Dwight Howard: Impending Free-Agent Center Doesn’t Deserve Max Contract

If written three or four months ago, this headline would read as downright sensationalism, and for many people—staunch D12 apologists in particular—that's probably still the case.

But after what I've seen this season, it's also very much the truth. Dwight Howard does not deserve a max contract this summer.

Let's start with some basics.

Dwight Howard is only 27 years old. He already has three Defensive Player of the Year awards, and in 2009, he led an awkward band of misfits to the NBA Finals. At this point last season, he was a consensus top-five player in basketball—maybe better. Even more unanimous than that merit was his claim to the throne of the world's best center.

This summer he'll be an unrestricted free agent; for the first time in his career, Dwight's future will be in his own Brobdingnagian hands. And for all the reasons outlined above, it's hard to picture a world where someone doesn't throw him a max contract.

But what should happen and what likely will happen are often very different things. Just because Howard's gonna get paid like a max player doesn't mean he is one.

Dwight was determined to start from Day 1 this season, but that haste appears to have taken a serious toll on him. After undergoing back surgery in April, he's never looked fully healthy since arriving in Los Angeles. And now a new shoulder injury has only made things look bleaker.

On Sunday's B.S. Report podcast, Grantland editor Bill Simmons discussed this very issue with Ric Bucher and Marc Stein. Here are some highlights of what The Sports Guy had to say:

"From what you guys have seen from Dwight Howard, would you give him a $100 million, five-year max deal? Because I would not. I really think he's breaking down just completely.

We've seen it before in basketball ... I think when big men lose their athleticism, it's very...

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