NBA: 3 players maximizing the value of minimum contracts

NBA Milwaukee Bucks Wesley Matthews (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
NBA Milwaukee Bucks Wesley Matthews (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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NBA Los Angeles Lakers Dwight Howard (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

2. Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers

If someone told you in 2009 that Dwight Howard would be virtually irrelevant by 2017, you would understandably think they were crazy. The man was a mega-star in his early 20s and the face of the franchise that won the East. Howard’s tenure in Orlando alone should put him in the Hall of Fame, but his career took a nosedive as soon as he left.

In the years following, Howard has become a true journeyman. Having brief affairs with several franchises, with each season more disappointing than the last. However, everything has changed thus far in Los Angeles.

Dwight Howard has been far better than anyone (rationally) expected. The former perennial All-Star has finally set his ego aside and embraced his complementary role. Howard is averaging career lows in points, rebounds, and minutes, but he’s sacrificing his numbers for the good of the team.

Like many role players, the advanced stats detail his contributions. Howard boasts a stellar 102 defensive rating, a career-high in BLK% (block percentage), and a 3.2 DBPM (Defensive Box Plus-Minus), which is his best since Orlando. Offensively, Howard is no longer the inefficient ball-stopper he once was, and he’s posting career-highs in TS% (.697) and points per shot. After being on seven teams in only a few seasons, Howard has finally proved that he can contribute without being heavily featured in the game plan.

The Lakers’ pursuit of a championship-caliber roster was well-documented over the summer. And like most teams with championship aspirations, the Lakers had very little financial flexibility. The financial constraints and a season-ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins forced Los Angeles to sign Howard, a decision that was immediately criticized.

However, “Dwight-bola” appears to be a thing of the past; and he’s playing exactly how the franchise hoped he would. Howard’s newfound team-focused approach has made him a contributor for a title contender, and he’s rewriting the narrative of a once selfish player in the process.