With the NBA trade deadline looming at 3 p.m. on Thursday, rumors about whether Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard is moving, and where, have intensified. ESPN senior writer Zach Lowe suggested Tuesday that the Wizards could be a possible suitor with a package including Marcin Gortat.
“Failing to make the playoffs in the Year of Durant would be catastrophic, and possibly lead to blood-letting across the organization,” Lowe wrote. “The Wizards are getting Alan Anderson back soon as a pseudo-deadline acquisition, but that doesn’t feel like enough, and teams that fall short of expectations are prone to bad short-term moves. Washington is already asking around about reserve big men, league sources say.”
Washington probably isn’t a likely destination for Howard but even the interest seems absurd. The only real upgrade Howard would provide over Gortat is rebounding and even that’s a minor upgrade. His 12-rebound average is just two more a game than Gortat’s. Defensively, Howard is an upgrade but his Basketball-Reference.com defensive rating — an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions — is 104, just one point less than Gortat’s. Additionally, Howard averages 1.5 blocks, only slightly ahead of Gortat’s 1.3 average. The risks of potentially losing Howard in free agency, to injury, or interrupting John Wall’s chemistry with his center far outweigh the best-case-scenario benefits of maybe cracking the playoffs and being eliminated in the second round again.
The player Washington should be targeting is Kevin Love. The Wizards need an upgrade at power forward as Jared Dudley isn’t a long-term option. Dudley shoots the three at an incredible rate, but his lack of rebounding leaves a lot to be desired. Adding Love’s 10.3 rebounds a game to what Gortat already brings would immediately improve Washington’s league-low rebound total without significantly sacrificing the long ball. Love isn’t shooting as well from deep as Dudley this season but a lot of that can be attributed to the system in Cleveland. And at .368 he still shoots it pretty well. Playing next to Wall, a willing passer at point guard adept at creating open shots for his teammates, Love could excel more than he ever would in Cleveland. Washington could package any combination of Nene, Dudley, Kelly Oubre, and draft picks to make the money work. The only possible downside is if Love’s contract affects Washington’s chances of pursuing Kevin Durant this offseason. Any deal affecting a Durant chase would be averted. If Washington does decide to make a move at the deadline, however, a move for Love makes more sense than a move for Howard.