Hornets acquire center Dwight Howard in trade with Hawks

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Dwight Howard #8 of the Atlanta Hawks handles the ball during a game against the Charlotte Hornets on March 20, 2017 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dwight Howard is heading to his fifth team in seven seasons — and for the third time Steve Clifford will be there to coach him.

The Charlotte Hornets reunited the Howard-Clifford pairing on Tuesday night in a surprise blockbuster trade with the Atlanta Hawks, the team announced Tuesday night.

In a clear buy-low move for general manager Rich Cho and the Hornets front office, the franchise added Howard and the No. 31 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft in exchange for Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee and this year’s No. 41 overall draft selection.

“We are excited to add a player of Dwight’s stature to our roster,” Cho said in a statement. “He has been a very talented player, an elite rebounder and rim protector as well as a physical presence since the moment he entered the league. Howard’s best seasons came alongside Coach Steve Clifford and we believe their familiarity will make an immediate impact for the Hornets this upcoming season.”

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is owed $47 million over the next two seasons, but the Hornets were able to shift a portion of that cost to Atlanta with Plumlee’s remaining contract (3 years, $37.5 million) and Belinelli’s $6.6 million expiring contract.

Howard continues to struggle finding his place in the faster-paced, shooting-centric NBA game, but he does fit into Clifford’s emphasis on controlling the defensive boards.

“I’m excited about working with Dwight again,” Clifford said in a statement. “He brings a defensive mindset, shot-blocking ability and a level of physicality that will be a huge asset for us. We look forward to him continuing his career here in Charlotte.”

In Howard, the Hornets could find another useful big in their rotation alongside Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky. The 7-footer averaged 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds for his hometown Hawks during the 2016-17 season.

With Howard in place, Cho & Co. can turn to the No. 11 pick in the draft to continue to help build around their core of Zeller, Kemba Walker, Nic Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams and make a return trip to the postseason in 2018.