After what appears to have been a successful transition to an off-the-bench role for Dwight Howard in his second go-round with the Los Angeles Lakers, could he be continuing the journeyman path his career has taken since the mid-2010s and signing elsewhere next summer as a free agent? As a new report suggests, that might be the case, as he is one of several big men whom the Boston Celtics could ideally target in the 2020 offseason after failing to make a splash before last Thursday's trade deadline.
As pointed out on Bleacher Report by Greg Swartz, the Celtics were among this season's top trade deadline "losers," as they stood put while other Eastern Conference contenders like the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat were involved in trades that landed them capable role players, such as Alec Burks for the former team and Andre Iguodala for the latter. The conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks, on the other hand, are expected to sign free-agent forward Marvin Williams, who was recently waived by the Charlotte Hornets.
With all that in mind, Swartz believes Boston might have no choice but to solve their big man problem by targeting experienced players who may be willing to sign for a veteran minimum deal or a mid-level exception. Aside from Howard, the Bleacher Report writer suggested the likes of Marc Gasol (Toronto Raptors), Paul Millsap (Denver Nuggets), and Robin Lopez (Bucks) as would-be free agents who could fit this billing.
While the Celtics likely won't be the only suitor for Howard if he doesn't re-sign with Los Angeles this summer, The Inquisitr previously reported that the former Defensive Player of the Year isn't expected to re-sign for the veteran's minimum once his contract comes up. He is, however, seen by league executives as a player who could earn a "good part" of a team's mid-level exception.As shown on his Basketball-Reference player page, the 34-year-old Howard is averaging a career-low 7.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in 19.6 minutes per game for the Lakers. He is, however, still contributing significantly on defense with an average of 1.3 blocks per game, and is also shooting an excellent 74 percent from the field. With the former All-NBA mainstay playing a key role off the bench and complementing superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers currently lead the Western Conference with a 40-12 record.
As for the Celtics, who rank third in the Eastern Conference with a 37-15 record, there might be hope for the team if they're planning to sign a top-tier free agent instead of settling for someone such as Howard. Swartz explained that if Gordon Hayward opts out of the final year of his contract -- which will pay him $34.2 million in the 2020-21 campaign -- Boston could free up some much-needed salary-cap space. He added, however, that the veteran forward/guard is expected to opt in due to the lack of rival "teams with money to spend," while fellow wingman Jaylen Brown's lucrative four-year extension is set to kick in next season.