There have been rumblings around the league that the Bucks would be interested in pursuing Dwight Howard, should he choose to opt of his contract and become a free agent this summer. In fact, Howard almost became a Buck at the trade deadline, with Bucks commentator Gus Johnson confirming that Dwight’s preferred destination at the deadline was indeed Milwaukee.
However, this fell apart due to his unwillingness to opt in for another year. At the time, not making the trade was surely the right move for Milwaukee, as there was no point in giving anything up for a player, the Bucks couldn’t guarantee would be on the roster a year later. Despite this, the rumors of Dwight to the Bucks have persisted, so let’s take a look if he would be a good fit.
Throughout his career, Dwight has been a prolific rebounder and premier rim protector. While his offense game has been a lightning rod for criticism, his career average of 17.8 points per game is pretty solid. That said, this year, Howard only averaged 13.7 points per game, his lowest since his rookie year.
This season, Milwaukee ranked 27th in rebounds and gave up 103.2 points per game. The Bucks went from having one of the best defenses in the league to one of the worst, and a major reason for that is because Milwaukee gave up almost 38 points per game within 5 feet of the rim.
While that number ranks 26th in the league, it is also important to look at the fact that opponents averaged a field goal percentage of only 57.9% on such shots. Compared to other teams, Milwaukee actually defended these shots well, ranking in the top half of the league. Milwaukee’s bigger issue was that teams were able to get so many of these shots against the Bucks, averaging 32.2 of these shots per game. This is far more condemning of the Bucks’ perimeter defense allowing players to penetrate and attack the rim than it is of actually protecting the paint.
Looking at Dwight’s numbers defending shots within 6 feet of the rim, the numbers are actually underwhelming. Opponents shot 58.5% on Howard, while normally shooting 60.5% on these shots when not being guarded by Howard.
One of Howard’s most vaunted skills really doesn’t seem to be as strong as one would think, and further evidence comes in the form of his decreased block numbers, which have fallen to 1.6 blocks per game. In fact, Howard hasn’t averaged over 2 blocks per game since he signed with Houston.
Howard’s rebounding totals have also suffered lately. The last two seasons have been the worst of his career since his rookie year; the once-“elite” rebounder has not cracked 12 boards per game in either 2015 or 2014. This could have a lot to do with his age. Howard will turn 31 next season, and has a deep history of injuries: he hasn’t played a full season since ’09-’10, and played in only 41 games during the ’14-15 season.
The numbers indicate that the fix to Milwaukee’s problems may not actually be Dwight. His calling cards have always been his defense and rebounding, but he has been slowing down, and his elite athleticism seems to be deteriorating along with his health.
On top of that, he has no real move in the post, and his best offensive seasons were in Orlando, in which Stan Van Gundy made him a pick and roll maestro and surrounded him with four players who could all shoot the three. Unfortunately, Milwaukee’s young core haven’t all developed a three point shot yet, most notably in Giannis, Jabari and Michael Carter-Williams.
Howard would be a very poor fit for the Bucks on offense, and it doesn’t seem that he could really make a world of difference for the Bucks on defense. While he could still help on the glass, the decline of his numbers is likely indicative that Howard is on a downward trajectory, which would make signing him to any type of long term deal a rather foolish decision. This doesn’t even touch on the locker room issues that have followed him throughout his career. Every team Howard has played for has soured on him, and he has left on bad terms with all of them.
All in all, it’s probably best for the Bucks to avoid signing Howard, as he seems more like fool’s gold than the real deal. However, if they do decide to go after him, it shouldn’t be more than a two year deal.
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