Thomas Shea- USA Today Sports Images

Celtics Free Agent Focus: Dwight Howard

Celtics fans may not want to hear this, but Danny Ainge has always been enamored with Dwight Howard's ability, and if there is any coach that can get the most out of the mercurial star, it's Brad Stevens. Is Howard destined to become a Celtic this summer after he opts out?

When fans hear the name Dwight Howard, there is typically two reactions- "I hate him, no way" or "I love the guy, sign him". In fact, there is no other player available this offseason that starts more debates than the talented center from Atlanta, Georgia. Howard isn't getting any younger either as he is now 30 years old and will be entering his 13th season in 2016-17. He's still a great athlete though, so don't expect a huge dropoff in play, at least not for a few years still. The truth of the matter is, Dwight Howard makes sense for Boston, and Boston is the best fit for Howard as well. 

Since Howard was traded to the Lakers, he has gone through a lot, and it's starting to look like the Western Conference may not be the best place for him to help lead a team deep into the playoffs. During Howard's eight seasons with the Magic, they made the playoffs six times consecutively before Howard was traded to Los Angeles. Orlando deployed a system that is being used more and more in today's NBA- one big and four other guys that can shoot the lights out; create spacing, work inside out or vice versa, and defend with the gifted Howard manning the rim. Howard can still play in that system, and with the style that Brad Stevens and the Celtics deploy, Howard could have his best season(s) of his career. 

Howard's scoring numbers dropped in 2015-16 to 13.7 points per game over 71 games, but his rebounds per game went up to 11.8 per game, up a full rebound from 14-15. His career averages are what Boston fans should expect if he happens to join the Celtics- 17.8 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 1.2 assists, and 1.0 steal. Howard shot for a high percentage in 2015-16, but that is because Howard took two less shots per game than his first year in Houston, and three less from his days with Los Angeles and Orlando. Howard needs to take more shots, and that is something Boston can provide considering their issues with establishing themselves in the post. With a dangerous pick-and-roll point guard that can get into the paint, Howard could average 20 points per game in Boston, which would force defenses to double down on him, in-turn opening up the inside-out game. 

There have been a lot of Boston fans complaining that Howard gets hurt a lot, but the only season he missed significant time was in 2014-15 when he missed 41 games. Other than that, he's plays pretty much every night and you know what you're going to get- a double-double and excellent low post defense. Another positive to adding Howard is not having to give up anything to get him, other than money and cap space. He would make an already good defense the best in the league, providing a backbone behind the best perimeter defense in the NBA, which would improve Boston's win total by about seven games. 

Howard would demand a max contract, but assuming Boston can swing a trade (preferably for a scoring wing) and add another good free agent (Ryan Anderson would be an excellent fit and wouldn't demand a max deal, leaving Boston wiggle room) they would immediately leap to the top contender to unseat the Cavaliers at the top of the Eastern Conference mountain. We here at Parquet Pundit have made it clear that Hassan Whiteside is the better pickup because of his upside, but adding Howard could end up being a better move if he regains his offensive form, and Howard is the more known commodity.

Boston fans, we hear your comments about Howard and it seems like an unpopular idea, but he would immediately improve this team in two areas they really struggle, and that alone should help them advance beyond the first round in the playoffs. 

Statistics Provided by Basketball-Reference.com/Dwight Howard

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