Could Dwight Howard be wearing Celtic green when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2012?
At this point, this scenario is way too premature to entertain, but the concept bears examination. The Boston Celtics do have many contracts coming off the books including Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Jermaine O'Neal.
Therefore, Boston could use a big body down low, and what other way to do that than sign the best center in the league. Celtics fans can just visualize Rajon Rondo lobbing alley-oops to Howard for the next several years?
Howard has won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year for the past three seasons. He is a dominant force inside who can rebound and block or alter shots in the paint.
There are clear obstacles in the way, such as the impending lockout, and the new collective bargaining agreement. Will the NBA go to a hard salary cap? The NHL and NFL already have hard salary caps and this means that teams cannot spend over 63% of the League-determined Defined Gross Revenues. Meanwhile, the NBA has a "soft" salary cap. A "soft" cap means franchises can exceed the limit, but they will need to pay a luxury tax if the cap is over a certain number. This is why the Celtics and the Miami Heat were able to sign three players at about $20 million per year deals.
Many teams will be looking to sign Howard because of the low percentage of dominant centers in the league, and he surely can put fans in the seats with his extraordinary athleticism.
With Orlando bowing out of the playoffs in the opening round against the Atlanta Hawks and considering that his supporting cast is not championship-caliber, he could ask for a trade. Organizations that trade for him would want an extension to his contract before they have to give up half of their roster. Teams would not want to rent a player for half of the season while trading valuable assets.
While Howard is the most talented center in the NBA and a bona fide superstar, he does have holes in his game. While he has worked on his offensive game, his post game has not improved to the point where he can carry a team. Is this a result of his work ethic, not demanding the ball, or not having role players around him to make a deep run in David Stern's tournament? The Atlanta Hawks, after all were able to defend Howard one-on-one with Jason Collins.
Howard is a career 59.8% free throw shooter. He only averaged 13.4 attempts from the field this year.
Another issue is the technical fouls Howard has received and whether this ties into his maturity. When a player is a superstar on a team, he cannot afford to miss games because he went over the technical foul limit. Howard missed two games during the season. He has been playing for seven years and is supposed to be the leader of the Orlando Magic.
Understandably, basketball is an emotional game and Howard has to use his elbows to create space to shoot in the post, but he has to learn to play with aggressiveness without fouling.
While Howard could join the Celtics, the question becomes will he become an even better player?