NBA Free Agency 2013: What to Expect From Teams That Made Biggest Acquisitions

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIJuly 10, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes up for a dunk against the Houston Rockets in the second half at Staples Center on November 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Rockets 119-108. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Dwight Howard was clearly the biggest name of the NBA free-agent season, but how good of an acquisition was it for the Houston Rockets?

Very good, but not great.

Teaming D12 with James Harden and Chandler Parsons gives the Rockets a decent threesome. Howard is potentially dominant on the glass and as a defender. Harden has shown the ability to score in bunches, while Parsons' balanced game makes him one of the better all-around players in the NBA.

There is no doubt, Howard instantly makes the Rockets better. However, at the moment, Houston is not one of the favorites in the Western Conference. Because of the Harden trade, it is hard not to compare the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Rockets.

Besides the deal, the Thunder will also be prime competition for the Rockets in the West.

The Thunder need Jeremy Lamb or Reggie Jackson to become the scorer Kevin Martin was last year, but OKC still has the most potent offensive duo in the NBA.

In the midst of critics blasting the Thunder for the Harden deal, they fail to recognize that the Thunder were the top seed in the West last season. Were it not for Russell Westbrook's knee injury, the Thunder may very well have returned to the NBA Finals.

As good as Harden has been during the regular season and at times during the postseason, there are doubts about his ability to shine consistently in the playoffs.

For the second season in a row, Harden's field-goal percentage, three-point shooting and assist numbers have dropped from the regular season to the playoffs. Parsons is a solid shooter (40 percent from three-point range in the playoffs), but is he really ready to be the third option on a contending team?

The Rockets are also devoid of a point guard who can play off the ball—something that is essential to complement D12.

Even further than that, can Howard be a major offensive force for the Rockets late in games with his poor free-throw shooting (58 percent lifetime)?

While the Howard acquisition is a big deal, the roster around him isn't proven and D12 has some issues of his own. You can never knock a team that acquires the best center in the NBA, but the incomplete roster still leaves the Rockets short of their goal.

OKC is just one of the teams in the Western Conference that are better than the Houston. D12 and Co. seem headed for a fourth-place finish in the conference.


L.A. Clippers

The Clippers are another Western Conference team whose roster is better than the Rockets.

The team has come to terms with the second-most sought after free agent in Chris Paul. It has also landed one of the league's best coaches in Doc Rivers as well as added pieces like J.J. Redick and Darren Collison to back up Paul.

This team had a good portion of the talent needed to contend last season, but it lacked the leadership necessary to take the next step.

Vinny Del Negro wasn't a strong—or likable—enough presence on the sideline to lead the team. Rivers' hiring was instrumental in getting Paul to re-sign, and Collison's signing will make Eric Bledsoe's departure easier to absorb.

The Clippers could still stand to add a veteran big man for depth in the middle, but the new acquisitions should keep them in the top three of the Western Conference standings all season.


Golden State Warriors

The Warriors wanted Howard, and the big man would have been in a better basketball situation had he chosen the Dubs. Obviously, these decisions are about more than basketball, though.

With Stephen Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson, the Warriors had a team better suited to augment Howard's strengths and hide his faults. As it stands, Golden State will acquire Andre Iguodala one way or another.

It was originally thought that Iggy would join the Warriors as a free-agent signing, but Sporting News reports that Iggy will join Golden State via sign-and-trade deal.

No matter how the deal goes down, the result will still be a deep, talented and athletic team that should be taken seriously next season. If Andrew Bogut remains healthy, the Warriors are going to be tough because of their versatility.

Harrison Barnes, Iguodala and Thompson can play the 2-guard or small forward with certain combinations on the roster. Curry's underrated playmaking and celebrated three-point marksmanship could spur this team to a deep playoff run.

Barring major injury, the Warriors will be one of the top three teams in the Western Conference next season.


Detroit Pistons

The Pistons aren't ready for contention, but they should be on their way to the playoffs next season. By agreeing to terms with Josh Smith, the Pistons will now have one of the most athletic frontcourts in the NBA.

Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond will be special on defense and potentially explosive on offense. The team also agreed to terms with their spark plug off the bench on offense, Will Bynum, per CBS Sports' Ken Berger.

In addition to the free-agent signings, don't sleep on rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

KCP's solid outside shooting (37 percent from three-point range as sophomore at Georgia) and perimeter defense gives the Pistons' a "Three-and-D" player on the wing.

Detroit is just a point guard and a year of Drummond maturity away from being a serious threat in the Eastern Conference.


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