Dwight Howard

Warriors Expected To Have Interest In Dwight Howard

Veteran center Dwight Howard will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and he and the Lakers have mutual interest in working out a new contract, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

However, Los Angeles won’t be the only team looking to sign Howard. Sources tell Charania that the Warriors are among the potential contenders expected to have interest in the former three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

After missing nearly the entire 2018/19 season for health reasons, Howard bounced back in a big way in ’19/20, appearing in 69 regular season games and another 18 postseason contests for the Lakers.

The 34-year-old willingly took on a reduced role, playing a career-low 18.9 MPG. However, he made a major impact in that role, with 7.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, and a .729 FG%. Howard also flashed his old DPOY form in certain matchups, agitating Nikola Jokic during the Western Conference Finals.

As he enters his age-35 season, Howard won’t be in line for a big-money multiyear deal, but he could receive offers that exceed the minimum salary he earned in 2019/20. The Warriors will have the taxpayer mid-level exception (worth approximately $5.72MM) available and may decide to use some or all of that exception to make Howard an offer.

Golden State has some options at center, including Marquese Chriss, Kevon Looney, and Draymond Green, but may be seeking a more physical big man to share minutes at the five. Monte Poole of NBC Bay Area argued last week that Howard would be an ideal fit, suggesting he could be a lob threat on offense and would provide the same sort of physicality that veteran Warriors centers like Andrew Bogut and Zaza Pachulia did in previous years.

The Lakers hold Non-Bird rights on Howard, so if they want to offer him more than the minimum, they can go up to about $3.08MM using the Non-Bird exception. A more lucrative offer would mean dipping into their mid-level or bi-annual exception.

Pacific Notes: Harrell, Lakers, Howard, Suns

Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell won the 2019/20 NBA Hustle Award on Wednesday, the NBA announced in a press release. The award honors the player who makes the energy and effort plays necessary to help his respective team. 

This is the second award that the veteran forward was won this season. Last month, Harrell earned the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award for the first time. He averaged a career-high 18.6 PPG and 7.1 RPG in 27.8 MPG.

Past winners of the league’s Hustle Award include Marcus Smart, Patrick Beverley, and Amir Johnson.

Here’s more from around the Pacific Division:

  • John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a look at how the Lakers’ bench hasn’t been an issue and is actually one of the reasons why they are up 3-1 in the NBA Finals. In the minutes that LeBron James and/or Anthony Davis have not played, Los Angeles has performed surprisingly well. According to Hollinger, the Lakers have been +13 when James hasn’t been on the floor and have played Miami to a draw without Davis on the court.
  • The Warriors could be looking to address the center position this offseason. If they choose to do so, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area believes that Golden State should go after Dwight Howard. Poole explains that Howard would bring a defensive presence in the middle and could share minutes with Marquese Chriss, Kevon Looney, and Draymond Green. Additionally, he adds that the 34-year-old center might not cost a lot, which would be good news for the Warriors.
  • The Suns had a great run in the bubble this summer, going undefeated (8-0) and putting them in a great spot heading into next season. The team will be looking to upgrade its roster further this fall, prompting Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic to explore whether Fred VanVleet or Jerami Grant would be a better fit for Phoenix. Both players are reportedly on the team’s radar and expected to be highly sought after in free agency. VanVleet’s price tag could be $20MM per year, while Grant’s might be around $16MM per year.

Five Non-Bird Free Agents Who May Be Difficult To Re-Sign

Every player who finishes a season as a member of an NBA roster gets some form of Bird rights as a free agent, allowing his team to go over the cap to re-sign him. However, a player who spent just one year with his club typically only has Non-Bird rights, which are the weakest form of Bird rights, as their oxymoronic name suggests.

With the Non-Bird exception, a team can re-sign a player for up to four years and give him a raise, but that raise has to be a modest one. Non-Bird rights allow for a starting salary worth up to 120% of the player’s previous salary or 120% of the minimum salary, whichever is greater.

In other words, a Non-Bird free agent who earned $5MM can only get a starting salary worth up to $6MM on his new deal unless his team uses cap room or another exception (such as the mid-level) to bring him back.

This cap restriction will apply specifically to a handful of players around the NBA who may be in line for raises this summer. Because these players will be Non-Bird free agents, it may be a challenge for their teams to re-sign them without cap room or an exception like the bi-annual or mid-level.

Let’s take a closer look at five players who will fall into this category this offseason…

Markieff Morris, F, Lakers
Dwight Howard, C, Lakers

During their run to the NBA Finals, the Lakers have matched up with talented opposing centers such as Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, and Bam Adebayo, while also facing a Rockets team that doesn’t use a traditional center. Anthony Davis has, of course, been the most important factor in the Lakers winning those frontcourt battles, but Morris and Howard have played major roles as well, proving their value as role players on a championship-caliber team.

Morris signed a $1.75MM contract during the season, while Howard’s one-year deal is worth the veteran’s minimum, so neither player can sign for more than 120% of the minimum if the over-the-cap Lakers hope to use their Non-Bird rights. If the cap doesn’t increase, that would mean a max of $2.8MM for Morris and $3.08MM for Howard.

My assumption is that both players would be able to do better than that on the open market. So if they’re not willing to accept team-friendly discounts to remain in Los Angeles, the Lakers may have to dip into their mid-level exception (projected to be worth $9.26MM) to try to re-sign one or both players.

Carmelo Anthony, F, Trail Blazers

Anthony’s NBA career appeared to be on the verge of ending before he worked out a minimum-salary deal with Portland. He outperformed that modest contract, with 15.4 PPG and 6.3 RPG on .430/.385/.845 shooting in 58 games (all starts) for the Trail Blazers in 2019/20.

Like Howard, Anthony would be limited to a ’20/21 salary of $3.08MM via his Non-Bird rights. If the Blazers need to go higher than that to retain him, they’ll have to repeat a move they used last summer, when they re-signed Non-Bird free agent Rodney Hood with their taxpayer mid-level exception in order to give him a raise.

Jeff Green, F, Rockets

Green was underwhelming during his brief stint with Utah early in the 2019/20 season, but he thrived in Houston, averaging 12.2 PPG on .564/.354/.857 shooting in 18 games (22.6 MPG) as part of the club’s micro-ball lineup. He was nearly as good in the postseason, with 11.6 PPG on .495/.426/.824 shooting in an increased role (28.6 MPG).

Green hasn’t signed a contract worth more than the minimum since 2016, so it’s possible that’s all it will take for Houston or another team to sign him this fall. That’d be a best-case scenario for the Rockets, given how well he fit in their system down the stretch — topping any rival offer exceeding $3.08MM would mean dipping into the mid-level or bi-annual.

Reggie Jackson, G, Clippers

Like most players on the buyout market, Jackson signed a minimum-salary contract with the Clippers to finish out the season, meaning the team will be limited to an offer starting at about $2.8MM.

Jackson was pretty good for the Clippers in 17 regular season games, knocking down 41.3% of his three-point attempts and chipping in 9.5 PPG and 3.2 APG. But he fell out of the rotation in the second round of the playoffs vs. Denver, and the Clippers will likely be looking to upgrade the point guard position this fall. A reunion probably doesn’t make sense for either side, especially if Jackson can get offers exceeding the Non-Bird limit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lakers Notes: Key Signings, KCP, Pelinka, Davis

Four of the Lakers‘ low-cost signings within the last year have been crucial in helping bring the team to within one win of a championship, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

As Slater details, the combined 2019/20 cap hits for Alex Caruso ($2.75MM), Rajon Rondo ($2.56MM), Markieff Morris ($1.75MM), and Dwight Howard ($1.62MM) total just $8.69MM, but those four players have become extremely important parts of the Lakers’ rotation, especially in the postseason.

Rondo’s return from a broken thumb has helped lessen the need for the Lakers to experiment with backups like Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith, while Morris’ ability to play center in small-ball lineups has come in handy multiple times in the playoffs, particularly against Houston. Howard had his best moments against Denver as a Nikola Jokic irritant, according to Slater, who adds that Caruso has been a steady, reliable contributor through the postseason.

Caruso is under contract for $2.75MM next season as well, but the other three vets will have the opportunity to reach free agency — their strong playoff showings could put them in line for raises.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hasn’t always been a fan favorite in Los Angeles during the last three seasons, but he’s coming up big for the team in the postseason, writes Jordan Greer of Sporting News. Caldwell-Pope, who has knocked down 38.5% of his three-pointers in the playoffs, made some big shots down the stretch in Game 4 to help seal the Lakers’ win. He has a $8.49MM player option for 2020/21.
  • A championship would be vindication for Lakers head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, who took the reins following Magic Johnson‘s abrupt resignation last spring, then negotiated a trade for Anthony Davis, came up short in his pursuit of Kawhi Leonard, and had to quickly fill out the roster around his stars six days into free agency. Sam Amick of The Athletic has the story on Pelinka’s “let-it-all-out moment” near the end of Game 4.
  • The role of franchise savior never quite fit Anthony Davis in New Orleans, according to Justin Verrier of The Ringer, who writes that the former No. 1 overall pick has been at his best and is reaching his full potential alongside another superstar in LeBron James.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Green, LBJ-AD, Dwight

Good news for Lakers fans: All-NBA big man Anthony Davis wants his inaugural Finals appearance to be his first of many, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Davis, who will most likely out of his $28.8MM player option for the 2020/21 season to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, is widely expected to return to the Lakers — especially in light of the team’s current Finals run. Davis had high praise for his fellow All-NBA Lakers forward LeBron James.

“You see the work and preparation LeBron puts in every day, and you understand why this is his 10th NBA Finals appearance,” Davis told Haynes. “He never stops. I plan to follow this motherf—er to hopefully nine more Finals.”

There’s more out of Lakerland:

  • Veteran Lakers swingman Danny Green, in the first year of a two-season, $30MM contract inked over the summer, had a stellar two-way performance during Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Helene Elliot of the Los Angeles Times discusses how Green has turned out to be the player that the Lakers hoped he would be when they signed him to his deal last year.
  • Lakers All-Stars Davis and James have enjoyed a unique bond during their first season together, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN“We’re not jealous of each other. I think that’s the best thing,” James said ahead of a team practice today. “I believe jealousy creeps in a lot. And that is the absolute contrary of what we are.”
  • Lakers center Dwight Howard, who has been elevated from a bench role to a starter during the Finals, has struggled with depression during his tenure on the NBA’s Orlando restart campus, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Some of Howard’s isolation-derived depression was alleviated when Howard’s son, David, was allowed to visit him at the Disney campus recently. Howard, an unrestricted free agent this summer, will probably be able to parlay his excellent on-court performance within a winning culture into a new NBA opportunity during the offseason.

Pacific Notes: Howard, Nnaji, Bjelica, Hield

Veteran center Dwight Howard, who will be back on the free agent market after the Finals, is thankful the Lakers took a chance on him, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets. Howard was moved into the starting lineup during the conference finals. “It’s been the hardest road to get back here. I’m very grateful,” he said. “I’ve never given up on myself.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Power forward prospects Zeke Nnaji and Jalen Smith have interviewed the Suns, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Nnaji, who played at Arizona, is ranked No. 35 overall by ESPN, while Maryland’s Smith is considered first-round material at No. 20. The Suns currently own just one pick in the draft, the No. 10 overall selection.
  • The Kings’ decision on whether to retain forward Nemanja Bjelica could hinge on how much new GM Monte McNair values Marvin Bagley III, as well as the team’s financial constraints, Jason Jones of The Athletic writes. The Kings hold a $7.15MM option on Bjelica’s contract next season but re-signing Bogdan Bogdanovic is an even bigger priority, Jones continues. If Sacramento drafts another power forward, the team may find Bjelica expendable, Jones adds.
  • The Knicks, Sixers, Grizzlies and Hornets are some of the teams that might be willing to absorb Buddy Hield‘s four-year, $106MM extension and make a deal for the Kings‘ shooting guard, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype speculates. All four of those teams could benefit from the outside shooting of Hield, who had a somewhat disappointing season after signing his extension, which kicks in next season.

Lakers Notes: Howard, Davis, LeBron, Rondo

After several years of bouncing around the league, Dwight Howard is one win away from getting back to the NBA Finals for the first time in 11 years. He told Dave McMenamin of ESPN that the Lakers realize it won’t be easy to get rid of the Nuggets, who overcame a pair of 3-1 deficits on their way to the Western Conference Finals.

“They’re going to give us their best shot. They’re not going to let up,” Howard said. “They’re a really good team, very well coached. We understand that. We’re one step closer to our dream, so we’re not going to take our foot off the gas. I think we’re going to bring more intensity than we brought before. We have a well-experienced group of guys on our team, even coaches. We understand how important this series is and this game is and that we should treat it like a Game 7 with our intensity and our effort and just play as hard as we can.”

It has been an incredible journey for Howard, who is on his fifth team in the past five years and had to go through a training camp tryout just to earn a roster spot. He is averaging 7.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in 11 playoff games and moved into the starting lineup for Thursday’s Game 4.

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Anthony Davis has “minor soreness” after suffering an ankle sprain, but has been cleared to play tonight, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
  • Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, a former teammate of LeBron James, believes the Lakers’ star is motivating himself through a perceived slight in the MVP balloting, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. “LeBron always lifts his play in the playoffs, and I think those 16 first-place votes that he got (for MVP), he just used that,” Love said. ““He’s like, ‘I probably wouldn’t have won it. But I deserve more first place votes,’ which I believe is true.”
  • Rajon Rondo‘s playoff experience has been indispensable as the Lakers navigate the postseason, James tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated“He’s played at the highest level, and he’s someone that we can trust,” James said. “… When you can have guys that have been in the moments and can understand and also be able to make adjustments on the fly, and know that you can count on them down the stretch, it just makes the team and you individually feel so much more confident in the outcome. Ever since he got back from injury and we saw this playoff run, he’s been exceptional.”

Free Agent Stock Watch: Playoff Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the playoffs ongoing at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.

Jerami Grant, Nuggets, 26, PF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $27.3MM deal in 2018

The Nuggets are on the verge of elimination again despite the increased offensive production of Grant. He scored a playoff-high 26 points in Denver’s lone win against the Lakers in Game 3, then added 17 points in Game 4. The trust that coach Michael Malone has in Grant defensively against the Lakers’ jumbo lineups was apparent – he played a total of 77 minutes in those two games. Grant has a $9.35MM option on his contract for next season. Prior to the restart, Grant said he was likely to decline it and test the free agent waters. It’s doubtful he’s changed his mind.

Dwight Howard, Lakers, 34, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2019

Howard piled up more fouls than points in Games 2 and 3 against Denver. Instead of Howard losing playing time, coach Frank Vogel surprisingly decided to start him in Game 4. The former Defensive Player of the Year delivered a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) in 23 minutes. He’s a dinosaur by current NBA standards – an aging center who can’t stretch defenses. But every once awhile, Howard reminds everyone he can still be a factor. It’s easy to see the Lakers signing him to another short-term deal.

Dion Waiters, Lakers 28, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $500K deal in 2020

Waiters got a chance to revive his career when the Lakers signed him to a rest-of-the season contract in March. The opportunity was there for Waiters to crack the rotation in the postseason but ineffectiveness and a groin injury have rendered him a non-factor. He’s only appeared in five playoff games, totaling 10 points (no threes) in 38 minutes. Given his controversial history, the fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft will probably be scrounging for a veteran’s minimum deal.

Derrick Jones, Heat, 23, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $3.16MM deal in 2018

It’s been a rough restart for Jones. He had a bout with the coronavirus, then suffered a neck strain during a collision in the seeding games. He also dealt with an ankle injury during the opening round of the playoffs. His biggest problem now is he’s out of the rotation. The emergence of Tyler Herro and the presence of veterans Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala has limited him to a total of 30 unspectacular minutes against Boston. Jones will be an unrestricted free agent and he’ll draw some interest, but his price tag may have dropped this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Howard To Start For Lakers Over McGee

For the first time in the 2020 playoffs, Lakers center Dwight Howard will start tonight in a pivotal Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, per Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic (Twitter link). This also marks only Howard’s third start for the Lakers in the 2019/20 season overall. Los Angeles leads Denver 2-1. The official game broadcast is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. CST.

Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets that Lakers coach Frank Vogel still wants Howard to minimize fouling as he guards All-Star Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Howard is averaging 4.3 fouls in just 14.4 minutes per game for the series. The more athletic Howard’s ability to pester Jokic and impede his passing likely earned him the nod over normal starting center JaVale McGee.

Howard started at center over McGee in the second half of Game 3 on Tuesday, a 114-106 loss for the Lakers. Goon noted in an article yesterday that the Lakers are scoring at a +20 plus-minus pace over Denver across Howard’s 43 minutes in the series, compared to -11 during McGee’s 31 minutes.

The last time McGee was benched in these playoffs, forward Markieff Morris started at center in his stead during the final two games of the Lakers’ second-round matchup with the Rockets. Howard played for just two games of that five-game series.

The 34-year-old Howard, a former three-time Defensive Player of the Year and eight-time All-Star, is in his second stint with the Lakers on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract. He last played in the purple and gold during a tumultuous 2012/13 season, alongside fellow All-Stars Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash.

California Notes: Clippers Offseason, Fox, Dwight, McNair

After blowing a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals, the star-studded Clippers face an uncertain offseason, Danny Leroux of The Athletic writes. Leroux unpacks the potential fates of three Clipper big men worth tracking during Los Angeles’s offseason.

The team can re-sign unrestricted free agent forward Marcus Morris at a 20% annual raise using his Non-Bird Rights. However, Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, also an unrestricted free agent, may command more money than Los Angeles is comfortable paying him after a lackluster postseason performance, while JaMychal Green will most likely opt out of his $5MM player option for the 2020/21 season in search of a more lucrative payday. In Leroux’s view, the Clippers may look elsewhere for centers than small-ball options like Green and Harrell.

There are more notes from the NBA’s California teams:

  • Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox is eligible for a maximum extension of his rookie contract this offseason. Jason Jones of The Athletic assesses the pros and cons of such a deal being completed sooner rather than later, one of the big decisions facing new Sacramento general manager Monte McNair.
  • 34-year-old Lakers reserve center Dwight Howard has emerged as a legitimate antagonist against All-Star Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during the two teams’ Western Conference Finals series, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Howard was able to use his strength and length to impede Jokic’s passing ability in a Game 2 win. “As soon as I step onto the court, I’m gonna let him know that I’m there,” Howard said after the first game of the series, also a Lakers win.
  • During his introductory team press conference today, new Kings GM Monte McNair asserted that head coach Luke Walton will remain on the sidelines for the 2020/21 season, Jason Jones of The Athletic tweets.