It appears as if much of the same narrative regarding where Los Angeles Lakers pending free agent center Dwight Howard that plagued the NBA offseason last summer will dominate the headlines again this year, with rumors flying in from all directions. Some of the rumors mentioned the Houston Rockets as a possible landing spot for Howard, and while him playing for the Rockets is a possibility, the young team doesn’t necessarily need him to get better.
The Rockets are coming off an improved season where they went 45-37 with James Harden in his first season as the star and face of their franchise. Harden, Chandler Parsons and others surprised a lot of people with their uptempo and high-scoring style of play. Prior to the season, not many picked Houston to even be a .500 team.
Even current starting center Omer Asik exceeded expectations. Houston went all in to steal Asik away from the Chicago Bulls as a restricted free agent last year, but Asik responded by averaging a double-double in his first year receiving significant playing time — the Turkish seven-footer put up 10.1 points and an impressive 11.7 rebounds while starting all 82 games this season.
Houston’s game plan relied heavily on the three-point shot. They were most successful with Harden, Parsons or Jeremy Lin handling the basketball out of pick and roll sets then driving and kicking out to open shooters. While Howard would be a clear upgrade over Asik, Houston would need to adjust their entire offense to feature a center that demands his touches as Howard does.
Part of what made Houston so successful this past season was their role players being given the opportunity to play, especially Asik. All Asik was asked to do was set screens, rebound, defend, and finish the occasional play in the in the paint if a pass came his way, and he fit that role perfectly. One could even argue that Asik is capable of growing even further in the role, with more experience.
On paper, Howard’s projected 18-20 points and 12+ rebounds may look really attractive, but it would also come with a max contract price tag as well as a bit of a diva attitude. Houston would be foolish to dump Asik in favor of Howard, when they could instead continue to build around Harden and others while saving cap space to comfortably keep their core together.
While the move would indeed make headlines, signing Howard just doesn’t seem to be worth the risk for the Houston Rockets.