At this point, everyone and their grandmother knows the Houston Rockets won the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and locked up the big man to a four-year, $88 million dollar deal. What they don't know about are the smaller deals.
As with any star player, Howard needs the right players around him for the team to be successful. The Rockets already had some nice pieces in place before free agency, but nonetheless the signings they made were important.
On the surface, the minimum deals seem insignificant. But each player will be a valuable cog in the Rockets machine. And each has a little special something he brings to the team.
Enough beating around the bush, let's get to it.
Though he may be miniature, Aaron Brooks packs a punch. Generously listed at 6 feet tall, he was a dynamic offensive point guard in his prime with the Rockets.
He could shoot the lights out, drive to the hole, pass a bit and was lightning quick. When he was at his best, there weren't too many people in the league who could stop him.
But he's not in his prime anymore. Nobody is expecting him to average 19 points and five assists again.
That being said, for the minimum contract he signed, he's a good value.
He's still a good shooter, which is a common theme among the signings this offseason. This makes sense, given that Howard is at his best when he has room to operate. Putting shooters around him spaces the floor and gives him plenty of room in the paint.
But back to Brooks. For his career, he hits 36.4 percent of his threes. And last season, his effective field-goal percentage from three was 53.5 percent.
Even on two-point jump shots, he hits a high percentage. His eFG percentage was above 50 on those as well.
So he's a good shooter, which is a valuable asset for the Rockets. But what else can he do?
Well, per 36 minutes he averaged 5.7 assists. For a point of reference, LeBron's career per-36 assist average is 6.3, so that should give you an idea of Brooks' passing game.
The ability to facilitate is the underrated part of his game. He can shoot from anywhere, but he can also find the open man. He's still quick and can get into the lane. He'll have a Dwight Howard-sized target to dump off to and can kick to Houston's other shooters.
He'll provide an offensive threat at the point off the bench. And though he can be exposed on defense, with Howard and Omer Asik to protect the basket, Brooks' deficiencies in that area can be negated. So he's a great signing.
But yet again, Casspi can shoot. He's a career 35.3 percent three-point shooter, and his eFG percentage from deep was 49.3 in 2012-2013.
Now those numbers aren't outstanding, but at 6'9", he gives the Rockets some flexibility up front.
His natural position is the 3, but if the Rockets can squeeze some power forward minutes out of him, he can be much more useful.
Part of the reason Houston can think about playing Casspi as a big is his rebounding. He's no Howard, but he averaged 8.2 rebounds per 36 minutes last season. Even if he just plays small forward, he can rebound the ball. That'll come in handy during the long season.
Watch some of his highlights below. His skill set provides what the Rockets need from him. He can wait around the three-point line to collect kick outs from James Harden or slip to the hoop on a cut. He's exactly the kind of player the Rockets could use for their offense.
Let's start this out with a statement that may seem bold. Reggie Williams is James Harden lite. Now it's time to back it up.
Before Williams' two lost years in Charlotte, he was a solid player in Golden State. But because nobody wants to hear about how good he was in 2009-2010, we'll talk about his more recent seasons.
Looking at his per-36 minute stats, he has been consistent for his whole career. His points have been between 13.2 and 16.8, his assists have been between 2.7 and 3.7, and his rebounds have been between 4.5 and 5.1.
They're in the same ballpark as Harden's, though obviously not too close. But the real reason I make the James Harden comparison is their playing styles.
Both are right around 6'5" and 220 pounds. Both are left-handed, love to drive and are great shooters. Look at some of his highlights and tell me he doesn't at least remind you of Harden.
And like Brooks and Casspi, he can shoot the ball. For his career, he shoots 37.1 percent from deep, and last year his eFG percentage from long distance was 45.8.
But after the Harden comparison, which you can take or leave, he's another big body who can play on the wing. And who can shoot.
Which is just what the Rockets want.
He is also only 26, and not too long ago he averaged right around 15 points, three assists and five rebounds on nearly 50 percent shooting. And he signed for the minimum.
At worst he's a shooter; at best he's a bona fide scorer off the bench. That's a great gamble to take for the Rockets.
Before this offseason, they were in desperate need of role players who can shoot, and now they have three. Howard will have the players for the system he needs.
Just take a look at the Miami. I'm not implying that Houston will as good as the Heat, but Miami brought in the right kind of players to put around the Big Three of LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Houston seems to be doing the same.
One last word about the other Rockets' signings. Marcus Camby may not see any meaningful minutes on the floor, but he will have plenty of moments in the locker room.
Next year will be his 18th in the league, and he's 39 years old. He will instantly become the elder statesman of the team and be able to guide some of the younger players—or more specifically, Dwight Howard.
Like Howard, Camby was once a defensive force with some personality quirks. It might be wishful thinking to hope he can help Howard, but he can at least be a presence.
Camby represents another signing to help Howard thrive in Houston. The Rockets are making all the right offseason moves, but before we hand them the Western Conference, let's play the games.
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