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The Golden State Warriors Must Sign Dwight Howard

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Dwight "Superman" Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2013 and there are rumors that the Golden State Warriors are a contender to sign him. Many Warriors fans are against signing Howard because they believe the center is no longer good enough to deserve a maximum free agent contract, but they couldn't be more wrong. I'm here to tell you why Dwight Howard and the Warriors were made for each other.

Why Dwight Howard Must Sign with the Warriors

Throughout the 2012-2013 season the Lakers offense ran through Kobe Bryant, who played the role of both facilitator and primary scoring option. As Howard recovered from offseason back surgery and adjusted to being the second option, his numbers suffered. And when the Lakers got off to a terrible start, Howard shouldered much of the blame.

But when Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon on April 12, Dwight Howard got to take the lead role. During the final two games of the season (wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets), Howard's stats improved significantly, per basketball-reference.com.

Averages before Kobe Bryant's injury: 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, 11.1 field goal attempts

Averages after Kobe Bryant's injury: 21.0 points, 17.5 rebounds, 15 field goal attempts

This production as the focal point suggests that Howard's down season may have a lot to do with his role in the Lakers offense. When the Lakers played through him, he produced at the same elite level as he has in years past. And even though this is a small sample size, advanced statistics suggest Dwight Howard could have been this good all season if given the chance.

2010-2011 in Orlando: 27.2 usage, eFG .593, 21.8 total rebounding percentage, 4.9 block percentage

2011-2012 in Orlando: 26.1 usage, eFG .573, 21.9 total rebounding percentage, 4.4 block percentage

2012-2013 in L.A.: 22.2 usage, eFG .579, 19.1 total rebounding percentage, 4.9 block percentage

Simply put, these numbers indicate that Dwight Howard shot, rebounded and blocked shots roughly as well as he has in recent years. However, his usage percentage (an estimate of Howard's offensive plays while on the court) dropped to its lowest levels since Howard's sophomore season, resulting in fewer scoring chances and a lower scoring average.

When you keep his usage in mind, Dwight Howard's bad season begins to look more like a bad situation in L.A. Looking much healthier at the end of the season, I think Howard is ready to return to being a dominant center in the NBA.

The Warriors, with multiple excellent three point shooters, are the ideal roster for Howard. Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson must be defended out to and beyond the three point line. This means that Dwight Howard will have more room to work in the paint and less help defense to worry about, meaning easier shot attempts and more production.

Why the Warriors Have to Sign Dwight Howard

The resurgent 2012-2013 Warriors ranked fourth in opponents' field goal percentage and first in defensive rebounding percentage. Despite that, the defense still had problem areas Dwight Howard will turn into strengths.

Per basketball-reference.com the Warriors were 22nd in free throws allowed per opponent shot attempt (.211). These free throws are symptomatic of a defense lacking a rim protector, as players who get beat to the rim will foul opponents to prevent easy layups. But free throw attempts are still easy scoring chances for Warriors opponents. And even when Golden State wasn't fouling, the Warriors still allowed opponents to score too easily in the paint. According to Hoopdata.com, the Warriors allowed 65.5% shooting at the rim (17th in the NBA) and 40.9% from three to nine feet (22nd in the NBA).

The Warriors defense was better when center Andrew Bogut was on the court, but he missed 50 out of 82 games for the Warriors in 2012-2013. Bogut was also on a minutes restriction in many games, averaging less than 25 minutes per game played. Players cannot produce when they are on the bench, and Bogut's substantial injury history makes relying on him a risky proposition.

Dwight Howard experienced his own injury problems this season, struggling at the beginning of the year while recovering from offseason back surgery and missing an additional six games due to a torn labrum. But in nine seasons, the 27 year old center has played in 697 of a possible 738 games (94%). Of the 41 games he missed, 28 came during the 2011-2012 campaign leading to his offseason back surgery. With the exception of one year, Dwight Howard has been one of the healthiest players in the NBA.

Offensively, the Warriors were a great team that Dwight Howard will make even better. The Warriors averaged .201 free throws per field goal attempt, 17th in the NBA. Despite being an elite free throw shooting team (.790, fourth in the NBA), the Warriors experienced many scoring droughts during which they couldn't score for minutes at a time, particularly in the playoffs.

Dwight Howard was third in the NBA in free throws attempted (721), which will give the Warriors an easy source of points when their three point shots aren't falling. Even though Howard shot free throws at just .492 this past season, he still made almost 100 more free throws than the Warriors best free throw shooter, Stephen Curry (355 to 262), and almost 300 more than Warriors centers made combined (355 to 66).

How Good are the Warriors with Dwight Howard?

In order to sign Dwight Howard to a maximum contract, the Warriors will likely need to complete a sign-and-trade, giving up a great young prospect (Harrison Barnes) and some salary (Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins collectively represent $34 million in expiring cap money) and perhaps additional draft picks. But the new roster will be fearsome.

A Warriors team built around Stephen Curry and Dwight Howard will be a contender to win the NBA Finals. The duo could become the best inside-out duo the league has ever seen with transcendent three point range and elite interior defense and scoring. As long as the Warriors kept Howard happy with shot attempts, the sky is the limit in a western conference that appears to be wide open for the next several years.

I am not sure if the Warriors will be able or willing to put together a workable deal for Howard. But if they do, he will be well worth the price they pay. For Warriors fans waiting almost 40 years for another contender, Dwight Howard is worth almost any price.

Jared Stearne lives in San Francisco and is a lifelong Warriors fan. He enjoys using advanced statistics as well as game footage to create basketball analysis.

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