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Who will get a better return next season from their recent trade: the Hornets with Dwight Howard or the Nets with D’Angelo Russell?
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David Aldridge: I like Howard in Charlotte; I thought the Hornets should have gone after him last offseason. They’re one of the few teams left in the pace and space era that have room for a more traditional big like Dwight. He’ll do well in pick and rolls with Kemba Walker, and he’ll provide rim protection that wasn’t the strength of Cody Zeller, terrific offensively for the Hornets the last couple of years. (And: Zeller will now play against more backups, which will make him that much more effective.) I’m in Show Me mode with Russell. I get why Brooklyn brought him in; with all their first-rounders going to Boston until the U.S. Tricentennial, the Nets weren’t going to have any young talent coming in for the foreseeable future. There was no risk in taking a look at Russell and seeing if he can harness his talent and demeanor to become the floor general the Lakers hoped he’d become when they made him the second overall pick a couple of years ago.
Steve Aschburner: I’m going with Howard and the Hornets. Russell needs to establish himself individually before he can consistently make a team better (I agree with Magic Johnson in his post-trade view of the former Laker). Howard, meanwhile, has to plant his heels somewhere before his career runs out, and the big man-friendly coach he has now in Steve Clifford suggests Charlotte as the perfect place. I’m not expecting 2011 vintage Dwight but solid scoring, rebounding and rim defense should be enough, with the team’s other improvements, to claim one of the East’s playoff berths vacated by the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers or Atlanta Hawks.
Fran Blinebury: Two immature kids that you’re just not sure will ever grow up to be ultimate professionals that can make their teams champions. Of course, one of them will be 32 in December. That said, the Dwight Howard World Tour might have landed him in just the right place with a coach that knows him in Steve Clifford and a situation where he could deliver what the Hornets want — rebounding, defense and a few lob dunks. Just don’t let him take this 3-point shots he’s been practicing.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Dwight Howard. Charlotte doesn’t need Howard to be great or even good by Howard standards. The Hornets need a dependable presence inside, and Howard is still capable of delivering. Look at some of his numbers from last season, even with the backslide of the playoffs part of the consideration. The same numbers, especially the rebounding, for most anyone not named Dwight Howard and people are saying it’s a nice pickup for a team that has All-Stars and some scorers.
Shaun Powell: My pick is Russell but I suspect both will be decent additions to their new teams. Russell will have the ball far more often and will be allowed to make his mistakes on a team that’s clearly building for the future. Howard will split time at the position and won’t be on the floor during crunch time in tight games because of his anemic free throw shooting. But at least he’ll enjoy playing for old pal/Hornets coach Steve Clifford and therefore keep the distractions to a minimum.
John Schuhmann: Russell will surely have the better offensive numbers, playing at the league’s fastest pace and in an offense that spaces the floor. But Howard can obviously make the bigger defensive impact on a team that regressed on that end of the floor last season. Charlotte is looking to make the playoffs next season and Howard can help them do that, especially if he’s willing to be a high-volume screener in their offense. Russell, meanwhile, was the better trade for a team looking long-term.
Sekou Smith: As crazy as it sounds, given his more recent and tumultuous history around the league, Dwight Howard should be the better return on investment in the short run. Dwight is still closer to his best self (or at least his better self) than D’Angelo Russell is scratching the surface of what he can be in the league. Dwight’s taken a beating in recent years, and rightfully so in most instances. But he’s a proven commodity as a rebounder, rim-protector and space-eater. He’s not the player he was in Orlando, when he was the most feared big man in the game. But in Charlotte there is still a viable market for what he brings. We’re still not sure exactly who or what Russell can be. He’ll get every opportunity to prove himself under the watchful eye of Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. But he won’t have forever. His next first impression has to be his best.
Ian Thomsen: The Hornets needed to shake things up, so congratulations to them for grabbing Howard. Recent history suggests it may not last long, however. The Nets will be devoted to Russell for the long term, and their trade for him amounted to tremendous value for a recent No. 2 pick.
Lang Whitaker: The Hawks signing Dwight Howard after losing Al Horford in free agency never felt like a seamless fit. This latter day version of Dwight — less athletic but still imposing — just isn’t made for these times, a square peg desperately looking for a fit in a world of uptempo offenses. Dwight can still grab boards and defend the rim, but keeping Dwight his best self usually requires generating touches for him on offense, which generally means offensive movement grinds to a stop. I believe D’Angelo Russell will be great in Brooklyn, eventually, but I think Dwight could be useful right away in Charlotte for a team that’s always wanted a prominent big in the middle that Roy Hibbert and Al Jefferson weren’t able to be in recent years.