Dwight Howard will be rocking number 39 this year, in his second term with the Los Angeles Lakers, after clearing waivers following his buyout from the Memphis Grizzlies. Howard will be coming back to a city that does not hold high opinions of him after he bailed in 2013 to join James Harden and the Houston Rockets. In his one year with the Lakers previously, the team was swept by the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, failing to live up to the huge expectations set forth before the 2013 season started. Since then, Howard has bounced around teams, battling injuries, and looking for a spot in the NBA that has seen less and less traditional centers over time. For now, Dwight Howard will need to work hard to gain these LA fans’ respect back while seeking to get back to his old, productive self.
But the Lakers aren’t taking any chances on Howard as they signed him to a non-guaranteed contract allowing for some roster flexibility and an incentive for Howard to produce. Many had speculations that the Lakers were holding onto their last roster spot in anticipation of signing Andre Iguodala, but after Boogie Cousins went down with a season-ending injury this past summer, that spot went to Howard. But if for some reason the Lakers decide to move on Howard, the non-guaranteed contract will ensure no financial repercussions. This means Howard will need to show his stuff during training camp to show the Lakers staff why he is deserving of playing along two of the best players in the NBA currently.
That will be a tough feat for Dwight Howard, after only playing nine games for the Washington Wizards last season. With that season down the drain, we should look back to his one year with the Charlotte Hornets in which he put up 16.6 PPG and 12.5 RPG in 81 regular season starts. That’s the Dwight Howard we are used to seeing which means his success with the Lakers will come down to his ability to stay healthy. The good news on that front is that Howard has reportedly shed some extra weight in the offseason and reports of his chronic back issues have been positive.
This is good news for Lakers fans as Dwight Howard is expected to play a big role and share the minutes at center with JaVale McGee. McGee played just over 22 MPG last year, which is the upper threshold of his abilities, meaning that Howard will need to step up and fill in for those remaining minutes. Luckily, the newly acquired Anthony Davis is expected to fill in some of those minutes, with the understanding that Davis has a preference for the forward position due to his freakish versatility. This means that Howard is expected to play quite a significant role this upcoming season.
As for Lebron James, playing with another No.1 draft pick is nothing new. Dwight Howard will be the eighth No.1 draft pick to have the pleasure of playing with James. Somehow, only two of those eight were in their prime while playing with Lebron (Kyrie Irving & Anthony Davis) while the rest only started playing with him once they were in their 30’s indicating that Lebron likes his veterans and vice versa.
There are a lot of question marks about Howard’s abilities and how well he will fit into a team that has championship expectations. But the eight-time All-Star does have the ability to put up some solid numbers, when healthy, and he will have some real chances to prove himself this upcoming season. Dwight Howard will need to take this day by day, literally, as the Lakers will be paying his just over $14,000 per day he remains on the roster. Nonetheless, the Lakers will have considerable media attention as this roster of new and old stars look to take advantage of a new-look Western Conference.