18 July 2012

Will Dwight Howard end up in Houston?

If there is one team going hardest for Dwight Howard, it is the Houston Rockets. One of the foremost wheeling and dealing franchises in the league, the Rockets have taken many bold and risky steps to try and lure Howard to the Space City. But will it end up working in the end or will Howard be taking his talents elsewhere, or just stay in Orlando until he hits free agency?

The Rockets have been making a ton of moves they view as important to get Howard to Houston. They recently amnestied Luis Scola, a solid power forward who was popular with fans and within the organization but also somebody at the age of 32 was on the decline. Kyle Lowry, who was a borderline All-Star last season and a great value with his contract, was traded to the Toronto Raptors for a future first round selection, likely to be in the lottery. They allowed Goran Dragic, who filled in for an injured Lowry in March and put up tremendous numbers, to sign with Phoenix.

They also made moves around the draft, dealing Chase Budinger to Minnesota for the 18th pick (which turned into Terrance Jones) and Samuel Dalembert and the 14th pick to Milwaukee in exchange for the 12th pick (Jeremy Lamb), Jon Brockman, Jon Leuer and Shaun Livingston. Plus, they signed Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik to offer sheets, which while Asik's is not on the clock for Chicago to match (I bet they won't) while Lin will be coming to town.

And thus their key target? Dwight Howard. For a team that has been in the mush of the Western Conference the last three seasons, finishing ninth and out of the playoffs each year, they are trying their hardest to attract a star to town to build their team around. And for a team that built two championship clubs around one of the greatest players in league history (Hakeem Olajuwon) and saw a fair amount of success with another elite center (Yao Ming), why not go after Howard?

Plus, Houston would be able to provide Orlando with picks (like the one acquired from Toronto for Lowry), expiring contracts (like Kevin Martin's $12.4 million), and take on the big salaries that the Magic want to get rid of (they would be able to take on both Glen Davis and Quentin Richardson, likely Chris Duhon as well). There is certainly something in place for Orlando to look at and be in position to accept.

If the Rockets were to bring in Howard, he would immediately form a really good pick-and-roll combo with Lin, plus combined with some talented wing players (like first rounder Royce White) and the presence of finally having the low-post threat they have not had in a while, this is an intriguing club and one that Howard may like to join. But of course, it may not be much better than what he was leaving, with him as the lone star with some decent players around him. Then again, Daryl Morey is one of the best at wheeling and dealing.

Then again, if Andrew Bynum becomes convinced to sign an extension in Orlando and the Lakers make stronger pitches for Howard, this will all be for moot. So who knows what to expect.

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