Earlier Wednesday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Charlotte Hornets had traded Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets for center Timofey Mozgov, two second-round picks and cash. The trade is another in a long list of moves for Howard, who was officially a part of his sixth trade in seven years. They have been many interesting tidbits coming from the pre-draft interview process from both players and team officials. Prospects like Mo Bamba have helped their draft stock through interviews, while players like Michael Porter Jr. have only brought about more questions.
The Chicago Bulls hold the No. 7 and No. 22 picks on Thursday night's draft, and the players selected figure to be long-term fixtures in the Bulls future. And that is exactly why Howard's career serves as a sort of precautionary tale.
Dwight Howard was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2004 NBA Draft, two years before high school players were no longer allowed to enter the draft. There were of course huge success stories such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James. But there was also a much longer list of high school prospects who did not pan out in the league. Howard was different, a man-child who was widely viewed as the top prospect in a somewhat weak draft class. But there had always been whispers that despite being such a dominant force on the court, his goofy, fun-loving nature may not lend itself well to long-term stability.
And sure enough, following eight successful years in Orlando, Howard decided he wanted out....badly. In 2012 Howard demanded that he get traded to the Nets. This is fairly normal for a disgruntled star player. The unique part of his case was that he went on to claim that the Orlando Magic front-office blackmailed him into signing his opt-in clause, disallowing him from becoming a free agent the upcoming summer. Howard eventually got his way and ended up a part of a four-team trade that shipped him off to the Los Angeles Lakers. Many expected him to thrive in the city that has had their share of Hall of Fame bigs.
But during his tenure with the Lakers he drew some very critical criticism from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar went on to say: "Dwight Howard is a perfect example of the fact that ‘potential has a shelf life.’ "
This all relates back to the Bulls because they (and Gar Forman specifically) have a long history of drafting high-character players. This is a strategy that many not be of much concern now, with Chicago hoping to land a steal at No. 7. But if the Bulls have any character concerns with their top-rated prospect at No. 7, I would heavily encourage them to trade down rather than shoehorn a prospect into a locker room with a lot of mouths to feed.
Lauri Markkanen is a burgeoning star who will needs more shots as he matures his post-game. Kris Dunn was handed the keys to the offense last season, and finally started to show off the potential that made him a top-five draft pick. And Zach LaVine—often looked at as the central piece of the Jimmy Butler trade—is due for a new contract. And he will surely be looking to have a big year after an abbreviated 2017-18 season that saw him finish the year with a dreadful 49.9 true shooting percentage.
This is all to say that character should be amongst the chief concerns of the Bulls front office Thursday night. Wendell Carter Jr. has been impressive during his interviews, sounding like a player who is looking to simply fit in. Bamba and Trae Young both spoke at length about how well they would fit in with this current Bulls roster. And Porter Jr.—perhaps the fan favorite for No. 7 at the time—has spoke quite a bit about how confident he is in his abilities, as well as making some lofty comparisons to some of the NBA's best wing players. He is not doubt a talented player, but the possibility of him affecting the locker room negatively is a real concern with Fred Hoiberg having such a young and impressionable group.
Howard was clearly the top prospect in 2004. And even if he had forecasted the flaws that have led to him being traded so much during his career, the Magic still would've taken him No. 1 overall. And that is not a good thing. A "boring" draft pick would be sure to infuriate Bulls fans everywhere on draft night, but a boring pick may be essential for a team that needs to exercise patience in building up what could be a formidable roster down the road.