The Houston Rockets look like the likeliest team to sign Dwight Howard, but with their desire to get both him and Chris Paul, some sacrifices from their young roster will have to be made. Who? If the Los Angeles Lakers agree to a sign & trade, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik will be the ones used to complete the deal.
The Rockets already made moves during the season to secure enough cap space to try and go after one of the top free agents, being Dwight Howard or Chris Paul this offseason. Initially, some thought this was a long-term move, thinking about 2014. Howard looked like a sure thing with the Lakers, and so did Paul with the Clippers. The 2014 bounty is even greater, with the biggest prize of all, LeBron James, hitting free agency as well.
But things changed in Los Angeles, while they did in Houston itself. Jeremy Lin was signed by the Rockets before James Harden came along. The Rockets didn’t look like a playoff team, but a nice, young, rebuilding franchise, waiting for two big summers to make the most of the free agent market. But then James Harden happened, and everything, from expectations, to the way the team eventually played, changed.
We’ve been over the style differences between Harden and a Lin-run Rockets teams more than once. In short, the Rockets have a talented and expensive point guard they know is wasting away in their lineup, and wouldn’t be too happy to sit behind both Paul and Harden (if they can actually get Paul to come over), not getting a lot of minutes that way. James Harden’s ability and individualistic style made Lin an almost redundant piece when looking at the Rockets’ future.
They aren’t planning on picking up their options for Aaron Brooks, Carlos Delfino and Francisco Garcia, meaining they’re planning on having a lot of cap space available for their offseason moves, whatever they may be.
In come the Lakers, who feel like the man they initially thought was going to be the cornerstone of their next dynasty about to slip away for nothing, without it really helping them when it comes to their cap space, which is completely clogged thanks to the deals with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace. There are amnesty clauses to consider, but the Lakers aren’t a rebuild kind of team, and it seems the future, with this old and injured bunch, doesn’t look like one Howard wants to be a piece of.
There have been talks recently about a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers – Dwight Howard for Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe, but it seems that the Lakers aren’t really in the mood for a sign & trade. As far as they’re concerned, there’s no better place for Howard but them, but reality is slowly hitting them in the face, and might force them to reconsider their position.
In that case, the Houston option immediately becomes the preferred one. Lin is a better player than Bledsoe, although Asik isn’t as offensively productive as Griffin. And still, if the Lakers still believe in Gasol, there’s no need for Griffin at the moment, while a rebounding center who doesn’t ask too much for the ball might be a better fit team-wise. It also prevents Howard from going to the Clippers, and possibly even initiating a sequence which pulls Paul away from their city rivals away, convincing him to sign with the team Howard is going to.
In the Lin perspective of things, a new start might be what he needs, but playing next to Kobe Bryant doesn’t mean more time with the ball. However, Bryant might not be as dominant in his post-injury form, not to mention Steve Nash not being able to play too many minutes.
It’s too soon to tell or even consider this because it’s nothing more than a rumor, but maybe a move to Laker-land will be just the thing Lin’s career needs. As for Howard, the jury is still out on him being a franchise killer, but with him, Harden and Paul, if they can actually co-exist, the Rockets have a title contender.