The Houston Rockets made a key acquisition this offseason in All-Star center Dwight Howard, which has catapulted them into talks of title contention.
But how exactly will Howard help this Rockets team?
Houston already had a strong core featuring James Harden, Carlos Delfino, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin, but the addition of Howard will only better the Rockets' subpar defense and will make them absolute juggernauts on offense.
Wait a second...Doesn't this seem a little familiar?
With Houston being Howard's third team in the last three years—including last year's roller coaster ride with the Los Angeles Lakers—NBA followers may be thinking to themselves, "Oh no, here we go again."
Another year, another team featuring Howard that is doomed to fail...Or is it?
There is reason to believe this year will be different. Howard has a skill set that will aid the faults of the Rockets on offense and defense and, not to mention, Howard will not be banging heads with any dominating personalities on this team (right, Kobe?).
Let's start on the defensive side. The Rockets allowed 102.5 points per game last season, which ranked 28th in the NBA, per ESPN.com.
Sure, the high amount of points the Rockets gave up can be somewhat credited to their fast-paced transition offense, which gave opposing teams more shot attempts in games. But let's face it, nobody is considering the Rockets as an elite team defensively based on last year's performance.
Howard's great size and Pterodactyl-like wingspan makes him one of the best defenders in the league. He already has three Defensive Player of the Year awards, and he averages 2.4 blocks per game in his career.
As you can see in the video, Howard can make it tough on shooters in all aspects. If they pull up for a jumper, he has the athleticism to react instantly and force them to shoot over him. If they drive to the rim on Howard—which is a terrible idea—he will challenge the shot with authority and come up with the block more times than not.
And despite being 6'11" and 265 pounds, Howard has agile feet. You can see this at the 47-second mark in the video above. His quickness is good for help defense, which is how he gets a solid chunk of his blocks.
Now for the offense. The Rockets already have plenty of options for scoring, and adding Howard in the low post is like icing on the cake.
Coach Nick of bballbreakdown.com released a video breaking down how Howard's offensive skill set will contribute to the Rockets. Skip ahead to the 57-second mark for the stats breakdown.
As Nick noted in the video, last season the Rockets offense only posetd up "4.3 percent of the time, and were ranked a very poor 26th out of 30 teams."
On bballbreakdown.com, Nick explained how Howard could help the Rockets in that category.
You have to factor in Dwight’s recovery from injury as part of his post up issues. Looking at his best offensive year in 2010-11, his ranking was in the 71st percentile and all his numbers were much better. It’s safe to say that, with enough healing, Dwight will be somewhere in between – which will definitely be an upgrade to the Rockets post up play.
Another facet of the Rockets' offense in which Howard will be utilized is the pick-and-roll. The Rockets had success running the pick-and-roll last season with Omer Asik being the Roll Man, but as Nick noted in his article, Howard will be the better man for the job with quick feet and overpowering size.
Dwight’s best offensive option by far is when he sets a ball screen and rolls to the hoop. There isn’t a big man who can keep up with him, and the weakside rotation is always with someone too small to handle him. Last year, the Rockets relied on Asik on half of their Roll Man plays, and while they were above average, Dwight Howard will simply dominate this category, and will also increase the number of times the Rockets utilize the Roll Man.
Howard's rebounding ability is also something worth mentioning. Last season, the Rockets averaged 43.4 rebounds per game, seventh best in the league. Tack on Howard's career average of 12.4 rebounds per game and this team could arguably move up to the top three rebounding teams in the league.
It's almost scary imagining how good this Rockets team can be with Dwight Howard. If you simply look at it on paper, they appear to be a championship-caliber team.
And if there's anybody who knows the potential of this team, it's Dwight Howard.
"James Harden doesn't come by every 10 years. It doesn't happen. It's no knock on other players who I played with, but you're talking about all these guys who are young and are going this way, going up, so I'm like, 'Man, this is a great spot for me. A great town, great organization.' They're going this way (points up)."
Note: Hat tip to Sam Amick of USA Today for the quote.
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