Why Sixers cannot rely on Dwight Howard as their sole Big off the bench

NBA: MAR 08 Lakers at Clippers
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 08: Los Angeles Lakers Center Dwight Howard (39) looks on before a NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers on March 8, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Dwight Howard was an excellent signing this offseason. For just the cost of the veteran’s minimum ($2.56 million), the Sixers acquired an eight-time all-star and three-time DPOY who has completely resurrected his career as a backup big man. By all accounts, Howard has been a positive voice in the locker room and helped foster the “winning mentality” that has been such a focus all season. He has been a valuable leader on the team and several of the young players have given praise to Howard so far this season.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad that comes with the good when it comes to Dwight Howard. His harmless demeanor and infectious smile make it all the more surprising when he recklessly tosses players around attempting to set a pick or grab a rebound. Howard leads the NBA in technical fouls with 13 and was recently ejected in back-to-back games against the Clippers and the Lakers. The Sixers were already short on big men going into these games and the actions of Dwight made matters even worse for the team.

Dwight Howard ranks first in the NBA in turnover percentage at 21.75%. He averages 3 fouls per game in just 17.1 minutes per game. This means Dwight is good for a foul about every 5 minutes he is on the floor. To put this into perspective, Howard’s career-high in fouls per game is 3.8 which he registered during the 2012-2013 season while he was playing 35.8 minutes per game.

Howard still has a youthful burst in his step and adds 8.1 rebounds per game along with some impactful defensive play. Through the first 15 games of the season, Dwight even ranked 4th in the league in rebounding percentage (19.7%). However, at this stage in his career Dwight is extremely limited on the offensive end. While he has been more willing to shoot the mid-range jumper and three-pointer than anyone would like him to be, Dwight’s offensive game is basically limited to catching lobs and scoring off offensive rebounds.

Due to these limitations in his game and spacing issues that it can cause, Dwight has had trouble fitting in lineups alongside Ben Simmons. This is what led Doc Rivers to decide to start Tony Bradley over Dwight during the recent stretch without Joel Embiid. Bradley shined in this role, even scoring 18 points along with 11 rebounds in his final game in a Sixer uniform.

While Joel Embiid is set to return soon, adding another big man should still be prioritized the same. Outside of Embiid and Howard, there are no other true big men on the roster. Mike Scott has been looked at to fill the starting Center minutes in the two games since Bradley has been traded. Scott carries himself with an admiral attitude, but his 6’7 frame is tough to overcome against matchups with much larger Centers.

G-League MVP, Paul Reed has also been looked at for minutes in this role. While Reed has an exciting skill set, he also is undersized for the position and Doc Rivers mentioned the team did not play him at the center prior to the Lakers game.

The trade deadline has now passed and Daryl Morey elected not to trade any more of the current roster for another big man. The Sixers still have a chance to make roster moves by looking into players available on the buyout market. This occurs when a veteran player is in an undesirable situation due to playing time or the team’s direction and elect to sacrifice some money in order for them to be freed to find a new team.

The Brooklyn Nets have been the biggest beneficiary of this so far this year as they have added Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge as buyout options. In what appeared to be a move looking to stop Joel Embiid, the Lakers also dipped into the pool of available veterans and signed Andre Drummond. While these were all guys that had some appeal, there are still other candidates that would make the Sixers a better team. Some names to watch as the market heats up are DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside, and Kelly Olynyk.

Dwight Howard is still a valuable member of the Sixers roster. He provides solid production on a minimum contract and, depending on the matchup, is capable of logging playoff minutes. Dwight should maintain a role on this team but it would be foolish to head toward the postseason with him as the only option for reserve big men. Finding another big man on the buyout market would go a long way to creating more depth on the Sixers and increasing the team’s overall potential.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire