Dwight Howard is one of the greatest defensive players of all time and will end up in the Hall of Fame once his career is over. Despite the fact he was an intimidating interior presence earlier on in his career, Howard has become somewhat of a journeyman by playing for 7 different franchises since 2013. As a result, Howard’s legacy is a difficult one to analyze.
But when looking back at his career, with all the highs and the lows, there is no denying that Howard was an impactful center for the majority of his time in the league. Here is how Dwight’s career has looked like, from his rookie season until the upcoming 2022 season where he will suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers for the 3rd stint in his career.
Orlando Magic 2004-2012
Coming into the NBA as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 Draft, Howard did not disappoint. The big man averaged 12.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, and 1.7 BPG while starting all 82 games for the Magic. Despite being raw and not fully developed, he showed enough promise to be a franchise center and made the All-Rookie Team.
The next 2 years would see Howard blossom into an All-Star, becoming one in his 3rd year. Dwight would be on a path to becoming a superstar shortly, as he would lead the league in rebounds 5 times over the next 6 years with the Magic. He would also lead the league in blocks twice during that span.
By far, Dwight Howard was at his best with Orlando as the best was yet to come. He won 3 Defensive Player of the Year Awards in a row, from 2009 until 2011, and made the NBA Finals in 2009. Dwight was by far the best big man in the NBA when he was an All-Star with the Magic, and this stint alone is enough to place him in the Hall of Fame as one of the best defensive players ever.
Los Angeles Lakers 2012-2013
Howard’s time with the Magic ended rather abruptly after he fell out with management and then-head coach Stan Van Gundy, prompting a decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers. In a trade that would send Lakers big man Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia, Howard would join a long list of great Lakers big men including George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal. Unfortunately, that pressure and nagging injuries prevented Howard from being a dominant player in Los Angeles.
Dwight still made the All-Star Team averaging 17.1 PPG and 12.4 RPG, but he could not help an “old” Lakers squad featuring the likes of Pau Gasol and Steve Nash. Howard also did not get along with Kobe Bryant, and head coach Mike Brown was not suitable for the team. It was an overall disaster, as the Lakers were swept in 4 games in the first round of the playoffs.
Houston Rockets 2013-2016
Dwight Howard was one of the key free agents after the 2013 season and opted to join James Harden in Houston after The Beard became a perennial All-Star. With Howard and Harden on board, the Rockets felt like they were a championship contender and in many ways, they were.
Howard would make his 8th straight All-Star Team (and his final one) with the Rockets in 2014, helping Harden lead the Rockets to a 54-28 record under head coach Kevin McHale. Houston would lose in the first round against the Portland Trail Blazers, although the improvement was on the horizon.
The following season, the Rockets finished with a 56-26 record and were primed for a deep playoff run. Howard only played 41 games, but a dominant James Harden kept the team afloat. The Rockets made the Western Conference Finals after dealing with the Mavericks and coming back in 7 games against the Clippers, but they fell in 5 games to the Warriors. Rumblings about Howard’s diminishing impact were also starting to become apparent in Houston.
The next season, it was clear Howard’s time as a superstar was officially over. The big man played 71 games, but could not guide the Rockets to strong seeding in the West with a 41-41 record. But with Harden on the team, Dwight certainly believed they had enough to make another playoff push. But once again, Howard could not avoid a first-round exit as a Damian Lillard buzzer-beater sent the Rockets home and ended the big man’s stint with the Rockets in another ugly breakup.
Atlanta Hawks 2016-2017
Dwight Howard could not get along with James Harden, complaining about the lack of touches he received in the offense. As expected, the big man rejected his player option to remain with the Rockets and became an unrestricted free agent. He signed a $70 million contract to play for the Hawks, a decision to play for his hometown team. Howard would go on to appear in 74 games, averaging 13.5 PPG and 12.7 RPG, but he was no longer an All-Star and that became apparent mid-way through the season.
Charlotte Hornets 2017-2018
Howard was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in somewhat of a salary dump because the Hawks knew they were not going to win a championship with the big man on the roster. The Hornets happily accepted the former All-Star, as the big man would only appear in 81 games and averaged 16.6 PPG and 12.5 RPG. But once again, Howard was traded to the Nets where he was immediately waived. Since the final season of his Rockets stint, it was clear Howard would no longer get a big contract and would never return to All-Star form.
Washington Wizards 2018-2019
In July of 2018, Dwight Howard signed with the Washington Wizards although he would miss all of training camp and the first 7 games of the regular season. Howard would go on to play 9 games in total, before being shut down for the rest of the year due to multiple injuries. Unsurprisingly, Dwight was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies where he was waived over a month later.
Los Angeles Lakers 2019-2020
At 34 years of age, Dwight Howard signed a veteran’s minimum deal to return to the Los Angeles Lakers for a second chance with the Purple and Gold. Dwight accepted a minimum role and wanted to do anything to win his first championship ring. Although he only played 18.9 MPG averaging 7.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG, Howard would go on to play valuable minutes for the Lakers in the postseason. Certainly, playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis did not hurt.
Whether starting alongside Davis or coming off the bench, Howard did his job and deserved his NBA ring.
Philadelphia 76ers 2020-2021
After winning his first championship, Howard would sign with the Philadelphia 76ers with the hopes of trying to win his second ring. Dwight would appear in 69 games, averaged 7.0 PPG and 8.4 RPG in 17.3 MPG. Dwight was very effective as Joel Embiid’s backup, and even at 35 years old, he proved he can still be a role player for title contenders.
Los Angeles Lakers 2021-2022
With a chance to win his second championship, Howard signed with the Lakers for his 3rd stint with the team this offseason. The big man has a fantastic chance to win a title alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, and getting a 2nd ring before his retirement could be one of the best forms of icing on his cake on a Hall of Fame career. Although Howard bounced around the league later in his career and had ugly breakups with title-contending teams, his defensive dominance as a member of the Magic cannot be denied and will be remembered as one of the best centers of his generation.