Hawks GM Travis Schlenk Says Dwight Howard Is Still 1 of NBA's Best Big Men

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2017

Atlanta Hawks' Dwight Howard in action during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, March 29, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

New Atlanta Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk believes center Dwight Howard remains "one of the best big guys in the league" and thinks he'll remain with the organization.

On Friday, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution passed along comments from Schlenk, who called Howard one of the NBA's top rebounders and rim protectors.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to Dwight personally," he said. "We've exchanged some text messages. I certainly plan to talk to him soon and get to know him. I'm not going to judge you from what I've heard. Let me see you face-to-face."

Schlenk, who joined the Hawks last month after serving as the Golden State Warriors' assistant GM, added: "There is a reason Atlanta was one of the top five defenses in the league. He was a big part of that."

The team's previous front-office regime signed Howard to a three-year, $70.5 million contract in free agency last summer.

He posted solid numbers during the regular season, averaging 13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks and shooting 63.3 percent from the field across 74 games. The post player often became the odd man out during the team's playoff run, though.

Howard expressed disappointment in his usage after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by the Washington Wizards, per Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"It was very difficult," he said. "I want to play. I want to be out on the floor. I want to make a difference. I want to make an impact, and I can't do that on the bench."

At a time when the league is trending toward uptempo offenses that can spread the floor and knock down outside shots, the role of an old-school center has diminished. It's raised questions about the future value of Howard and players who play a limited down-low game.

Howard is set to count more than $23 million against the salary cap each of the next two seasons, which may limit his trade value. The question is whether Schlenk can build a contender with the 31-year-old Atlanta native as one of the team's marquee assets in today's NBA.

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