The potential landing spot for Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard is the biggest topic of conversation in the NBA. Howard supposedly has a short list of teams he would sign an extension with if/when he is traded that includes the Nets (moving to Brookyn), Lakers and Dallas Mavericks. Yesterday, the list was rumored to be expanded to include the L.A. Clippers, though they don’t have the money to sign Howard and have little left to trade for him after the Chris Paul deal. The furor around Howard will only intensify as the NBA schedule nears it’s All-Star break in late February…in Orlando. The question is: if Howard has a preferred destination list, should the Sixers be trying to make their way onto it?
At first glance, it seems like a perfect fit. Howard wants to play in a major market on a team that has a chance to win a title. The Sixers are stocked with young talent that Howard could grow with to chase a ring, and the franchise desperately needs a star to help with its attendance problems. Sixers “revolutionary” and blogger Matt Hasher fancied the idea last week, envisioning Howard finishing off feeds from Jrue Holiday and cleaning up on forays to the basket from Evan Turner and Lou Williams.
While it’s a fun thought, here’s the problem: Dwight Howard doesn’t appear to want to be a Sixer, and more importantly, the Sixers shouldn’t want him. If the Sixers could acquire Howard for Elton Brand’s expiring contract, Andre Iguodala, and a couple picks, I’d be all for it. However, even if Howard were willing to be a Sixer, any deal for the big man would likely cost the team a large chunk of the young nucleus it’s been building. There’s no sense in envisioning Holiday and Howard in a pick and roll, because the young point guard would likely be in Orlando with Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, and maybe even Thad Young.
Outside of the high cost for acquiring Howard, I’m not sure what he would bring to the current Sixers roster other than star power. The reigning defensive player of the year would certainly improve the interior D and rebounding, but are those areas of need that are keeping this team from contending?
The Sixers currently lead the league in defensive efficiency, and are a top 5 team in assists and true shooting percentage. In other words, the Sixers are built on a team defense, that could suffer from losing some of its premier wing defenders, and sharing the ball to get a high quality shot. While Howard would dramatically improve the Sixers’ mediocre rebounding rate, it’s hard to justify his presence in the middle clogging up what has been a fluid offense, when they already are one of the league’s best defensive teams without him.
Howard’s personality would also not be a good fit in Philadelphia. Howard has a fun-loving personality and seems like a great guy. But he reminds me of another athlete that Philadelphia never embraced: Donovan McNabb. Something tells me that, like McNabb, Howard’s shortcomings would be as much of an issue as his talents, and the city would quickly tire of his big grins and happy-go-lucky personality after a few missed free throws in big spots.
(Side note: if Howard isn’t traded by the deadline I think both he and Deron Williams end up signing in Dallas.)
So a better question is, are the Sixers a legitimate contender as currently constructed? Most people dismiss the possibility without giving it a second thought. But while it may true that these Sixers aren’t quite ready to hoist a trophy, I don’t think it’s due to the roster lacking the necessary ingredients.
Only one team in my 32 years has won an NBA title without at least one Top 5 player or at least two Top 10/15 types. Look it up if you don’t believe me but the only exception to the rule is the 2004 Detroit Pistons. Those Pistons were a battle-tested group of veterans that made up for their lack of a star power with suffocating defense, efficient offense, and a team cohesiveness that is rarely seen, from playing together for a number of years.
They consisted of a big, heady point guard that wasn’t afraid to take big shots, a 2 guard that ran off screens as well as anyone in the game, an elite defensive small forward that could stuff a stat sheet, a rugged undersized forward that had to play center at times, and a big man with great passing skills and touch from the outside.