Yes. And I'll give Lin, maybe a stretch, but Asik is a very solid Center that can be a key piece with the other players.
Dwight probably is past his prime. He has been declining for a while now, and not all of it is due to injuries.
Remember when Mike Tyson came out of prison and wasn't the same boxer anymore, even though he looked like the same guy? That's Dwight Howard since 2011's NBA lockout. He's not a force of nature anymore. The Eye Test backs it up, and so do the results: Howard dragged a 219-102 record from four half-decent Magic teams from 2008 to 2011, then went just 75-55 in these past two seasons once his body started breaking down. There's been a not-so-subtle dip in his offensive numbers …
2011: 22.9 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 59% FG, 60% FT, 227 dunks, 26.0 PER (second in NBA)
2013: 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 58% FG, 49% FT, 187 dunks, 19.4 PER (38th)
… and defensively, Dwight isn't the NBA's most impactful player anymore. You would rather have Marc Gasol or Joakim Noah, both of whom are just better at anchoring a defense. Throw in the undeniable injury risks, the maturity issues, and the words "not even a hint of any leadership whatsoever" and, um, why would I want to give him $118 million again? We'll tackle this in detail before free agency kicks off.
… and defensively, he wasn't the league's dominant shot-blocker/rebounder anymore. You could argue that Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol AND Roy Hibbert are better at anchoring a defense than he is. (In fact, I think I just did.) Remember when Orlando sneaked into the 2009 Finals thanks to timely 3-point shooting and a monster two-way performance by Dwight?6 In the past 40 years, only Kareem, Dave Cowens, Moses Malone, Duncan, Shaq and Howard averaged a 20-15 in the postseason for a Finals team. That's five Hall of Famers plus Dwight, including four of the best players ever.
You could interpret that 2009 run two ways: either as "that was only four years ago," or as "that was FOUR FULL YEARS AGO."
My take: He's not the same guy. Back surgery didn't help, obviously. Nine years of lesser players body-blocking him, yanking his arms and hammering him from behind — that didn't help, either. New Dwight looks like a slightly hampered, less athletic, more headcase-y version of Old Dwight. That's not a smart $118 million investment whether you're ridiculously wealthy or not — especially when prohibitive luxury tax rules restrict your ability to use free-agent exceptions for veteran role players. And if you're shelling out that much money for him, you're really praying that another summer of rest will "heal" Dwight's back, that 758 games of wear and tear haven't fundamentally altered him. You're paying New Dwight without knowing if Old Dwight is ever coming back.
Reality No. 4: Dwight's offensive game hasn't improved
Did he fail out of Hakeem's summer camp and we never got the memo? Every Dwight jump hook looks like he's hurling a rock through a window. His footwork gives you that same "I'm just trying to get through this sequence alive" feeling you get when you're watching D-list celebs on Dancing With the Stars. He can't make even a 10-foot jumper, and his free throw shooting is more ghastly than ever (49 percent). He's a lousy passer from the low post who has never averaged even TWO assists per game. And he rarely out-hustles other bigs down the floor for layups or dunks anymore, something Tim Duncan gleefully exposed during the humiliating Spurs beatdown. Should Duncan (37, nearly 1,382 career games) repeatedly beat Howard (27, 758 career games) down the floor in a playoff game? You tell me.
By Year 10, you are who you are as a big guy. Hakeem peaked the latest of anyone — Year 9 — and trust me, Dwight Howard ain't Hakeem. Kareem peaked in Year 2 and kept peaking all the way through Year 8. Shaq, Mourning and Moses peaked in Year 8. McHale peaked in Year 7. Ewing peaked in Year 6. Duncan, Robinson, Gilmore and Walton peaked in Year 5. Dwight Howard peaked from Year 5 through Year 7, and now he's here. Along those same lines …
Reality No. 5: The odds are extremely favorable that Dwight will keep declining
In just two seasons, Dwight's per-game averages dropped from 22.9 points and 14.1 rebounds (2011) to 17.1 and 12.4 (2013), and his PER free-fell from 26.1 (2011) to 19.2 (2013). I looked up the year-by-year PER of every memorable "big" from Kareem on to see if any of them suffered a 25 percent PER drop-off within a two-year span during the first 12 years of their career.
Our results: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (not even close), Shaquille O'Neal (no), David Robinson (yes), Hakeem Olajuwon (no), Tim Duncan (no), Moses Malone (close in Year 10, but no), Kevin Garnett (no), Yao Ming (no), Artis Gilmore (no), Patrick Ewing (no), Bob Lanier (no), Kevin McHale (no), Alonzo Mourning (yes), Chris Webber (yes), Jermaine O'Neal (yes), Charles Barkley (no) and Karl Malone (no).
So only four of those 18 guys suffered a comparable drop-off, all because of injuries: Robinson (back), Webber (knee), Mourning (kidney) and Jermaine O'Neal (everything).7 None of them ever regained their kick-ass form — Robinson came the closest, making two more All-Star teams before his body finally broke down (although his days as a 26-12 guy were long gone). Are you willing to wager $118 million that Dwight Howard will become the first marquee big guy in four-plus decades to buck that 25 Percent Drop-off trend? History says Old Dwight is never coming back.