After Chris Paul announced that he would re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers,
Dwight Howard was the biggest free agent on the market. The Golden State
Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta
Hawks were all in the bidding for his services. Slowly but surely he began to
eliminate each one until it was down to Los Angeles and Houston. In the end, after
much pondering, he picked the Houston Rockets. Immediately the stock in Houston
got a little bit better while the Lakers are left with none of the pieces from
the trade they made to get Howard from Orlando to begin with.
With Dwight in Houston, the pressure is on. He left $30 million on the table to go and join the Rockets. And after leaving the Lakers (which is something that most players don’t ever do) the only justification in moving away would be to win a ring. At the present time, Houston is in a better position to make runs to the title than the Lakers. And that is due to the presence of an emerging star in James Harden. The smooth shooting guard has been electric for the Rockets ever since arriving in Houston via trade last season. With these two together, they make one of the best big man/guard combos in the NBA. But how they work together will be the key.
James Harden likes to be the guy in control of the offense. And last year with the offense in his hands, the Rockets were one of the most explosive offenses in the league. The Rockets routinely ran pick-and-rolls with Harden at the controls. Adding Howard to the mix could potentially change the dynamic of their offense. While Dwight is more effective in the pick-and-roll, he has said that he would like to get the basketball more in the post. The problem with that is Howard is more efficient as a pick-and-roll player than he is when receiving the ball in the post. So going forward, do the Houston Rockets play to his demands and give him the ball in the post or do they stick with the pick-and-roll? A perfect solution would be to do a mixture of pick-and-rolls that highlight Harden and post ups that can make their new star happy. The onus will be on Dwight to get better in the post and make things happen when given the opportunity. With shooters like Chandler Parsons, Omer Casspi and yes, even James Harden, Dwight will have plenty of room to work with inside. The key in both styles of offense will be the effectiveness of Dwight. The more effective he can be in the post, the less we will see of the pick-and-roll offense. For the Rockets sake, they better hope that head coach Kevin McHale and Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon can make his post game better.
Defensively is where Howard is best for Houston. Last year the Rockets had a big, physical center in Omer Asik. He defended opposing centers well, but he did not scare opposing teams as much as Howard can. Dwight makes the Rockets better defensively because he is an excellent weak side defender and shot blocker. That strength of Howard’s will help cover up for the weakness of Harden defensively. As good of an offensive threat as Harden is, he is very ineffective on the defensive end. Dwight can deter those shots that Harden gives up because of his subpar defense. Another thing that Dwight can add defensively is rebounding out of his area. Most big men can rebound within the area that they occupy, but only a few can step outside of the area they are occupying and go get boards. Howard can cover up for teammates missing block out assignments because he is so agile and strong. That ability adds to more possessions for Houston and allows them to also get out and run more.
The spotlight is on Houston now. With the addition of Howard, they went from an up-and-coming team to a potential contender. Ultimately, this move begins and ends with Howard and Harden. How they co-exist and how Howard handles himself will be paramount to how this team does. It should be interesting to see what we get from Houston next season.