Dwight Howard has signed a two-year contract with the Washington Wizards, worth just under $11 million. The two sides hope to have a mutually beneficial relationship that can help each other reach the next level.Howard has had a tumultuous few years. After establishing himself as one of the league’s budding stars in the early years of his career, the highly talented center has since fallen off due to his reckless and juvenile attitude that has hindered his teams both on and off the court. There is no doubting Howard’s size and skill combination. He had all the potential to become one of the game’s all-time greats, and he has still put together an above-average career in the NBA. But it’s all about potential, and Howard has failed to maximize his.
Meanwhile, the Wizards made the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, getting in as the eighth and final seed with a 43-39 record. The team has some really good pieces in point guard John Wall, shooting guard Bradley Beal, and small forward Otto Porter Jr. But one of the game’s most important position is at center, where the physical presence is extremely important. That’s something the Wizards were desperately missing last season.
While Ian Mahinmi contributed to the team in his own way, it was simply not enough. He only averaged 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, which is way too low for the Wizards to compete in the postseason. But now they have Howard, who despite taking a step back in his own right, is still far superiors in every facet of the game.
Howard only missed one game last season with the Charlotte Hornets. And despite a multitude of distractions that have further stained his reputation, he was able to put up solid numbers. He averaged 16.6 points per game, to go along with 12.5 boards, 1.6 blocks, 1.3 assists, and 0.6 steals, over the course of the 2017-18 season. That is clearly a substantial upgrade at the center position for the Wizards. With the perimeter players they already have, their starting lineup suddenly appears to be much better than it was a year ago.
The Eastern Conference has its own giants, primarily the Celtics, 76ers, and the Raptors. But with LeBron James heading out West to Los Angeles, there is certainly a path of less resistance across the conference. It would be unwise to expect Washington to make a run at the conference title, but stranger things have happened. It’s certainly conceivable that they improve on their 43 win total from last season.
The Wizards upcoming season will be measured based on their postseason success. Obviously they are not guaranteed to make the playoffs, but if the chemistry is right on this roster, they could certainly make a splash. This is a team to watch this year, and if Howard improves his attitude and performance, this team could reach 50 wins. Last year, that would have been good enough to claim the 4-seed in the end-of-season standings.