Well, this is a weird and deflating cap to a crazy day in the National Basketball Association. According to ESPN, the Atlanta Hawks have agreed to ship Dwight Howard and the 31st pick in Thursday’s draft to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for one of the less talented Plumlee brothers (Miles), guy-who-can-shoot-who-you-probably-remember-from-the-Spurs Marco Belinelli, and the 41st pick in the draft.
The Hornets have been looking for a strong defensive and rebounding presence in the post for a couple of years now. They’ve filtered through Bismack Biyombo and the corpse of Roy Hibbert, and now they’ll give Howard a shot. Though he’s coming off a career-low statistical season, Howard was serviceable for the Hawks and, most notably, was able to stay on the court for all but eight of their regular season games. He’ll never go back to being the Dwight of old, but maybe pairing him with head coach Steve Clifford, who held staff positions in Los Angeles and Orlando during Howard’s stints in both cities, could help to bring a little more out of him on both ends of the floor. This trade also rids them of Plumlee’s contract, which is nice because Plumlee’s contract is long and expensive.
For the Hawks, this deal is primarily useful because it gets them out from under the remaining two years of Howard’s large contract. Everything for the Hawks this off-season hinges on whether or not they can re-sign Paul Millsap, and this move opens up some cap space to help them with some of their contingency plans. If Millsap stays, they now have some cap flexibility to retool around him; if not, they have more money to throw at second-tier free agents who they can audition for the future. Belinelli is a nice haul, too. His shooting makes him a good fit next to Millsap, and if Millsap splits, the team should be able to find a bubble contender interested in his shooting to ship him off to for assets.
Still, let’s not make too much of this. This deal doesn’t really move the needle too much for either team this offseason. It’s a lateral move, even if Dwight Howard is still a big name in the league. Unless one of those two second-rounders blossoms into a bonafide NBA player, this isn’t a trade we’ll remember a year from now.