Examining the diminished trade value of Dwight Howard

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Apr 2, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) reacts in the second quarter against Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Nets win 91-82. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks could be rebuilding its entire roster this offseason, but center Dwight Howard may not fetch much of a return on the trade market.

Less than a year after the Atlanta Hawks signed Dwight Howard to a three-year, $70.5 million deal, his valuation in the trade market is an an all-time low.

As the team contemplates its future, with a dramatic reshaping of its front office and facing a critical decision on the likelihood of Paul Millsap becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1, the team may be limited with its options in the middle.

Despite ranking fifth in the NBA by averaging 12.7 rebounds a night, along with 13.5 points and a team-high 1.2 blocks per game, Howard may not command much value this summer on the trade market.

The eight-time All-Star reportedly isn’t highly regarded around the league and according to ESPN, Howard is worth essentially as much as a throw-in for any trade.

At the trade deadline three months ago, Atlanta landed a second round draft pick and cash considerations from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for backup forward Mike Scott, even as he faces legal issues stemming from an arrest on felony drug charges two years ago.

At age 31, Howard is coming off an impressive debut season in his hometown. He totaled 53 double-doubles, sixth-most in the NBA, and ranked fourth in the league by converting 63.3 percent of his attempts from the field, a number propped up by his 199 dunks.

His rebounding rates were phenomenal, as he ranked fourth in offensive rebounding rate and fifth in defensive rebounding rate.

Only he failed to provide the same impact during Atlanta’s opening round playoff series against the Wizards.

Even though he averaged 10.7 rebounds a night and posted four games with 10 or more rebounds, he registered just one double-double.

His 16-point effort in Game 4 was the only time he posted a double figure scoring total in the series, as he was held to 48 points on 50 percent shooting during the six-game set.

The trade market for Howard has plummeted as his post game is nearly non-existent and his rim protection has drastically declined. For the first time in his career, Howard failed to reach 100 blocks while playing more than 50 games.

His impact was diminished even further during the playoffs, as coach Mike Budenholzer often left Howard on the bench in late-game situations, opting to play small-ball instead.

Howard’s impact above a replacement player, just an average player, was essentially nothing for the second straight year in the playoffs — perhaps a direct correlation to the haul the Hawks could receive in the trade market this summer.

The other 29 teams in the league may be more hesitant to land Howard’s contract, more than his production. Howard still has two years and $47 million remaining on his deal, and if the salary cap lands in the $102 million range for next season, as expected, he would account for nearly 20 percent of the total salary.

The frontcourt for the Hawks could look dramatically different, even if the team declines to move Howard in a trade.

Atlanta is preparing for Paul Millsap to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, as he can opt out of his contract. By exercising his player option, Millsap could be in line for a raise of more than $15 million next season, and could have plenty of suitors in the open market.

The Hawks have let other talented frontcourt players depart in free agency, as the team has hesitated in offering max contracts to players potentially heading for a decline.

Al Horford signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston a year ago, while DeMarre Carroll joined the Raptors by signing a four-year, $60 million contract two years ago.

Millsap, a 32-year-old forward, completed his 11th season in the league and could command as much as 35 percent of Atlanta’s total salary cap.

With the team at a critical junction, deciding if a complete rebuild of a team that went 43-39 is a necessity, or if Howard is an essential piece going forward.

If not, the Hawks should prepare to give away a player expected to transform the team into a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.

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