Even as the best center in the NBA, Dwight Howard isn’t the kind of player who does well in any situation, with last season as a perfect example for the wrong scenario for him. With the Houston Rockets, a team with shooters and a co-star (maybe even bigger) in James Harden, things should go back to normal for Howard.
At his best, Howard isn’t just about rebounding, blocking shots and scoring from one feet away from the rim. He might not the most polished center in the league when it comes to post moves, but he’s got an offseason of work to do with one of the best, if not the best, Hakeem Olajuwon, when it came to scoring with his back to the basket.
Last season stood out in its negativity towards Howard. The Lakers weren’t packed with a shooters to compliment Howard, or at least didn’t run a system that allowed him to make the most of it. He got stuck with the ball a bit too long more than once, turning the ball three times a night, although that’s not close to his career high and he’s had worse per-minute seasons when it comes to turnovers. In short, Howard might not have been as bad as the Lakers side of the media tries to make him look like.
Houston are a different story. It’s not quite clear how much they’ll run Pick & Roll plays (a lot, probably, considering James Harden isn’t going anywhere) and how much Howard will get the chance to try and work in the post. But with Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Harden on the floor, and having Francisco Garcia, Casspi and Donatas Motiejūnas (who doesn’t hit threes but can stretch the floor all the same) should help him immensely.
There’s also the issue of a backup taking a lot of pressure off of Howard’s back. There’s no doubt who is the number one center and who is in the secondary role, but Omer Asik is a starter on most NBA teams, and is quite capable of doing a good job defensively, which doesn’t make every time Howard is off the floor a huge problem for the Rockets on defense. Asik might not like it, but as teams are trying to find an edge with more than just stars, he’s quite a valuable (and expensive) bench piece to have.
If is always the key word to an unseen before team. If we’re going to get the Dwight Howard from 2009 to until his back injury late in the 2011-2012 season, the Rockets made the best deal they could. A defensive monster, and a player who upgrades the Rockets from marginal playoff team to possible contenders in the West. If James Harden clicks with Howard creating the next great big man – guard duo that will dominate in the league, speaking of NBA finalists won’t sound so absurd.
There are other players and issues to resolve, but if Howard finds himself comfortable in Houston, James Harden will be a better player for it, and the Rockets should be considered to be just as a threat to reach the NBA finals, mentioned in the same breath with the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies.