Finally, the Atlanta Hawks obtained something the franchise has been absent of since the early 90s–a superstar.
Dwight Howard and the Hawks agreed to a three-year, $70 .5 million deal on Friday, giving Atlanta one of the most formidable centers in the league.
Howard, a 30-year-old Atlanta native, is a 12-year veteran who has endured his fair share of criticism. Much of the criticism over the years stems from his lackadaisical attitude on the floor. Howard has been a constant double-double machine since entering the NBA in 2004. So stats are not the issue. Instead, the main issue is the failure to consistently do the dirty work and do the things which don’t show up on the stat sheet like the six-foot, 11-inch, 265-pound monster he is.
Despite constant criticism, it would be preposterous to sit here and say Howard is not the great player he is. Sure, his numbers have dropped since his MVP-esque days as an Orlando Magic but Howard is still a beast when he wants to be.
Most importantly, Howard is the highest caliber player the Hawks have obtained since Dominique Wilkins. We’re talking over two decades since this franchise had a legitimate superstar-caliber player. Joe Johnson was clutch and a heck of an entertainer but to be honest, the dude just was not a superstar and did not exude the force Howard does on the hardwood.
Cut Howard a break, Atlanta. He is the best player the franchise has signed in over 20 years. Howard has averaged 17.8 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks during his 12-year career, which proves his worth as a reliable center on both ends of the floor.
Yes, Howard needs to put forth more effort with the Hawks than he has in recent years with the Rockets and Lakers but if he was able to maintain somewhat similar averages without going 100 percent, imagine what he can do with this fresh start,especially being in his hometown.
Initially, there were concerns around the league about the Hawks’ front court being jammed up with the addition of Howard. A day after the Hawks signed Howard, longtime Hawks center and free agent Al Horford agreed to a four-year, $113 deal with the Celtics. According to multiple sources, Horford reportedly denied a five-year, $136 million deal from the Hawks because he did not want to play with Howard.
Hours after Horford’s exit, reports said Paul Millsap, the team’s leader in points and rebounds last year, was going to stay with the Hawks in order to form one of the best big man duos in the NBA with Howard. But according to Zach Lowe of ESPN, the Hawks are in talks with the Denver Nuggets about trading Millsap.
The reported big man dilemma in Atlanta is yet another episode in the Dwight Howard saga. Howard is undoubtedly a controversial figure. He’s a big ball of energy half of the time and then the other half of the time, he looks as if he went 12 rounds with Muhammad Ali. Nonetheless, he has superstar talent.
It’s been over 20 years, Hawks fans.
Information from Fox Sports, Bleacher Report and ESPN were used in this story.