In a move that was widely expected, Dwight Howard has declined his player option for 2016/17 and will test out the free agent market this summer, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports (via Twitter). The Rockets big man was set to earn $23,282,457 next season, but will now attempt to top that amount as an unrestricted free agent.
Howard’s time in Houston hasn’t gone all that smoothly, with the center not meshing well alongside star shooting guard James Harden and seeing his overall involvement in the team’s offense decline steadily the past two campaigns. He made 71 appearances for the Rockets this past season, averaging 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.63 blocks in 32.1 minutes per outing. His shooting line was .620/.000/.489.
The 30-year-old hasn’t ruled out re-signing with the Rockets despite his reported unhappiness in Houston, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle tweets. That may be a wise move on Howard’s part, given the decline in his physical skills, production and with the league’s diminished focus on traditional paint-roaming big men, he may find the open market a challenging one to land a long-term deal in. Howard’s best bet may be to ink a short-term deal, perhaps a two-year pact with an opt-out after the first season, in order to rebuild his free agent value and potentially snag a more player-friendly pact in the process during the summer of 2017.