Atlanta Hawks: Does Resting Dwight Howard for the Playoffs Really Make Sense?

Mar 13, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) sets up for a free throw during the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 13, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) sets up for a free throw during the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

With only 15 games remaining in the Atlanta Hawks regular season, should they sprint towards the finish line, or pace themselves for what they hope will be a long playoff run?

With only two games separating the Hawks (37- 30) and the Raptors (39- 28) for home-court advantage in the first round, is exhausting every last effort to improve upon their position in the standings the best strategy?

The Washington Wizards (41- 26) will be especially hard to catch up with, as Atlanta is trailing them by 4 games for 3rd place in the playoff seeding.

Both John Wall and Bradley Beal are averaging exactly 23.2 points per game, tied for 15th in the league. Under their leadership, Washington has won seven of their last 10 games. They are in the enviable position of not having to face off with the mighty Cavaliers until the Eastern Conference finals, provided that they are able to make it that far.

Atlanta Hawks
Nov 8, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) shoots the ball between Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) and forward Paul Millsap (4) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

Atlanta hopes that the 6’11” Dwight Howard will shore up any previous shortcomings that they may have experienced in the paint during previous playoff battles.

His first season with the Hawks has been an interesting and productive one. He is ranked 4th leaguewide in rebounds with 12.9 per game. He is also the 4th most accurate on field goals, connecting on 63.9 percent of his attempts.

The Hawks transgressions during their last two postseason failures have been well documented, as they were swept by the Cavs on both occasions.

The athleticism and versatility of Al Horford were not things that fared well for Atlanta in those matchups and may have actually worked against them. His tendency to frequently take 3 pointers, meant little, to no, second chance opportunities.

One Cavs player, in particular, Tristan Thompson, was an unstoppable force rebounding the basketball. He has averaged 12.0 boards per game over the course of those 8 contests. Horford was unable to slow him down, largely due to his inability or unwillingness to bang down low, or even box him out.

Dwight’s presence down low should tip the rebounding scales in the Hawks favor for a potential rematch against old opponents.

Howard has played and started in 61 of the Hawks’ 67 games, recording 42 double-doubles. He missed 3 games due to a quad injury that he suffered on Nov. 15th during a road game against the Miami Heat. Coach Budenholzer decided to sit Howard for last Saturday’s 107- 90 win at Memphis, to rest the 12-year veteran.

Atlanta Hawks coach
Sep 26, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer speaks during the Atlanta Hawks media day at The W Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

During his weekly radio show on Hawks flagship station 92.9 the game, “On the Court with Coach Bud”, Budenholzer shed some light on why resting Howard down the stretch makes sense.

Hosts Rick Kamla and John Michaels caught up with the Hawks coach on their midday show. Rick got things started by asking Budenholzer the following:

"“With the playoffs rapidly approaching, does it make sense to rest Dwight during this final stretch of games leading up to the postseason?”“Yes. We’re really conscientious of I think wanting him to be healthy and feeling fresh going into the playoffs. When he has a lot of energy, he’s active, that’s when we’re really good. So, I think that he has played 12 or 13 years in the league and there has been a lot of pounding. He plays so physical that I think he wears teams down. So, the more we can keep him not just healthy, but really feeling great with that great energy, that’s what will be best for us going into the playoffs.” Said Budenholzer."

Since Budenholzer’s group has played so well on the road this season (18- 15), perhaps Atlanta should not set their sights on the 4th seed and home-court advantage in the first round. Outside of the Cavs, there aren’t any teams that Atlanta can’t beat when everything is clicking.

If they can do so without regressing and stumbling into the playoffs, then it could be in the Hawks best interest to drop to the 6th seed. Home advantage or not, they need to dodge the defending champion Cavaliers as long as they can. The 6th seed would allow the Hawks to do that.

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As far as Howard goes, he should be afforded the necessary rest to get him prepared for the playoffs. Atlanta will want to get on a roll and exhibit some consistency for this last month of the marathon that is the NBA annual campaign.

ESPN,, and Bleacher Report were used in this article