Dwight Howard Will Have Huge Defensive Impact in Rockets Debut

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIOctober 30, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 27: Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets poses for a team photographer during Houston Rockets Media Day at the Toyota Center on September 27, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets superstar Dwight Howard, the biggest prize in offseason free agency, makes his debut against the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday evening at the Toyota Center.

The seven-time All-Star's new team struggled defensively last year, ranking 28th in yielding 102.5 points per game. Thus, Howard will have no choice but to have a huge impact at that end of the court if Houston is meant to be a legitimate contender in 2013-14.

Based on the situation coming into the season opener, all signs are pointing to Howard being dominant in front of the home crowd to tip off the season.

Perhaps most unique about Howard's first start with his third team in as many years is that he's slated to play power forward:

Charlotte landed its own high-profile big man on the open market in Al Jefferson, whose dizzying array of post moves and rebounding ability make him a threat to put up 20 points and 10 boards every night.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, Jefferson is questionable to play with a sprained ankle, per the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell. That would absolutely doom any chance the underdogs have of pulling off a road victory.

With or without Al Jefferson, the Bobcats are going to be manhandled by Howard.
With or without Al Jefferson, the Bobcats are going to be manhandled by Howard./Getty Images

The Rockets of yesteryear would have had serious issues in defending Jefferson—or any other decent big man. That is where Howard comes in—to patrol the paint, stand his ground and alter myriad shots as few, if any, can.

In the event that Jefferson doesn't play, backup Bismack Biyombo will likely log the majority of minutes up front. Since Biyombo is not an offensive threat, Howard will be able to use his athleticism to roam around and even better protect the rim against slashing point guard Kemba Walker.

The value Howard brings to this Houston squad will be immediately evident as this matchup unfolds. It will allow the other starters to focus on their own men without having to worry much about double-team help.

That's because Howard, with his 6'11", 265-pound frame, can bother and smother Jefferson, Biyombo or even Brendan Haywood well enough to force them to pass as he protects the basket along with center Omer Asik.

What becomes problematic in that instance is that the Bobcats bigs don't have many options to dish it to. Only Ben Gordon and Jannero Pargo are somewhat consistent perimeter shooters, and all of Charlotte's centers are below-average passers out of the post to begin with.

Matt Moore of CBSSports.com also pointed out how Asik and Howard can coexist on the floor, allowing Howard even more room to attack from the weak side.

Howard did just that (in the video above) against Memphis Grizzlies star forward Zach Randolph.

Although the Bobcats do have a stretch 4 in Cody Zeller, who should present problems, it is his first NBA game, and he's also not strong enough to get close to the hoop against the likes of Howard and Asik.

Zeller will likely be forced into outside shots most of the night. When he does crash the paint, let the video serve as notice as to what might be awaiting him: a face full of D12-style rejection.

The hapless Bobcats should be very afraid. Absent the offensive firepower to compete with the Rockets in the first place, Charlotte's problems will be compounded by Howard being brilliant in his maiden outing with his championship-caliber squad.