Today Dwight Howard announced he won’t be signing a contract extension before the July 1 deadline.. With Howard officially putting Orlando in the clock, the Knicks now must decide whether to go after him or New Orleans point guard Chris Paul III. Both are elite players in the NBA and both are free agents after next season barring any extensions being signed. So the debate begins, who should the Knicks go after? Howard or Paul?
Money: Anybody who says the Knicks don’t have the money to get another superstar doesn’t know what they are talking about. As can be found in the useful links section of this site, the Knicks salary situation for the 2012 season leaves them 17 million dollars to spend under the current salary cap. Now it is probable that the cap will be lowered from the current 58 million dollar cap but with a lower cap will come a lower max contract. In short, it’s very possible for Melo and Amare to drop a couple mil a season to contribute to a 3rd superstar and we will still fit under the cap.
On the court: I believe if given the opportunity to acquire one of these 2 players, there is absolutely no way the Knicks can lose. Chris Paul looked re-energized from his injury in the postseason and looks to build on his strong finish, and when he’s healthy he is one of the top 3 point guards in this league. Dwight Howard is far and away the best center in this league. The sexier pick is Chris Paul, and granted I’d love to see him become a Knick, but if given their pick, I believe the Knicks should sign Dwight Howard. First Howard is 26 and has been injury free while Paul is 26 but has had knee problems and a concussion. The deciding factor for me is how Howard is the best defensive player in today’s NBA. The reigning 3 time NBA defensive player of the year eliminates any inside game an opponent throws towards him. With Melo and Amare’s notoriously lazy defense, Howard would eliminate a lot of defensive deficiencies, especially when it comes to rebounding. On offense, his low post presence would open everything up for Melo and Amare, especially down low. Who on that offense would you double team? It wouldn’t be possible to defend us. As much as I love Chris Paul and he is a great point guard, nobody doubles point guards. Nobody wants to see Paul in a Knicks uniform more than I do, but from a purely basketball standpoint Howard makes more sense for this team. Not only does Howard give the Knicks the center presence we sorely need but he makes everybody else better. He’ll open up the wings for Melo, Toney Douglas, Billups if he’s still around, Fields and the other guys to knock down open 3s. He’ll take double teams off of Amare and Melo and give them more room to operate. We won’t be out rebounded by anybody if we get Howard, he’ll control the glass and allow our defense to cut back on giving up 2nd chance points. While Paul would make us an even better offensive team and provide the ball movement and assists that make offenses go, I believe you can find quality point guards way more easily then you can a dominant center. In today’s era where Howard is far and away the best center with no center even in the same stratosphere, you take the center whenever you can get him.
Conclusion: Go back and look at the great Knick teams of the 90’s, they had Ewing and Starks and a bunch of really good defensive players. Starks was a great player but nowhere on the level of Melo or Amare. If Ewing and a bunch of solid role guys competed against the great Bulls teams, imagine what our big 3 with Dwight could do. Also look at the matchups we’d have against Miami, the team that’s gonna stand between the Knicks and future championships. Miami lacks a great center, I mean Joel Anthony vs Dwight Howard. It’s no contest. Miami’s best offensive game is when they drive and dominate the paint. With the 6’11, 3 time defensive player of the year standing in the paint there is no way Miami would dominate the paint in a 7 game series. With D’antoni’s 7 seconds or less offense making the transition to a halfcourt game, Howard’s post up style of offense would be a great fit. If you look at the Bulls dynasty or this last Laker dynasty, Ron Harper and Derek Fisher were the point guards. Yes they were good point guards but not elite. It’s different for all teams but the past has shown that you can win NBA championships with solid veteran point guards. Its not everyday that Dwight Howard comes walking by, the Knicks would be foolish not to pounce on him in the summer of 2012.