Hornets Make Major Move with Dwight Howard Trade

Matt Rochinski and Sam Perley of hornets.com will be following the Hornets throughout the 2017 NBA offseason and keeping fans up to date through the Buzz Words | Hornets Notebook. Keep checking back to see what the latest is as the season unfolds.

By Sam Perley, hornets.com | Wednesday, June 21, 12:37 p.m.

A seemingly quiet final few days leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft quickly took a dramatic turn late Tuesday night for the Charlotte Hornets organization with the blockbuster acquisition of eight-time NBA All-Star center Dwight Howard. The deal, which will send Marco Belinelli and Miles Plumlee to the Atlanta Hawks and includes a 2017 second-round pick swap, brings in one of the league’s all-time best rebounders and shot-blockers to a Charlotte roster in need of interior defense and rim protection.

“When we entered the offseason, some of the things that we tried to look for were rim protection, some more depth and some more physicality,” said Hornets General Manager Rich Cho at a Wednesday morning press conference. “We feel like we’ve addressed that with Dwight. We’re happy to have him join the Hornets family, and we’re also happy to move up 10 picks in the draft with the 31st pick.”

Now entering his 14th NBA season, Howard has an extensive resume highlighted by eight All-NBA selections, three-consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Awards from 2009-11, five rebounding titles and two shot-blocking crowns. The top pick in the 2004 NBA Draft ranks first amongst all active players in rebounds (12,089), blocks (1,916) and double-doubles (666) as well as third in career field-goal percentage (58.5 percent).

Last season, Howard averaged 13.5 points while shooting a career-high 63.3 percent from the field, the fourth-best mark in the league. Howard also ranked fourth in the NBA in rebounding last year (12.7) and sixth in double-doubles (53), the latter of which was his highest total in a single season since 2010-11.

Perhaps the most significant element of this trade will be the reuniting of Howard with Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford, a pairing that spent six combined seasons together on the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers from 2007-13. Howard also spent three seasons with the Houston Rockets from 2013-16 before his lone year with the Hawks.

“I think not only does [Howard] bring those things [Rich Cho mentioned] – physicality, a defensive presence in the paint – but also he’s a very intelligent player. You know schemes, coverages and things that make your defense work,” said Clifford. “In Orlando, we were there five years, he was Defensive Player of the Year [three times] and he ran our defense. Those are things that will help the team.”

It would be a bit overzealous to believe Howard will suddenly revert back to the form he displayed during his time in Orlando when one could argue he was a top-5 NBA player. Howard has dealt with some back issues in recent years (particularly when he was in Los Angeles), although has still managed to play at least 71 games in four of the last five seasons.

Clifford added, “He’s still very athletic. Back then, he was a dominant, dominant player in this league. He was the kind of talent, where some nights you’d be driving home and saying, ‘this is fun to watch.’ I still think he has a lot left, watching him.”

“He’s very bright, like I said and I think that his game has matured. [He commits] less bad fouls, [he] still can run a defense, so I think that like anybody else, he’s a guy that learns as he plays and I would say just that his game has more of a maturity about it than it did back then.”

Clifford will likely utilize Howard in a way that plays to his strengths while not over-taxing him physically. How exactly the rotation will unfold is to be determined, but it’s certainly a nice problem to have in figuring how to best deploy one of the generation’s most dominant centers. The seven-footer proved he still has plenty left in the tank based on last year’s numbers and should be an extremely efficient low-post presence for the Hornets despite not being the same player he once was during his prime.

The acquisition of Dwight Howard is certainty one of the most notable developments for the Hornets organization in quite some time and with the 2017 NBA Draft kicking off tomorrow night, it’s surely shaping up to be an overall exciting summer in Charlotte.