One of the biggest questions that the Houston Rockets faced coming into the 2013-14 NBA season concerned their prized free-agent signing from this offseason. After bringing in Dwight Howard, who is unquestionably one of the best centers in the league when engaged and healthy, the Rockets were faced with the challenge of getting Howard to buy into what they’re trying to do.
The Rockets, a team that likes to get up and down the floor, thrive in the pick-and-roll, particularly with James Harden as the ball-handler. However, Howard resisted the pick-and-roll in Mike D’Antoni’s offense with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2012-13 season. Some of that could have resulted from Dwight being miserable in L.A. as a general whole, but it’s also partially due to the fact that Howard is a guy that likes to have things his way.
Through the start of the season, Howard was still somewhat resistant to the pick-and-roll. He would run the plays, but he didn’t seem fully engaged in trying to have the success he’s capable of in those situations. After all, his 1.26 points per possession in the pick-and-roll as the screener is the sixth-best rate in the league this season, according to Synergy Sports. However, the pick-and-roll accounts for just eight percent of his offense this season.
However, it’s seemed that Howard has been more engaged as of late and working in the pick-and-roll more actively. It’s no coincidence that his numbers in December have been great. In eight games in December, Howard is averaging 19.8 points, 14.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 60.9 percent from the floor and, impressively for him considering his struggles, 60.8 percent shooting from the charity stripe.
Obviously you want to mix it up with Howard. He’s an effective player when posted up because, contrary to popular belief, he has some nice post-moves and knows how to use his strong, athletic frame deep in the post. However, if Howard continues to buy into the pick-and-roll and remain engaged going forward, rather than just for a blip on the radar of this season, this Rockets team has the chance to reach their dangerous and exciting potential.