The Brooklyn Nets have a significant need for a backup center behind Nic Claxton. Several veteran free agents such as DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Dwight Howard have been mentioned as veterans who could fill the position.
Howard appeared on the Club Shay Shay Podcast with Shannon Sharpe Monday, and the eight-time All-Star said that he has already approached the Nets about joining the team this season.
“I asked to come to Brooklyn, I talked to them. They said they need a big that can shoot,” Howard revealed.
Dwight Howard Talks About His Relationship with The Brooklyn Nets & What they told him Recently. Thoughts?
H/T (@ClubShayShay) pic.twitter.com/GGw1IP85vS
— NetsKingdom 👑🗽 (@NetsKingdomAJ) October 31, 2022
Dwight Howard played 60 games for the Lakers last season, averaging 6.2 points and 5.9 rebounds. The 36-year-old said that he was confident in what he could have added to Brooklyn this season.
“I felt like that would’ve been a great pickup, a big that can protect the rim, play good pick and roll defense, and rebound,” he said. “The pick and roll with KD, Kyrie, and Ben Simmons, I felt like that would’ve been lethal with me in it because I know for sure that KD and Kyrie are gonna get the most wide-open shots they could possibly ever get coming off a pick from me.”
“And I felt like my presence on defense is something that would’ve been necessary,” Howard continued. “Just the fact that I’ve been in the league for 18 years going on 19, I understand basketball on a different level, so I feel like I could’ve helped that team out a lot.”
While Howard was surprised by Brooklyn’s decision to hold out for a stretch big, shooting in the frontcourt has been a glaring need this season. Ben Simmons’ fit alongside non-shooting centers in Nic Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe has been problematic. The lack of spacing offensively has been evident, with the Nets ranking 20th in 3-pointers attempted and 25th in 3-point percentage at 32.8 percent.
Through four games, the Nets played some of their best stretches with Simmons on the floor without Claxton or Sharpe, making significant jumps in offensive, defensive and net rating. Lineups featuring Claxton on the floor without Simmons were also successful early, posting a positive net rating of 20.12 in 41 minutes during that span, per PBP Stats.
This forced head coach Steve Nash to bench Sharpe and frequently separate Simmons and Claxton during the Nets’ last two games. Playing Simmons at the five was always going to be a part of Brooklyn’s offense. However, those lineups will struggle to defend and rebound against bigger teams, making a floor-spacing center to play alongside Simmons a massive need.
The Victor Wembanyama tank race could help Brooklyn in this regard. The 7’4″ big man put the league on notice in a pair of Las Vegas exhibitions earlier this month. Wembanyama scored 73 points on 22-for-44 shooting with nine threes, 15 rebounds and nine blocked shots in the two games.
Several teams with tank potential have talented stretch bigs that they could trade to boost their odds of landing the once-in-a-lifetime prospect. Myles Turner, Lauri Markkanen, Kelly Olynyk, P.J. Washington and more fall into this category.
Lauri Markkanen dropped 24 PTS in the @utahjazz victory, marking his 3rd game of the szn with 24+ PTS!
🎺 @MarkkanenLauri: 24 PTS (66.7 FG%), 9 REB pic.twitter.com/ole7xoIl24
— NBA (@NBA) October 27, 2022
Dwight Howard’s comments, along with fit issues surrounding Simmons and Claxton, are telling signs of Brooklyn’s intentions at the center position. The Nets have several mid-sized contracts as well as young prospects and a pair of future first-round picks to use in a trade. With the need for a floor-spacing center becoming more glaring each game, expect general manager Sean Marks to be active canvassing the market for a solution.