Report: Dwight Howard, Wizards Agree to 1-Year Mid-Level Exception Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 23: Dwight Howard #12 of the Charlotte Hornets looks on during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on February 23, 2018 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Eight-time All-Star center Dwight Howard agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Washington Wizards, The Athletic's Jared Weiss reported Tuesday. 

According to Weiss, Howard has finalized his buyout with the Brooklyn Nets and will earn the mid-level exception with the Wizards.

The Nets acquired Howard largely as a means to free up salary-cap space next season. In return for taking on the 14-year veteran, Brooklyn no longer had on its books the $16.2 million owed to Timofey Mozgov in 2019-20.

As many observed, the trade illustrated Howard's steady descent from once being among the NBA's premier big men:

Simply by the numbers, Howard remains a productive center. He averaged 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in his only season with the Charlotte Hornets in 2017-18.

Howard is an effective defensive presence as well. According to NBA.com, he held opponents to 57.9 percent shooting inside six feet and 54.1 percent inside 10 feet. The Hornets also had a 106.4 defensive rating with him on the court, compared to a 107.9 defensive rating when he went to the bench.

The problem with Howard isn't necessarily a result of his on-court performance, though he does clog up the paint with his inability to score away from the basket.

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Off the court, Howard is his own worst enemy.

He famously ran Stan Van Gundy out of Orlando, creating one of the most surreal media conferences in recent memory. Van Gundy told the assembled reporters Howard had asked ownership to fire him, only for Howard to arrive moments later and face questions about Van Gundy's revelation.

Then came Howard's disastrous season with the Los Angeles Lakers, which fittingly ended with Howard getting ejected from Game 4 of Los Angeles' first-round playoff series.

Howard's three years with the Houston Rockets were equally disappointing. He never meshed well with James Harden, and it's not entirely a coincidence the team had a 14-win improvement in the season after he left.

If there were any doubts about Howard's negative impact in the locker room, then they were put to bed during his brief stays with the Hornets and Atlanta Hawks. ESPN's Zach Lowe reported last September some Hawks players celebrated his departure, and things apparently didn't improve in Charlotte:

At this point, the narrative for Howard is pretty much cemented.

He gave an interview to Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins last September about how he was ready to put his past issues behind him. Ultimately, nothing changed based on his exit from the Hornets.

Washington will be well aware of the risks inherent in signing the player. He's likely to remain a double-double machine, but it may only be a matter of time before his act wears thin on his new teammates.

Given Howard's age (32), it may not be a stretch to say this will be his last real chance to play an important role for an NBA team. Roy Hibbert is an example of how quickly the league can move on from aging, offensively limited centers.

Perhaps that will be enough motivation for Howard to put together a strong 2018-19 season and potentially collect one more big contract down the line.

The Wizards had a pressing need at center after trading Marcin Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers for Austin Rivers.

With that said, signing Howard may not be the best move for a team that has sometimes struggled to develop chemistry in the locker room. Throwing Howard into the mix could make the problem even worse.

But LeBron James' departure to the Los Angeles Lakers significantly opened up the Eastern Conference title race. The Wizards have a clear window for success at the moment, so signing a replacement for Gortat was imperative, even if the answer is a combustible personality such as Howard.