The Sixers came to terms with a big-name big man on Friday night.
Dwight Howard will sign a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum with the Sixers, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported the news.
It was an interesting few hours for Howard, who tweeted earlier Friday that he was returning to the Lakers, then deleted the tweet. According to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, Howard was under the impression that a one-year, $3 million "deal concept" from the Lakers meant he'd be re-signing. Haynes reports that the Sixers were "ultra-aggressive" in pursuing Howard while the Lakers' front office waited on ownership to approve an official offer, and that Joel Embiid began recruiting him.
An eight-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard is past his prime at 34 years old but was solid for the Lakers last year in a bench role, averaging 7.5 points and 7.3 rebounds for the NBA champions. Howard's last All-Star season was with the Rockets in 2013-14, his first year after signing with a Daryl Morey team for the first time.
He’ll give head coach Doc Rivers a traditional big man option, something that Morey — now the Sixers' president of basketball operations — mentioned early Thursday morning.
“I do think you like to have optionality in how you play behind Joel,” Morey said. “I think Doc and his staff could get very creative with unique lineups where Ben is featured and we sort of build a system around him like I’ve done in the past and Doc’s done in the past. There’s a chance to play really unique, up-tempo, spacing, shooting lineups.
“But I also like adding a big just so Doc has all the tools to basically attack who we’re playing in different ways. I think the main thing is never force anything. Actually having a perceived opening of a big often allows Doc to go to work and use his amazing recruiting skills, which I think is the best I’ve ever seen at the coach position, to get top players to consider here because they see a path and an opportunity.”
The team had a hole at backup center after trading Al Horford to the Thunder on Wednesday night. Though Horford didn’t fit well in Philadelphia, he was valuable as Embiid’s backup and as an insurance policy.
In the event of an Embiid injury, Howard appears well-suited to stepping into a starting role and providing competent center play. That seems to be good value for a minimum contract.