NBA Free Agency 2013: Teams That Still Aren't Contenders After Big Roster Moves

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJuly 7, 2013

Apr 28, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) during the game against the San Antonio Spurs in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

No one can blame the Houston Rockets for going after Dwight Howard. He's the best center on the planet, and basketball is still a big man's game. That said, a team led by Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons is not one of the two best teams in the Western Conference—let alone a threat to dethrone the Miami Heat.

Any team with Howard in the middle needs to have a point guard that can play off the ball. That point guard also needs to be a good-to-great spot-up three-point shooter.

Jeremy Lin is neither of those two things. Lin is at his best when he's controlling the ball with the freedom to try to create for himself and a big man who doesn't post-up. For those reasons, Lin and D12 are not a good match.

Omer Asik is perfect for a backup center role, but he apparently isn't enthused with playing second fiddle to Howard, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst. While things could fall into place with Asik, finding a better fit at point guard will be a more difficult impediment to negotiate.

In addition to that, Harden still has a lot to prove in the way of solidifying himself as an elite postseason performer. Harden has had his moments over the past two postseasons that fell beneath the standards set by his regular-season production.

In the Rockets' first-round loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden got his points, but he wasn't efficient.

His field-goal percentage, three-point shooting and assists numbers have dipped in the last two postseasons. Right now, Houston's roster looks like a team prone to underachieve. The foundation is there, but the team needs a floor general that is more compatible with Howard.

Harden also must prove he can raise his game in the playoffs. The Rockets aren't the only team that made big moves without necessarily becoming a serious contender. 


Detroit Pistons

Just as no one can blame the Rockets for chasing and acquiring Howard, it is hard to fault the Pistons for agreeing to sign Josh Smith, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

Smith's versatility could allow the Pistons to play an uber-athletic frontcourt of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Smith at times. Smith is the only player in the NBA who averaged 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists and at least 1.8 blocked shots per game last season.

While he represents a big addition to the Pistons lineup, Detroit is a long way away from contention.

The playoffs are certainly a possibility with the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and even Smith's old team, the Atlanta Hawks expected to decline, but Detroit won't be in position to do anything big for at least two years.


New Orleans Pelicans

You have to love how aggressive the Pelicans were this offseason. The team agreed to terms to bring in an All-Star point guard in Jrue Holiday. Shortly after that, the Pelicans agreed to terms with restricted free-agent Tyreke Evans that led to a sign-and-trade deal with the Sacramento Kings.

The increase in talent is undeniable, and this team definitely has the pieces to make a playoff push. However, Evans' best position is point guard; unless he comes off the bench, he won't get a chance to play that role with Holiday in New Orleans.

The team has an interesting amalgamation of talent, but we'll have to see if it can be melded together properly.


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