Ever since the summer of 2007, Danny Ainge’s strategy has been to accumulate enough assets in order to cash in for a superstar) and then put at least a pair of other All-Stars around the Top 50 or 75 player of all time. It’s how they built a championship team with the Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen trades, and it’s how Ainge is trying to utilize the 587 draft picks and quality young role players currently on the roster.
On Tuesday night, Chris Sheridan reported that Dwight Howard is unhappy in Houston and wants to be traded. Sheridan predicted that Miami would trade for Howard by this February for a package centered around Hassan Whiteside. Since Tuesday, new reports have surfaced that Howard is fine with Houston and wants to stay, but I’ve still seen Celtics fans on the internet suggest that Howard is an option that the Celtics should consider.
The title of this post seems like the opposite of what the Celtics are trying to do, right? Get Dwight Howard, a proven superstar, and go from there. Seems pretty basic. Especially with the Celtics’ spectacular perimeter defense, as Steph Curry and the Warriors round out on Friday, the acquisition of Howard and his defensive chops around the rim would be exactly what the Celtics need… right?
Nope. Dwight Howard is nowhere near the level of superstar that the Celtics need. His points per game has dipped from ~18 in the 2014 season to ~12 this year. He just turned 30 years old, which isn’t ancient and is 2 years younger than Ray Allen when the Celtics got him, but Dwight has a ton of miles on his legs because he came into the league out of high school, and his body is clearly much more limited than it was a few years back. Anytime the words “back surgery” appear on a big man’s resume, it’s one of the most obvious red flags that exists.
Here’s the other thing: Even if the Celtics got Dwight Howard this year, they still wouldn’t contend for the 2016 title. As diehard Celtics fans who have given our full trust to Danny Ainge and his masterful rebuilding effort, we want the C’s to speed up the process and contend sooner rather than later. But it doesn’t work like that. Dwight can’t singlehandedly carry a team to a title anymore (which is one of many reasons why he’s an idiot for apparently being upset that he’s 2nd fiddle to James Harden), and the C’s wouldn’t have enough talent around him to get any farther than a 5 or mayyybe 6 game series vs. Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals.
If the C’s got Howard this season, he’d have a player option for next year to stick in Boston. As we saw during his disastrous time in Los Angeles, a trade does not make Howard any more likely to pick up his player option in that city. Even if he did pick up his option, the Celtics would pay him $22 million next season to hopefully contend with him as one of their best players, and he’d be about 31 and a half years old by Spring 2017. If the Celtics’ young nucleus of Smart, Bradley, and co. isn’t quite ready for primetime in 2017 and if Danny hasn’t signed a marquee free agent or made a huge trade by the trade deadline of 2017, then the Celtics won’t compete that year, either. Then, in the Spring of 2018, Dwight would be 32 and a half… and that’s IF he re-signed with the Celtics in the previous summer. Trading for Howard would give the Celtics a championship window that would be neither immediate nor long lasting. Danny Ainge loves flexibility more than he loves chocolate milk, and there’s no flexibility with Howard on the Celtics.
That doesn’t even mention that Dwight Howard’s mentality isn’t even in the same zip code as the mentality that you want your superstar to have. Mix Dwight Howard’s attitude with the ferociously competitive mentality of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Brad Stevens? No thanks. I’ll pass on this falling star.
I’ll go one step further. Not only do I not want the Celtics to trade for Dwight Howard (unless the Celtics practically stole him from the Rockets and didn’t give up any of their best assets, which is highly unlikely because Daryl Morey is not a moron and Kevin McHale doesn’t work there anymore), but I truly want the Miami Heat to trade for Howard, as Chris Sheridan believes will happen by February. If the Heat trade Justise Winslow AND Hassan Whiteside for Winslow, or even just one of them and a high draft pick and some other asset, then their championship window shrinks drastically to just 2016 and 2017. With the long term contracts of Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic, and with the money that Howard would command through 2017 as well as whatever D-Wade would get if he stays after 2016, the Heat would have no room to do anything else. They might have a title window in June 2016 and 2017, but the Cavs will still be at the peak of their powers, the Celtics won’t hit their own peak until after that, anyway. If I’m the Celtics, then I’m FAR more concerned with Winslow and Whiteside becoming a great young core for the Heat with Bosh, Dragic, and Wade as valuable complimentary pieces as they get old and grey. If the Heat throw away that young core for a season and a half of a title run with Dwight, all the better. The Celtics will gladly watch them thrive and then fall suddenly while the Celtics pass them by, which will coincide perfectly with the Cavs finally taking a step backwards as LeBron and Kevin Love age. Let’s hope Pat Riley makes the mistake that Danny Ainge definitely won’t. Next round of Yoo-Hoo is on me.