The Phoenix Suns find themselves in a good spot right now, thanks to four straight wins that have seen them climb back into the play-in positions having dropped out of contention entirely towards the end of 2023. A bad defeat to the Dallas Mavericks on Christmas Day now feeling like a low point in the season, as opposed to a glimpse into the rest of the campaign.
With Bradley Beal now back and Kevin Durant's hamstring injury not expected to sideline him for very long, we are beginning to get a feel for just how good this group can be when fully healthy. Head coach Frank Vogel now even able to call upon end of bench players such as Bol Bol to help them win games during this period.
If there is one area where the Suns are still a body short though, it is at the center position. Jusuf Nurkic has performed admirably and was one of the most underrated gets of the offseason, while Chimezie Metu has had his moment off the bench as well. Still, it would be nice to have a veteran big man to be able to turn to as the postseason begins to come into focus.
With the Suns having little trade assets to go out and get somebody, is former three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard a player they should be monitoring?
Howard last played in the league in 2022 for the Los Angeles Lakers, the team he won his single championship with back in 2020. He recently signed a deal to go to the Philippines to play for the Strong Group team, having played in Taiwan last season with the Taoyuan Leopards. In what was stint that probably crossed your social media feed, Howard even appeared in a 3-point contest there.
Howard still has designs on playing in the NBA again though, but at 38-years-old that ship may have sailed. Crucially for his chances of doing this, Howard's deal in the Philippines runs until the end of January, just before the trade deadline passes and NBA teams begin to look to the buyout market to consolidate their roster for a postseason run.
The Philippines is hardly the shop window in terms of trying to drum up interest, but should the Suns still be keeping an eye on what Howard is doing? After all, he'd never be thought of as a starter and in all likelihood would be backing up even Metu, but he represents a much more physical, albeit limited, option than Bol at the five.
We recently looked at the merits of the Suns going out and trying to get Andre Drummond of the Chicago Bulls - and if that is a deal that they can pull off with their limited resources - then it is a no brainer to go in that direction. Drummond is nearly a decade younger than Howard, and gobbles up rebounds at an astonishing rate.
If it is not possible to prise Drummond away from The Windy City - or if the more likely event occurs that they are outbid for his services - then they could do worse than turn to Howard. A player who at one time was one of the best in the league and acted as such, but at this point is well aware that he would be a very limited and defined role player for any potential team that he joined.
Rebounding and size inside would be the main reason to go and get him, and going back to his 69 games played for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2020-21, Howard averaged 8.4 rebounds in 17.3 minutes of action. With the Lakers in 2021-22 and on a per 36 minutes basis, Howard was still pulling down 13.2 rebounds.
It would also be fair to say that Howard would have never before played on an offensive team that would suit his ageing skillset so much either. Back when he was the face of the franchise for the Orlando Magic, they put All-Star level talent who could shoot the ball from behind the arc in the form of Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis around him.
Howard obviously wouldn't be featured in any way if he joined the Suns - but he would benefit greatly from sharing the court with Durant, Beal and Devin Booker - just as the current bigs in the rotation do. The buyout market is ideally not where the franchise would want to add a final player to their roster ahead of the playoffs, but they could do worse than check on Howard over the next few months.