Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets acquiring center Dwight Howard

Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller (right) drives against the Atlanta Hawks’ Dwight Howard during an NBA game last November in Charlotte.
Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller (right) drives against the Atlanta Hawks’ Dwight Howard during an NBA game last November in Charlotte. AP

The Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks completed a trade Tuesday night that sent multi-time All-Star center Dwight Howard to the Hornets.

The Hawks get center Miles Plumlee and shooting guard Marco Belinelli. In addition, the Hornets and Hawks will switch second-round picks in Thursday’s draft, meaning the Hornets will select 31st overall and the Hawks will select 41st.

The deal was first reported by ESPN.

Howard, 31, will enter his 14th NBA season in October. Last season, his first with his hometown Hawks, he averaged 13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for a Hawks team that made the playoffs. Under terms of the contract Howard signed last summer, he will make $23.5 million each of the next two seasons.

Trades have become the Hornets’ most impactful tool for roster improvement under general manager Rich Cho. Two summers ago, the Hornets acquired shooting guard-small forward Nic Batum from the Portland Trail Blazers for forward Noah Vonleh and shooting guard Gerald Henderson.

The Hornets took a step back defensively last season, finishing 36-46 and out of the playoffs after winning 48 games the previous season. Howard should provide the rim protector/rebounder the Hornets hoped they were getting last summer when they signed Roy Hibbert. Knee injuries scuttled Hibbert’s season, and he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in a package for Plumlee.

In part due to injury, Plumlee didn’t work out for the Hornets. The plan was for Plumlee to back up Cody Zeller at center and upgrade a second unit that struggled last season.

Howard and Hornets coach Steve Clifford have a long history together from when Clifford was an assistant coach for the Orlando Magic, working for Stan Van Gundy.

Howard was among the last high school seniors to go straight into the NBA draft before the rule was changed. Now, players United States players can’t make themselves available for the draft until a year removed from their high school class graduating.

Howard was the top pick of the 2004 NBA draft, one spot ahead of Emeka Okafor going to the then-Charlotte Bobcats.

Howard (6-foot-11 and 265 pounds) has career averages of 17.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and two blocks. He has been selected for eight All-Star appearances.

Howard played his first eight seasons for the Magic, then for the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and the Hawks.

The 31st pick, first in the second round, was originally owned by the Brooklyn Nets, who moved it to the Hawks in a previous trade.

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell

  Comments