As the Boston Celtics prepare for free agency, many fans in Celtics Nation are anticipating what the team will look like heading into the 2016-17 season. After a relatively disappointing draft night, the Celtics still have a big opportunity to make a splash in free agency as they have the opportunity to sign two max contracts. As we posted earlier this week, the Celtics will be meeting with Kevin Durant. We proposed a pitch to Durant which includes who should attending the meeting. Signing Durant may be a long shot, but there’s an outside chance it could happen. If it doesn’t, what’s the Celtics next move? Is it Al Horford? Is it Dwight Howard? The latter is the subject of today’s post.
Remember, the Celtics won 48 games last year. Although they did not have a superstar, they were a very solid team and were a contender in the East for the majority of the year. The core is still in tact with Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Marcus Smart. The backcourt is strong. However, the front court is a major weakness. If you watched the Celtics – Hawks playoff series, you saw the Hawks dominate the Celtics in the interior. Their forwards got to the hoop at will and there was no defensive presence down low that could stop it. Their defensive rebounding was also a liability which limited the Celtics chances in the series. Simply put, it was a bad matchup for the Celtics. The Celtics interior defense was exposed.
OK. Back to free agency. After Durant, the next big name free agent is Al Horford. Nice player, right? In each of the last two seasons, he averaged 15 points and seven rebounds a game. He can shoot from the outside. Horford is 30 years old and likely commanding a max contract. Would Horford be a good fit for the Celtics? Well, he would improve their team. Right away, he would probably be their best all around player to go along with a solid core. However, is he the best fit for this team besides Durant? The answer to that question is no.
Dwight Howard would be a great fit for the Celtics. Here’s why. They lack a defensive presence and someone who can defend around the basket. They also lack an elite rebounder. Howard is both. Last season, Howard averaged 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. The points do not stand out, but keep in mind that this is a guy who took an average of eight shots a game. He would surely get more with the Celtics. His field goal % of .620 ranked second on the NBA. He was also fourth in rebounding. Many fans point to Howard’s age of 30 which is the same age as Horford.
Most fans don’t like Dwight Howard. The general feeling is that he’s underachiever. He was supposed to be the next Shaq. His compete level has been questioned. However, his talent has always been there. There are questions about whether or not he would fit in with the Celtics team first culture. He’s never played for a coach like Brad Stevens. It would be a challenge, but Stevens could get Howard to buy in.
The question really isn’t if Howard would fit. Instead, it’s whether or not the Celtics are willing to pay out what he wants. Can they pay him? Absolutely. Will they? Well, at some point, the Celtics need to make a move here. The days of talking about all of this flexibility and assets need to come to a stop and some action needs to be taken. Howard doesn’t put the Celtics over the top, but he fills a major void that would get them a step closer.
Time to make a move even if it isn’t the big one everyone wants.