- The Wizards successfully reeled in experienced talent in Dwight Howard and Jeff Green at a cost that builds in little-to-no risk.
In separate, thrifty moves, the Wizards shored up their rotation on Tuesday, coming to agreements on one-year deals with veteran bigs Dwight Howard and Jeff Green. A source confirmed Howard will receive Washington’s full taxpayer midlevel exception ($5.3 million), and Green will receive the $2.4 million veteran’s minimum. While the moves may not drastically alter their fortunes, the Wizards successfully reeled in experienced talent at a cost that builds in little-to-no risk. Let’s grade the moves.
Following Howard’s unceremonious exit from Charlotte—with the Hornets willing to absorb two years and $32 million of Timofey Mozgov’s presence to unload him—the veteran center finds a relatively soft landing spot in Washington. His market was not especially lucrative, and with DeMarcus Cousins settling for the midlevel exception, it makes sense that Howard would follow suit in a market where few teams have interest or are able to sign players into cap space. The Wizards can offer him a starting spot this season after dealing Marcin Gortat for Austin Rivers, and his minutes should be a necessary upgrade on Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith.
Despite being frequently maligned and with a history of causing issues in locker rooms around the league, Howard averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds while managing to play 81 games for the Hornets last season, and has remained an inarguably productive player as he approaches age 33. He’s averaged a double-double in each of his 14 NBA seasons and should fit neatly into the hole left by Gortat. The question is how much Howard’s numbers contribute directly to team success and how much defensive help he can provide as he ages, with the league’s pace of play and a proliferation of spread offenses working against his strengths.
The Wizards have historically been willing to overlook personalities and off-court troubles to offer players fresh starts. While Washington hasn’t done anything drastic this offseason, shuffling the deck around John Wall (whose max extension kicks in next season), maxed-out Bradley Beal and Otto Porter was a sensible path to potential improvement as the Eastern Conference is destabilized by LeBron James’s move to Los Angeles. They had a hole, they had to plug it, and they did it with a known quantity. With the limited cash on hand, it’s a smart gamble. How well the decision works out will ultimately fall on the balancing act that is keeping Howard engaged and happy. For one year in a salary spot that had to be filled, the move itself is fine, if not earth-shaking.
Headed to his sixth team in five seasons, Green is a bankable-if-inconsistent frontcourt option who, to his credit, just enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in the playoffs with the Cavaliers. A native of the DMV area who attended Georgetown, the 31-year-old forward returns home to try and augment the Wizards’ hopes. He will presumably slide into a role left open by Mike Scott’s departure to the Clippers.
Green averaged 10.8 points and 3.2 rebounds while shooting a career-best 54% on two-point attempts last season, plus 31.2% from three and 86% from the line. While his defensive contributions and overall decision-making can be dubious, a player like Green who has playoff experience, some juice left in the tank and can offer just enough floor-spacing and size should prove useful to the Wizards. Similar to his time in Cleveland, he should benefit from playing off of quality playmakers and scorers that can limit the weight of his responsibility. And while it won’t make a huge dent on their win total, there were certainly worse ways for Washington to address a need.