Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Howard had been traded to the Memphis Grizzlies and was promptly waived to free up cap room. Meanwhile, the Warriors watched Kevin Durant depart for Brooklyn and signed former Nets star D’Angelo Russell to try to compensate for the loss of Klay Thompson in the backcourt.
But while Howard’s unexpected reunion with the Los Angeles Lakers is panning out better than expected, the Warriors look to be on the cusp of landing a top draft pick just one year removed from their fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals.
Here are more details on Howard, Golden State’s prospective draft plans and discussions about the reward for winning a potential midseason tournament.
Dwight Howard more comfortable in second stint with Lakers
Things did not work out well for the Lakers the last time they brought Howard to Hollywood.
Los Angeles traded for the 33-year-old in the summer of 2012 in an effort to form a “Big Three” of their own. With Howard joining Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant in L.A., the Lakers felt they had the pieces for a title run.
Instead, they won just 45 games and lost in the first round amid chemistry issues and a late-season Achilles injury to Bryant that would force him to miss the playoffs.
Howard, who was a free agent heading into the summer of 2013, elected to take less money to sign with the Houston Rockets rather than return to Los Angeles, marking a bitter and frustrating end for all parties involved.
The former Defensive Player of the Year may have left the Lakers with hard feelings, but he is much more comfortable this time around. Fred Katz of The Athletic reported that he has told people close to him that the current “fit” with the Lakers is much better than it was during the 2012-13 season: “He’s told people close to him the fit with the Lakers last time was funky. Now it is different.”
Los Angeles signed Howard with the expectation that he could provide valuable minutes in the frontcourt. He has responded with steady play, averaging 6.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in under 20 minutes per contest through the first 20 games of the season.
He has excelled alongside a beastly front line that includes Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee, and he ranks fifth among all centers (minimum of 10 games played and at least 18 minutes per game) in terms of net rating, according to NBA.com. He also ranks 13th in rebounding percentage.
The Lakers are in high gear with veterans such as Howard making their presence felt.
Warriors likely to keep top draft pick
The Golden State Warriors fell to 4-18 after they were beaten by the lowly Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, which could well be rock-bottom for a team that has the worst record in the NBA.
Given the Warriors have been unable to recover from a poor start, it is possible they could hold both Stephen Curry and Thompson out even if they are healthy enough to play after the All-Star break.
Klay Thompson has been helpless to stop Golden State’s strugglesJeff Chiu/Associated Press
Russell should return at some point, but the Warriors are still trending toward getting a top pick in next summer’s NBA draft.
According to Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle, Golden State is likely to keep their pick should it land somewhere in the top five.
“I’ve been told that, if the Warriors get the No. 1 pick, they will almost definitely keep it,” he wrote. “If Golden State got another pick in the top-5, I still think there’s a good chance it holds onto the selection.”
It would make sense for the Warriors to retain the pick. They might have the opportunity to select Memphis Tigers center James Wiseman or University of Georgia forward Anthony Edwards, both of whom would fill roster needs while also affording Golden State the opportunity to develop new talent as they prepare for the eventuality of life without Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green.
Draft-pick compensation for potential midseason tournament winner?
The NBA continues to mull new initiatives for the league’s centennial season (2021-22), one of which includes a possible midseason tournament.
Though there is no knowledge about the format of any such competition, there have been discussions about what the reward might look like for the team that is crowned champion.
Marc Stein of the New York Times reported the NBA is considering awarding the winner with an extra draft pick in order to incentivize participation.
Of course, this alone might not do a whole lot to facilitate added participation from teams at the bottom of the conference standings.
If anything, this proposition would appear to be more advantageous to the leading teams in the league because they have the best chance at accruing more draft picks.
Even if this extra pick comes deeper into the draft, NBA fans have watched late-round selections such as Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green blossom into superstars. In other words, the rich would have the chance to get even richer.
Perhaps the NBA will consider some kind handicap to try to balance out the playing field and encourage some of the lesser teams to approve the changes.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless noted otherwise.