Dejected Atlanta Hawks Dwight Howard, who did not play in the fourth quarter, leaves the court following 115-99 to the Washington Wizards in Game 6 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series on Friday, April 28, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Schlenk: There is still a place for Howard with Hawks

There remains a place on the Hawks for Dwight Howard, according to new general manager Travis Schlenk.

The Hawks signed Howard to a three-year, $70.5 million deal as an unrestricted free agent last season. There are two years remaining on the contract after an up-and-down season that had the center on the bench in the fourth quarters of several close games, including the playoffs.

Schlenk in charge of Hawks’ basketball operations

“Listen, Dwight is one of the best big guys in the league still,” Schlenk told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He averaged 13 points and 13 rebounds a game. He’s one of the best rebounders in the league. He’s one of the best rim protectors in the league.

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to Dwight personally. We’ve exchanged some text messages. I certainly plan to talk to him soon and get to know him. I’m not going to judge you from what I’ve heard. Let me see you face-to-face.”

Howard will make $23.5 million next season, the highest salary on the roster of signed players. Howard ranked fifth in the NBA at 12.7 rebounds per game and sixth at 940 total rebounds last season. He ranked 20th in the league with 1.2 blocks per game.

“There is a reason Atlanta was one of the top five defenses in the league,” Schlenk said. “He was a big part of that.”

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