help raise Walker’s low assist rate.

    Walker just has to learn to trust his inside man, and change his mindset from being a shoot-first point guard to becoming a pass-first point guard.

    Next: 2017 NBA free agency tracker - Grades for every deal so far

    All in all, Howard was an excellent pickup this offseason and his addition to the Hornets’ roster has improved the team’s overall makeup because he can hang and bang with the best centers in this league. With Walker by his side, there’s no reason why the Hornets should miss the playoffs again next season.