By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, AFRO Sports Desk
The Washington Wizards haven’t won 50 games in a season in 40 years. Poetically fitting, the last time the franchise won 50 games was during the 1978-1979 season as the team approaches their 2018-2019 campaign. After trading away Marcin Gortat (and secretly hoping for DeMarcus Cousins to arrive) Washington struck a deal at the 11th hour with perennial all-star center Dwight Howard which at the most would keep him in D.C. for the next two seasons.
Howard was dominant in his prime and became a diva in his latter seasons, but he’s still a powerful rebounder and presence in the paint; everything the Wizards need. The Golden State Warriors are pretty much a lock for the championship next year. Baby steps and small gains might be the best that the franchise can hope for, and reaching 50 wins would be a huge milestone for a franchise trying to remake itself. Will Howard be enough to reach that goal? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO SportsDesk debate.
Riley: I love the addition of Howard to this team. The player formerly known as Superman has developed a reputation over the last few seasons for having a lack of focus and urgency but physically, he brings everything the team needs: rebounding, athleticism at the center position and a paint patroller. He’s not the defensive MVP-level type defender that he used to be, but he’ll bring some respect as the team’s new anchor in the middle. He averaged 14 rebounds in April after averaging 12 in March, which included a 32-point, 30-rebound game. Call him whatever name you want to, but Howard is still a top-five rebounder in the NBA and the Wizards just added that. The evolution of the Big Three of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. will provide the offense, Howard will handle the boards. Factor in that with LeBron James’ western defection, and Washington should top 50 wins easily.
Green: Washington needed a front court addition that can score in the paint and the perimeter, and a guy who could stabilize the team’s locker room. They received none of that with the Howard move. You added a bad-character guy to a bad-character group and a player who’s a less efficient scorer than the guy he’s replacing. I can see this move going the wrong way for Washington. The Wizards don’t have the locker room control to fit Howard in without conflict, and they don’t have the offensive firepower to not have to rely on Howard to produce in the paint for them. Wall’s jumper is still shaky and Beal and Porter can be inconsistent. They needed a center who can take the offensive load off of them and they didn’t get that. Winning 50 games could be too much of a stretch next season.
Riley: All the fireworks in the NBA now reside out West. The East will be wide open next season, and reality is the Wizards could probably reach 50 wins even without Howard. But with him, they have an opportunity, on paper, to field the most talented team around Wall since he’s been in the District. I think things will be electric at the Wizards home games next season. You’ll have a healthy Wall, a fresh start for Howard, and another season for Beal and Porter to prove themselves. From top to bottom, this might be the most complete starting five in the East next year. There were games last season where the Wizards could’ve used some of the standout performances Howard gave Charlotte. Just going back to April, Howard recorded games of 30 points and six rebounds, 30 and 12, 33 and 12, 18 and 23, 22 and 13, 22 and 11, and the April highlight game of 32 and 30. Even if Howard’s a jerk, those type of numbers could easily push Washington into a new tier of contending teams.
Green: This is a different acquisition for the Wizards than the Paul Pierce move. You can’t add a toxic personality to a toxic room and expect things to just flow. Talent, stats and big name aside; this is Dwight Howard, the same player who many prominent organizations have had issues with over the past few seasons. Now, add him to the Wizards and watch things unfold. If this was five seasons ago, then I would be sold; but these are trying times for the Wiz. The team is about to go through a roster transfusion with a bunch of guys on expiring deals heading into next year with three players making the max. I just don’t know if the team is set up to be able to absorb everything that comes along with Howard, and not just the stats and rebounding.