The Boston Celtics still need another big man, and the list of available talent is dwindling, fast.
Sure, Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka could feel comfortable entering the new season with Luke Kornet as one of their primary rotation bigs, but given his minuscule role in recent seasons, it’s more likely that they’re exploring other avenues.
One player that could make sense for Boston, both in terms of experience and fitting the offensive and defensive system is Dwight Howard, who is currently a free agent after his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers expired at the end of last season.
In a July 6 article for CelticsBlog, NBA analyst Keith Smith listed Howard as one of the more realistic free-agent options but did note that the future hall of famer’s athleticism has begun to wane, “Howard can still block some shots and grab rebounds in his area. But he’s slipped a good deal as an athletic finisher,” Smith wrote.
Luckily, Howard’s role in Boston would ensure that his limited athleticism didn’t become a problem, as the veteran big would likely play for 10-15 minutes per night and be expected to focus on rebounding and protecting the rim, both of which he’s still perfectly capable of doing.
How Would Howard Fit With Boston?
In his prime, Dwight Howard was the quintessential rim-runner – a shot-blocker who thrived on finishing plays above the rim or courtesy of his fearsome strength in the post. Over time, Howard’s athleticism has dwindled, but his knack for rebounds, playing the angles, and scoring putbacks continue to stand the test of time.
Boston can lean on Robert Williams’ above-the-rim play for their vertical spacing, but during the minutes where he goes to the bench, or when he misses games, the Celtics need a big that can keep things respectable on the boards and make their presence felt on both the offensive and defensive glass – Howard is more than capable of doing that.
This past season, 81% of Howard’s offense came within four feet of the basket, with the veteran center converting on 71% of his attempts, furthermore, the six-foot-eleven center ranked in the 87th percentile for offensive rebounds and 83rd percentile for defensive rebounds, proving he can still be a force in an area of need for the Celtics.
Brad Stevens Willing to Make Another Move
Of course, it’s worth remembering that Boston still holds a $17.2 million trade exception, which doesn’t expire until July 18. With that in mind, the Celtics could opt to fill their big man spot via a trade, assuming they can find a deal they’re happy with.
When speaking to the media on July 12, Stevens noted how he has ‘the green light’ to spend whatever he and the front office deem necessary to construct a team capable of winning a championship – something he has proven by adding Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari’s salaries in recent weeks.
“It’s been, whatever we need to do. Whatever we need to do to try to maximize our opportunities and we obviously have a really good core, a really good team. Fortunate to make these two really good additions and we wouldn’t be able to do that without that commitment from them. I think that’s been—I’ve had the green light this whole time to make those calls,” Stevens said.
Time is running out for Stevens to utilize his mammoth trade exception though, which is why looking towards a veteran center on the free agency market makes so much sense for the Celtics, especially if you can sign him to a veteran minimum deal.