Every problem has roots and more often than not, those roots are people.
For the Golden State Warriors, their problem is a chronic one at center. They haven’t had a permanent fixture at center since they released Andrew Bogut two years ago. In hopes of compensating for the lack of (or at times a perception of) interior defense and rebounding, the Warriors boasted a carousel of bigs-Zaza Pachulia (until he was deemed unplayable after being benched late in the season), David West, Jordan Bell, JaVale McGee, Damian Jones and Kevon Looney.
Six centers by committee and circumstance. Each of them provided what was needed in different capacities throughout the past two seasons: solid screen setting and decent rebounding (Pachulia), vertical spacing and instant energy off the bench (McGee), athleticism (Bell), playmaking and pacing the second unit (West), and solid defense on ball dominant and ISO heavy players (Looney).
This arrangement was functional at best. But for the Warriors, this functionality in particular is still a weakness that the team’s general manager Bob Myers must address. This playoff run revealed that the Warriors need more wings and guards to shore up the roster. At center, it’s likely that the Warriors will have two on the bench next year in McGee and Looney.
However, the Warriors still need a dependable starting center.
Is Dwight Howard the right fit at center?
Last week, the Charlotte Hornets traded former All-Star Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets for Timofey Mozgov in what amounted to a salary dump since Howard is likely to receive a buyout from the Nets.
Since the Warriors’ deficiencies at the 5 are well documented, it didn’t take long for rumors of Howard to the Bay to gain traction and swirl.
For the sake of argument and entertainment a couple of days before free agency, let’s just say that Myers is seriously considering signing Howard.
On one hand, he is still a serviceable center who’s put up better numbers than the centers currently on the roster. Last season, Howard averaged 16.6 points per game and 12.5 rebounds. He was also third in the league in block shots, trailing only Anthony Davis and Clint Capella.
In Howard, the Warriors would get another big that can produce “vertical spacing,” provide much needed help on the boards, and when motivated, solid interior defense.
Okay, solid reasons and reasons that should be enough to make such a decision obvious.
Is Howard worth risking locker room chemistry?
However with Howard, the abstract noise that he often creates on and off the court overrides his concrete stats. Let’s consider Howard as a player not fitting in the Warriors system. One strike against Howard is that he is a traditional center to his core- playing with his back to the basket in the paint in an era of the game where the bigs are shooting along the perimeter.
Another strike against Howard is his tendency to demand more touches while being reluctant to be the roller in pick and roll situations. If he had issues running a P-N-R with him being the roller in Houston with James Harden and in L.A. with Steve Nash, what makes you think it could work with Kevin Durant? With Draymond Green? With Stephen Curry? The Warriors’ offense is an offense that thrives on moving the ball and Howard may not get the touches he’s used to in Charlotte. If the Warriors are serious about signing Howard, they will have to ask themselves how will Howard adjust to having less touches and shot attempts than he’s used to? Will he be okay with constant motion?
The biggest strike against him is the drama that he brings. In his interview with ESPN’s Chris Haynes, Howard disputed claims that he’s locker room poison.
“I know a lot of people are always going to have questions and try to point it to one thing or the other,” says Howard. “But a lot of times you always have to consider the source.”
Okay. How about these sources?
So, should the Warriors, with their championship pedigree and their solid, harmonious culture take a chance with Howard? His numbers are enticing and if Warriors coach Steve Kerr can convince Howard to adapt his game to mesh with the rest of the team, and Ron Adams can convince him to remain motivated on defense, then it would be a huge addition that solidify an already juggernaut squad. If the Warriors could redeem McGee and Nick Young, why not Howard?
On the other hand, the Warriors may be better off going into another direction. Howard brings as much drama as the Real Housewives of Atlanta, Married to Medicine and Basketball Wives combined. Plus, he still may be reluctant to change his approach to the game and sacrifice for the sake of the team.
It’s a risk where the rewards are obvious, but the Warriors’ front office must think long and hard before attempting this mega fix and reclamation project.