The Runner Sports

Dwight Howard’s Impact On The Charlotte Hornets

The past few days in the NBA have been insane; Boston and Philadelphia swapped picks, Paul George announced he would be leaving Indiana, and the Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez. The Charlotte Hornets got in on the madness Tuesday by trading for eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard. Atlanta sent Dwight Howard and the 31st pick in the 2017 NBA Draft to Charlotte for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli, and the 41st pick in the draft.

Charlotte’s Perspective

Two of Charlotte’s main issues last year were a lack of rim protection and depth. Adding Dwight Howard fixes that. Dwight will start at center and immediately upgrade Charlotte’s defense. Moving Cody Zeller to back up center ensures that they will have 48 minutes of good defense from the center position. Zeller and Dwight can even play together in some situations. The main plus of this trade is unloading Miles Plumlee and his awful contract. Charlotte won’t gain financial flexibility in the short-term with this move, but they do in the long-term. Getting rid of Belinelli is also a good move, as he too is a poor defender. The Hornets can replace his shooting in the draft. By moving up from the 41st pick to the 31st pick, Charlotte should be able to get two players who can contribute right away.

Atlanta’s Perspective

Wow did these guys really want to get rid of Dwight Howard. They traded him within the division for basically nothing. This signals Atlanta is going into full rebuild mode. Expect them to try to a sign and trade with Paul Millsap soon. Still, it is surprising Atlanta wasn’t able to get more for Howard. He is not the same player he used to be, but he is still a walking double-double. Now Atlanta has a worse a second-round draft pick, and two below average players in Belinelli and Plumlee. Plumlee’s contract also hurts Atlanta’s financial flexibility. The only reason this makes sense for Atlanta is the fact that they are rebuilding. Expect more moves and the longest playoff streak in the East is likely to be over.

Winner

Charlotte is not often the winner of a trade, but they won this one hands down. In fact, their past two trades for Plumlee and Belinelli were both huge losses for the Hornets. Now the Hornets get rid of their past mistakes, and they get a player who can help them immediately. Dwight is no longer an All-Star, but he addresses the Hornets’ main weaknesses. For Atlanta, this is clearly a loss, and it’s hard to find a positive for them in this trade.

Projecting the Charlotte Hornets Next Season

Steve Clifford coached Dwight Howard as an assistant for six seasons. He knows him well and will get the best out him. Clifford’s defensive scheme requires great defensive rebounding and limiting easy shots at the basket. Dwight is still great at both of those. Atlanta was fourth in defense last year with Howard. Dwight can quarterback the defense for Charlotte. He knows coverages and can make up for mistakes. Dwight can still give the Hornets 15 and 12, and that is plenty. A starting five of Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, and Dwight is very solid and should be a playoff team. Plus you have Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, and Jeremy Lamb coming off the bench.

Charlotte will likely decline Ramon Sessions’ option. Expect them to pick a combo guard in the draft for scoring. Keep an eye on Malik Monk, Donovan Mitchell, and Luke Kennard. Personally, I think Monk would be the best fit if he drops that far. With the 31st pick, they can add another wing, preferably a 3-D player, or a backup point guard. If they get two players who can contribute right away, they will be deep, versatile, and formidable. Most importantly Dwight gives them a defensive presence, and should make the Hornets a top 10 defensive team. Charlotte was 14th this year, so they’re close. Dwight makes the difference.

With the draft and free agency still ahead, it is hard to project how teams will do next year. However, we already know that there are teams likely to take a step back. Atlanta is rebuilding, Toronto will probably blow things up, Indiana is losing Paul George, and Chicago may lose Jimmy Butler. That’s four playoff teams who are likely to miss the playoffs next year. Cleveland, Boston, Washington, and Milwaukee are still ahead of Charlotte, but the Hornets are more than capable of being the fifth best team in the East next year.

It’s nice to see the Charlotte Hornets finally come out on the winning side of a trade for once. This move helps Charlotte in the short-term and doesn’t hurt them in the long-term. They were able to get rid of two poor players, a bad contract, and move up in the second round of the draft. That is about as good as it gets in a trade. I give the Hornets an A, and the Hawks a D. Remember Adding Dwight means the Hornets will be very quiet in free agency. That’s for the best as this trade plus the draft are the best ways to improve.

Howard gives the Hornets a big name. More importantly, he gives them physicality, rim protection. and toughness. He is no longer an All-Star, but he can be a key player on a winning team. Get excited, the Charlotte Hornets should be back in the playoffs next year. Now let’s hope they nail this draft.