The Prodigal Son Returns: Dwight Comes Home

Feb 19, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) looks on against the Phoenix Suns during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 19, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) looks on against the Phoenix Suns during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

After many years of chasing a big name, the Atlanta Hawks have their man. Atlanta native, Dwight Howard has agreed to a deal to come home. What does this mean for the Hawks and the rest of their free agency plans?

The Now

As reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical, Dwight Howard has agreed to a 3-year/$70.5 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks. This is a move that is expected to attract a variety of positive and negative views but one thing is for certain, the Hawks have made a big move.

This is a move that certainly addresses weaknesses for the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks have been eaten alive on the boards and pushed around on the inside for the past several years and they now have an imposing inside force. While he is not the player that carried Orlando to the NBA Finals several years ago, he is still an elite rebounder and a very good defender. His lack of shooting range is a concern for his fit with the Hawks’ offense, but he provides a nice post presence and is an offensive rebounding machine on the inside. This is an element that the Hawks have not had and Howard could clean up the boards, providing extra possessions for the team. While he also gives Dennis Schroder a pick-and-roll/alley-oop partner. For more on the basketball fit, check out this piece.

But we have to assume that coming home was one of the more appealing factors in Dwight’s signing with the Hawks. While he has denied the Hawks several times over the years, this is the perfect time for him to return to Atlanta. His reputation has taken a hit as a locker room problem due to his disputes with past coaches and teammates. But where has he been where there is a good structure and culture like the Hawks are building? Kobe was never easy to play with. The Rockets were a mess and James Harden didn’t help by not playing defense. Here at home, Howard can thrive because our city will love him. We can finally call Dwight Howard ours, 100%. The turmoil on past teams clearly affected him and our city can help bring the best out of him. Combine that with the new basketball elements that he brings to the Hawks, we could see the best Dwight that we have seen in years.

How Will This Affect Further Moves?

Obviously, this will bring questions about the future of Al Horford. It is reported that the Hawks are “reluctant” to give Horford the fifth year of a contract that only the Hawks can offer. But there are also rumblings that the Hawks want to bring him back and team him with Howard and Paul Millsap. This would create a minutes conundrum but will provide a loaded front court. But if we were to assume anything, it would be that the team is fearful of losing Horford.

What about Kent Bazemore? The team still wants to retain him but he is commanding a high price in the range of $19-$20 million per year (according to ESPN). Will the Hawks be wiling to pay that high price? We must be skeptical of that after spending 2 first-round picks on wing players. If Bazemore leaves, maybe the Hawks could target cheaper options like Courtney Lee (whom they have been linked to)? We will have to wait and see, but the Hawks are making big moves.


For all Georgia and Atlanta natives, you probably have a bittersweet taste in your mouth after this news. Dwight’s red flags are real and that must scare fans that have finally felt a sense of structure with the Hawks. Atlanta teams have been notorious for being good, but not championship contender good. A city that is famous for coming close, but not getting the cigar.

But if we are to win, it should be with one of our own. Like Cleveland did with Lebron James, Atlanta needs a face and a pillar that can feel their pain and work tirelessly to destroy it. Dwight came home to become an adored hero and that is exactly what he will be if he helps deliver a title to Atlanta. At this point, fans should be willing to take the risk. Being stuck in the middle in the NBA for so long, the Hawks are trying to take the leap to that desired championship level. We will rise or fall with Dwight Howard. Whether we like it or not. Howard is more than just the new face of the Atlanta Hawks, he is the face of our city. And if we are to win, the victory should be all ours and Dwight is all ours. As a lifelong Atlanta sports fan and resident, I will say that I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Welcome Home, Dwight.