DETROIT — In his 17th NBA season, Dwight Howard is perhaps the 76ers’ most valuable reserve.

The 35-year-old is still in great shape and one of the NBA’s premier centers. Not only is he the league’s best backup, but Howard is also a solid fill-in on nights Joel Embiid doesn’t play.

The 6-foot-10, and chiseled 260-pounder, averaged 6.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 0.9 block and 17.5 minutes in 17 games heading into Monday night’s contest with the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Monday was his fourth start of the season, as Embiid missed the game with back tightness. Howard had a season-high 18 rebounds and three blocks while starting in place of Embiid against the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 16. And Howard is showing no signs of being unable to hold his own against younger players.

So how many more seasons would the 17-year veteran like to play in the NBA?

“I would love to play a lot longer, at least five years,” Howard said Monday. “Five years is still a long time. I have been playing my whole life. It’s been a long ride.”

The Atlanta native was the first-overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Orlando Magic from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. He became the third player in NBA history to be selected with the first-overall pick directly out of high school (LeBron James, 2003; Kwame Brown, 2001).

“I feel like I still got a lot left in me, and I still can get better in a lot of areas,” Howard said. “So I’m going to continue to strive to do that and also just lead this team in a lot of different areas.”

Howard is a solid leader for the Sixers, and a mentor for the team’s cornerstones in Embiid and Ben Simmons.

He’s an eight-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA first-teamer, three-time defensive player of the year; four-time All-Defense first-teamer; five rebounding titles, two shot-block titles, and an NBA champion. And you can’t forget that he was the 2008 slam dunk champion. So his advice carries weight with Simmons and Embiid.

These days, Howard is determined to help Embiid become the best player. He also wants to make sure the Sixers duplicate the team unity, commitment to a common goal, and maintaining focus that spearheaded the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship run that he and Danny Green were part of last season.

Howard signed a one-year guaranteed veteran minimum deal of $2.56 million with the Sixers on Nov. 21. He’s not surprised to still be in the NBA, and his goal from the start was to play at least 20 seasons. He always felt remaining in great shape, sacrificing off the court and keeping his body in line would make that possible.

“You know there’s some blessing to play in this league,” Howard said. “And I’d love to play in this league as long as I’m able to play, as long as I can continue to do what I’m doing, continuing to help this team out. I would love to play more years.”

Embiid named Eastern Conference player of the week

Embiid’s dominant play is being recognized.

He was named the Eastern Conference player of the week on Monday for his accomplishments last week.

This marks the three-time All-Star’s fifth career player of the week honor. He joins Hall of Famers Allen Iverson (20) and Charles Barkley (six) as the only Sixers to earn the award at least five times.

He averaged 37.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and shot 61.1% from the field to lead the Sixers to a 3-0 record last week. They defeated the Boston Celtics on Wednesday and Friday before beating the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.