With the NBA’s regular season fast approaching, the Phoenix Suns continued to be brought up in potential trade rumors. Center Deandre Ayton being the player mentioned more than any, despite incoming head coach Frank Vogel having big plans for him.
At this point it looks likely that Ayton will start the season not only as the Suns’ man in the middle, but also the final piece of their newly formed “Big 4”. As good a job as the front office has done in adding great players to round out their rotation on a budget, we all know that this roster is going to go through some makeovers throughout the campaign.
Which is why the Suns should be keeping tabs on the movements of a future Hall of Famer, but shouldn’t be picking up the phone to call him just yet.
That player would be none other than Dwight Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and one of the defining players of the last 15 years in the league. Whatever your thoughts on his personality or how his career ended with him bouncing around the league, Howard eventually became a serviceable big man.
All it took was the acceptance that the league had changed, and that he was no longer a superstar, for him to fit in with the Los Angeles Lakers and win a championship back in 2020. Now 37-years-old, the rumors recently had been that Howard was going to be offered a deal by the Golden State Warriors. That didn’t not come together, and Howard had this to say about the failed comeback.
Howard spent last season playing in Taiwan, where he did everything from post triple-doubles to make some 3-pointers. Obviously he would not be doing any of that in the NBA – but if he is deemed good enough to possibly be linked to the Warriors – then surely that means he is somebody the Suns should be keeping tabs on?
After all, the likes of Wenyen Gabriel, another former Lakers big man, are where the Suns are at now in terms of possible replacements if a player currently on their roster does not work out. Howard should most certainly come under the same criteria as one to watch once the season starts.
The most obvious individual here who may not see out the season is Bol Bol. The enigmatic and lanky big a disastrous defensive player, but one who provides intrigue on the offensive end. Bol did just this for the Orlando Magic last season, yet found himself stuck to the bench once that team got healthy again.
Even the most optimistic person knows he is going to struggle for minutes, or be any sort of offensive focal point, on a roster featuring Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. One of those three will always be on the court, and even Eric Gordon and Yuta Watanabe are going to see plays drawn up for them before Bol is.
So if he is once again discarded, as he has been before, then it is likely because the Suns are a smooth offensive engine, in need of a defensive upgrade on the fly and on the cheap. Enter Howard. Not only would he be a capable backup for Deandre Ayton, right away he would push Drew Eubanks and Chimezie Metu for minutes.
Howard would obviously come back to play for a contender to try and win another ring, and would be on his best behaviour. Just like he was while with the Lakers a couple of seasons ago. He is in no way the player he once was, but you could trust him defensively a lot more than a player like Bol.
If the Suns were willing to give Bol some run to see what he could produce offensively and live with the results on the other end, the same is true of Howard but in the opposite way. He is experienced enough to be trusted to shut out opponents for a couple of minutes per game, and to get out of the way on the offensive end to let Booker, Durant and Beal cook.
Howard could also act as kind of bodyguard for Durant as well, taking on punishing bruisers during a regular season that the Suns will be doing their best to get through unscathed. This is not about Howard deserving to be back in the league, like Carmelo Anthony before him, but instead it is about acknowledging that he can still give a contender something as their 15th man.
Finally, what if Ayton is actually traded in the middle of the season? Most likely for another big in return, although with these Suns you never know. It could be that a defensive wing comes across, or perhaps the Suns are involved in a three-team deal to get Damian Lillard to the Miami Heat, as has been talked about already.
In that moment, and with the depth chart of the center position having taken a hit, the organization could do a lot worse than have Howard ready to step in and play 15-20 minutes per game. Not the most ideal situation, and one some Suns fans won’t love the idea of, but the reality of having a top-heavy roster of superstars.