NBA Trade Rumors: Why Houston Rockets Won't Give Up Dwight Howard Chase
In the NBA more so than any other professional sports league on the planet, superstars win titles, and having even one such stud can give voice to a team in the ever-shifting championship conversation.
Conversely, if a team doesn't have a singular talent of that sort, it isn't likely to get a word in edgewise.
According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, most (if not all) of the Rockets' moves since the start of free agency—namely, trading Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for a guaranteed lottery pick, and dangling Marcus Camby as sign-and-trade bait for the New York Knicks or the Brooklyn Nets—have been geared toward gathering enticements (i.e. draft picks and cap space) to whet the appetite of the Orlando Magic.
The Magic, for their part, are still in Dwight-centric discussions with a handful of other teams, including the Nets, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, the last of which have the most intriguing trade chip (Andrew Bynum) on offer.
To their credit the Rockets have more flexibility with which to take back bad contracts from Orlando than just about any other suitor.
Dwight's desire to move to Brooklyn (and, presumably, his lack of one to re-sign anywhere else) appears to have emboldened the Nets in their maneuvering, though it isn't likely to dissuade Houston from running down a dream.
More so than any team outside of L.A., the Rockets understand the impact that a great big man can have on a franchise's fortunes. And they've had more than their fair share, from Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone to Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming.
Since the end of the failed Yao Ming-Tracy McGrady era, though, the Rockets have done little more than tread water in the Western Conference, though not for a lack of effort.
Morey nearly nabbed himself a dynamic frontcourt duo of Pau Gasol and Nene last fall but, like Mitch Kupchak in L.A., had his hopes and dreams dashed when commissioner David Stern nixed the original Chris Paul trade for "basketball reasons."
As such, Morey's quest to find another franchise-defining forward/center continues ad infinitum, with Dwight Howard as just the latest tower of power to wind up in his sights. Like any good GM, he knows that he's in this business to build a champion, and Dwight is the one player out on the trade market around whom he could do just that.
What should the Rockets do?
Trouble is, what happens if/when Howard winds up elsewhere, be it in Brooklyn, L.A. or some other big city with brighter lights? The Rockets have enough talent on hand to avoid cellar-dweller status in the West and might even be able to cling to the frame of the playoff picture as currently constituted.
But, they'd still be shushed in any title talk, left only to float in the uncomfortable ether between the late lottery and the seventh and eighth seeds—and what's the point of that, really? The chances of finding a franchise-changing superstar in the middle of the first round are about as slim as that of a Lannister not paying his debts.
Of course the odds of unearthing and developing an elite talent at the top of the draft—much less of landing a slot that early—aren't much better. It may be the "traditional" way to go about building a long-term contender, but it's hardly fool-proof.
This past season alone saw suspected tanking from teams across the NBA for the chance to select Anthony Davis, leaving those who failed to secure that fateful ping-pong ball to pick from a pile of solid, if unspectacular, prospects.
Surely, the Charlotte Bobcats, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Sacramento Kings will still be among those teams hoping and praying to strike it rich in the draft next year, even after winding up in the top five this summer.
So, really, the likelihood of the Rockets reeling in a franchise cornerstone in the draft are no better than that of out-wheeling-and-dealing the rest of The Association for the best center in basketball. And at least Houston knows what it would be getting from Howard—as opposed to some fresh-faced college kid—and would have some measure of control over how things play out.
Even with a bad back, Howard is worth the gamble, assuming he's still healthy enough to be the difference between pretender and contender on any given night.
And if that doesn't work out for the Rockets...well, tanking is always an option.
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