With money to spend, should the Hawks spend it on Dwight?

If he's so great, why did the Hawks come to own the Magic? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

If he's so great, why did the Hawks come to own the Magic? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

There’s a flip side to being a NBA team with cap space: You still must convince someone to take your money. By dumping Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, the Hawks have outfitted themselves to be spenders, and the shock of those Monday deals hadn’t abated before everyone with an Internet connection had identified their targets: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

Allow me to inject a dollop of reality. There’s every chance that Paul, already the source of much disappointment in this precinct, will choose to stay with the Clippers. As for Howard: Anyone who claims to know what he’ll do is lying.

Which isn’t to say the Hawks should give up, not with the options they’ve created. (Danny Ferry, the general manager who created those options, wouldn’t seem to be easily deterred.) They could indeed take runs at Paul and Howard next summer, when the two are scheduled to become free agents. They could pursue a trade with Orlando now, offering Al Horford and Jeff Teague as bait. Or they could — and I’ll acknowledge this is unlikely — say of Howard, “Know what? We’d rather stick with Horfy.”

My contrarian take: I’m not sure Howard is quite as good as advertised, and he has proved in Orlando that he can wreck a franchise. Magic GM Otis Smith dynamited his roster in December 2010 in the wrong-headed attempt to make the Magic good enough to convince Howard to stick around, and the team hasn’t won a playoff series since. Smith got fired and so, at Howard’s reported request, did coach Stan Van Gundy.

In March, Howard agreed to waive an opt-out clause and remain with Orlando through the summer of 2013. Last week he asked to be traded to Brooklyn, implying that the Nets are the only team with which he’ll sign long-term. The Magic have endured this melodrama for more than two years, and there’s no end in sight.

Howard is the league’s best center by a mile, but that’s largely because there are only three or four real centers extant. He has been in the NBA since 2004 and hasn’t developed a staple offensive move. (Unless you count the dunk.) Nor can he make free throws. We live in an age where superstars are supposed to demand the ball at crunch time, but when last did you see Howard dominate a game at its end?

In his prime, Shaquille O’Neal was unstoppable. Howard’s effect can be blunted. Jason Collins, who’s not much of a player, has made a living getting in his way, and Howard doesn’t like it when people get in his way. He starts griping. He gets T’d up. He becomes a distraction to the team he’s supposed to be leading.

Howard gets much credit for Orlando’s run to the 2009 finals, but he had much help. The Magic prayed that opponents would double-team their big man, believing their 3-point shooters would carry the day. The way to beat Orlando — too bad Mike Woodson never learned this — is to make Howard score 40 points. Know how many times in his NBA career he has broken 40? Six. And the Magic lost two of those games. (One to the Hawks, as coached by Woodson’s successor Larry Drew.)

Such is Howard’s talent that the Hawks are duty-bound to try and hook him. He’s an Atlanta guy and he’s Josh Smith’s buddy and his presence would push the Hawks’ profile through the roof. I know all that. I get all that. I’m just not sure he’d make this a championship team, especially if Horford and Teague are sacrificed.

Were I the Hawks, I’d wait until next summer and see if he’s still available as a free agent. (If he’s gone to Brooklyn by then, so be it.) The only way I’d trade for Howard is if he agrees to re-up with the Hawks, an organization for which he has expressed little affection, and even then I’d be leery. As good as he is, Dwight Howard is not LeBron James.

But that’s just me, and my intent isn’t to rain on anyone’s Fourth of July. The Hawks have made two good moves and could be poised to make better ones. And honesty compels me to concede that Danny Ferry just might be a better GM than I am.

By Mark Bradley

70 comments Add your comment

Gumbo

July 3rd, 2012
4:58 pm

In a Word…….Hell no!

No fear here

July 3rd, 2012
5:01 pm

marie

July 3rd, 2012
5:01 pm

Prima Donna – NO!

BC

July 3rd, 2012
5:02 pm

Dwight would be the biggest star in Atlanta since Vick. Not sure why he is so against Atlanta – especially since he is from here. Atlanta gets a bad rep as a sports town but this city has been thirsty for someone to bring them to the games. People ALWAYS say we have the worst fans but honestly who could blame us through all the heartbreak?

With the Falcons in a holding pattern at the moment & the Braves tooling in mediocrity, this is a chance for the Hawks to take the center stage for Atlanta sports. I guarantee if they traded for Dwight their season ticket sales would go through the roof. I do agree that it is a risky proposition though if he won’t commit to an extension & drags on his current soap opera here.

Bernie Matt

July 3rd, 2012
5:03 pm

“he has broken 40, six times, and the magic lost 2 of those games”. Not only are you not a NBA GM, but you are hovering around asenine, if you think you made a logical point with the above statement.

79

July 3rd, 2012
5:04 pm

I like the idea of Howard. I just don’t like Howard.

Big Crimson 75

July 3rd, 2012
5:05 pm

For the first time in my life — I like Danny Ferry!!

Benjamin

July 3rd, 2012
5:05 pm

So here’s another option: we could find a way to go with both Howard AND Horford, who is locked up into 2014-2015. It’s a longest of long shots, but I do see a scenario where we could sign both Dwight and Paul, have Jenkins at the 2, Josh at the 3, Al at the 4, and Dwight at the 5 next season, provided everything came up cherries. And that lineup would be better than what the Heat run out there on a daily basis…

Granted, it’d force us to have a skinny bench on rookies and veteran minimum guys, but if we got some specialists to fill in the gaps, that’d be a game team.

docsbro

July 3rd, 2012
5:07 pm

Jfreak13713

July 3rd, 2012
5:09 pm

Totally agree on Howard! He isn’t the superstar Lebron, Kobe, or even Duncan ever was in my opinion. He is Joe Johnson who can rebound but not make free throws! I would like to have him on our team please don’t get me wrong but he isn’t a top five player. Centers are a little overrated in the NBA now as most of the GOOD teams have Guards who drive their team making a defensive center who can rebound, block shots, and make FREE THROWS valuable at a much lower cost that Howard. Hell, we have a Howard on our team now in Josh Smith! He’s good enough we don’t need two.

Take your time Hawks! Let this play out and see who is left standing. Remember you are have to beat Miami not the Nets to win the title.

Spyro

July 3rd, 2012
5:10 pm

I’d prefer Paul over Howard. Horford is our center, dammit!

BC

July 3rd, 2012
5:12 pm

I also think that the people around Dwight are giving him miserable advice. How could he possibly be this big of a drama queen? He changes the whole dynamic of a team though. If the Hawks want him they have more pieces to give than the Lakers or Nets so I think they will get him. It just comes down to whether or not they want to risk him going somewhere else next year.

BGreen

July 3rd, 2012
5:14 pm

Chill out….relax…as Darth Vader said, “Things are going exactly as planned!” LOL!!!

Dwight for what? Hortford and Teague. NO! The NBA champions played a power forward at center….we can do the same! With Hibbert likely going to the West, it further shows we are good. We could use a good small forward, but let’s take it easy.

Also, with both Teague AND Harris as potential PGs, a CP3 deal gets really interesting….Howard is a ball glutton, prima donna, and a poor fould shooter….while he may be the best center in basketball, these are no longer the days when a true center is needed. Hortford is a winner…Teague is a proven baller in his first real season….chill out…what we need is a coach to help Josh Smith who is destined to being a top 10 baller in the NBA with a little direction.

So let’s set our sights on CP3 and keep the guys we have in the mix….

Ferry

July 3rd, 2012
5:16 pm

Please bring Howard to the ATL. He would be our best player since Dominique. Enough of the JR Ryder, Joe Johnson types. Give us a marquee player! And yes MB, D12 is a marquee guy. The fans and the Atlanta media need to get behind this move, and not bash Howard before a deal is even made. Unbelievable.

He immediately makes us a better team with a brighter future. Smith and D12 inside is dominant. Throw in Paul next summer, and then we could contend. As much as I love Horford, Howard is a vast improvement.

Sean

July 3rd, 2012
5:19 pm

I think Mark’s right–Chris Paul isn’t going to leave the Clippers. Also, Dwight Howard really isn’t as good as we’d like him to be. I don’t trust him and his commitment to his team. Vick was an awesome player for the Falcons, no doubt, but he was a disappointment when it came to winning games. He put butts in the seats, but really, that’s not enough–at least not for me. I’m tired of the Hawks being basically ignored by the national media and not taken seriously by the rest of the league. I’m tired of being the 4th or 5th seed every year. I say shoot to win a championship…duh.

I just don’t think Dwight Howard is the piece of the puzzle to do that. Mark’s right.

Dave

July 3rd, 2012
5:19 pm

So, the Hawks get rid of two under performing, over paid “stars” and spend the money on an under performing, surely to be overpaid “superstar?” And lose their two best players in Horford and Smith? I could be wrong but, seems like a bad move to me.

PaulieOldSchool

July 3rd, 2012
5:19 pm

I so agree with you, MB. I’m not sure Howard is all that, either. We need a big, or two. They do not have to be Howard. It will be interesting to see what this team looks like next Spring. We might be pleasantly surprised.

Old Boy

July 3rd, 2012
5:20 pm

Winning four out of six games puts their winning percentage at 67%. I don’t think there are many teams that wouldn’t like those numbers, especially during the playoffs. I understand the article and the concerns, but I agree with Bernie on that comment.

PMC

July 3rd, 2012
5:23 pm

No, he doesn’t want to be here. I’d rather try and find an elite shooting guard and Chris Paul

PMC

July 3rd, 2012
5:23 pm

All Howard would do is stop here for a year on the way to what he really wants which is endorsement money in NYC.

PMC

July 3rd, 2012
5:24 pm

We absolutely want several marquee players, but my guess is that they will have to be drafted not bought.

PMC

July 3rd, 2012
5:26 pm

Howard is an Atlanta guy that doesn’t want to be employed by the Hawks period.

JP

July 3rd, 2012
5:26 pm

Please, no! I could never root for that petulant D-bag.

Josh

July 3rd, 2012
5:26 pm

Centers will never be the same “kind” of superstar that a guard will be. However, as far as centers go, D12 is one of the best. I think they should wait him out and try to land him in FA next year along with CP3. Although it is just as likely that Paul stays in LA (Griffin just signed an extension). By waiting, we might endure a long season this coming year, BUT you keep Horford and Smith. Potentially you add CP3 and D12. It would be worth the wait. You also don’t lose draft picks and you could trade Teague to get a 2-guard/shooter. However, there’s always the chance that Orlando won’t allow Howard to leave for nothing (I wouldn’t), and they trade him anyway which puts the pressure on the Hawks to do something now.

doc

July 3rd, 2012
5:27 pm

i agree mark he is more hype and branding than true player. yeah he is big and can be a hoss underneath, but in the long run he doesnt carry anyone. in todays world hype means something to people so making a run at him is necessary but it is one where you better be careful what you ask and wish for.

Beast from the East

July 3rd, 2012
5:31 pm

Howard reminds me of a 14 year old girl trying to decide what to wear to her first big party. He’ll never be happy anywhere and will always think he knows more than the coach. He may be the best center in a league that is pretty much lacking any skilled big men, but is he worth all the drama? I say no, but I’m sure I’m in the minority on this.

wjc

July 3rd, 2012
5:38 pm

Chances are we can get Chris Paul next season. Dwight Howard is not a team player, let him go the Nets. The Hawks are calling the shots. The Hawks need a center who can get 15 ppg, 10 rpg and play team ball. Chris Paul will get you 18.9 ppg 12.2 apg, Al Horford could get you 17.8 ppg 9.0 ppg next season. Josh Smith is the key to getting a SG and SF or center. I don’t know if he wants to remain In Atlanta now.

canman

July 3rd, 2012
5:39 pm

Well said Mark and I couldn’t agree more. Let Ferry get us where we want be without Howard because he doesn’t seem to like the idea of playing in his hometown.

jacket

July 3rd, 2012
5:43 pm

20 pts, 15 reb, and 2 blocks per game. Guy is a beast but no way am I giving up Horford, Teague and picks, even if he signs extension.

t-height

July 3rd, 2012
5:51 pm

Has anyone thought of the fact that the hawks could go after d williams also. They would def be a playoff team this year and could strill try to sign howard next year or trade for him this year.

JSS

July 3rd, 2012
5:54 pm

Drive-by Hawks blog! I really wouldn’t worry about Howard at present… The Magic have painted themselves into a corner much like the Hawks did with Marvin. Let it play out, there’s a chance that the Bynum domino will come in play.

Mike

July 3rd, 2012
5:54 pm

I think it is a toss-up. In one way, you get Dwight Howard the player, when motivated, he is one of the best in the league but you get Dwight Howard the person, the one that has been pissing off people left and right.

I think what Dwight really needs is a little heart to heart, somebody needs to tell him that he has all the talent in the world to do great things and have all the charm to have all people liking you but he want to think about his brand and listening to people who doesnt even care about his life.

About him playing for the Hawks, if he willing to be Dwight the player and willing to resign here and willing to work his butt off to get Atlanta a championship that this town needs, then go for it. If not, he can go to Lakers or Nets or anywhere else.

Ted M

July 3rd, 2012
5:57 pm

its raining sweet!

Ted M

July 3rd, 2012
5:58 pm

Mark – Are you trying to get an interview with Ferry?

Fredi G.

July 3rd, 2012
6:05 pm

Howard is already on our team and he will bat earlier than 6th if you leave me alone. Oh, you mean Howard not Heyward? No chance he is coming here so forget about it.

Ted M

July 3rd, 2012
6:07 pm

I’m glad the decision is in Ferry’s hands…I think he’ll do the right thing.

Maybe the Atl. Spirit aren’t the most miserably rotten owners in the world.

Mike Vick Was Framed

July 3rd, 2012
6:13 pm

Who’s the best pure center in the league? D Howard. By a longshot. The real question is whether a pure center is even needed these days. The league has gone hybrid, and maybe we don’t need the drama or the prototypical center.

ToeKnee

July 3rd, 2012
6:19 pm

dwight trashed the hawks all the time. screw him. horfords been great since day 1, how many players can you say that about. you dont win a championship by trading away guys like al horford. i dont want dwight.

G

July 3rd, 2012
6:24 pm

Did Mark Bradley just admit someone was better at something then he is? Danny Ferry should get an award for just making that happen!

matt

July 3rd, 2012
6:27 pm

No..no..no..no way, no how should they bring this circus clown to town.

md

July 3rd, 2012
6:34 pm

Get Howard, move Horford to his natural position, and the Hawks have the best front court in the NBA (with Smith)…….3 bigs will control the middle and allow the little guys to dominate the outside……

Columbus

July 3rd, 2012
6:38 pm

One of your better columns Bradley. I give credit when and where it is due! I actually agree with everything you said. NO WAY you trade for drama queen Howard without it being sign and trade and I am not sure if you do it then. The Hawks had little trouble with Dwight recently. Dwight and Josh would be dynamic or it could be a disaster and too much power in the hands of 2 players. It could free up Al, which would be AWESOME! But how many teams win with players being in control? 1%? Dwight and Josh? Better get Phil jackson! If you can sign and trade Dwight with Orlando, consider it for sure but hes too much drama and a coach’s nighmare. then add Josh in the mix……! Dwight hasnt won anything and mark made good points. hes almost like a cancer and you know what? He doesnt want to come to Atlanta anyway. Which is likely a blessing! He might be a cancer. Many of these straight out of high school guys have HUGE egos and are drama queens….

Columbus

July 3rd, 2012
6:47 pm

Straight out of high school drama queens take one heck of a coach. Actually Josh hasnt been bad, except on the court doing his own thing instead of what would help the team most….driving and shooting INSIDE the 3 point line.

If he would just shoot INSIDE the 3 point line….he would be an allstar EVERY year…..

I can deal with Josh drama, but him AND Dwight….wow, that might make them both worse than better….or it could be AWESOME….! 2 AWESOME rebounders and good scorers AND a CENTER!!!! Yeah Hawks got to go hard for both. IMO. Then have a plan B and C if it doesnt work out. I am VERY interested in seeing how the Ferry and Josh Smith meeting goes….! We NEED Al for sanity and balance. STILL, who is going to be the LEADER?!! Who is going to be the captain? The sanity in the madness that is vocal? Not Al. Joe wasnt. WHO?

McGrady needs to stick around. I would keep him. He has been rejuvenated with his health regimen….seriously. And he has wisdom to the drama queens and the vets and rookies and is NOT afraid to speak it….!

Hawk in Dixie

July 3rd, 2012
6:57 pm

Howard, will be a Los Angeles Laker…

MaxxHawk

July 3rd, 2012
7:03 pm

Get him, he and Josh would make the

MaxxHawk

July 3rd, 2012
7:06 pm

Get him, he and Josh would give us the best Defensive frontcourt in the league, by far bar none

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KakNiqueTree

July 3rd, 2012
7:13 pm

Can see why he would be hesitant playing for the Hawks. Being a star player playing in your hometown? What a headache that would be.

Joe

July 3rd, 2012
7:15 pm

Horford is the best asset of this franchise. Period. He can play the 5 or the 4. He is a team leader. He is productive. He is an all star. No way I would allow him to leave this team. Everyone else is expendable.

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