Revisiting Biggest Moves from 2013 NBA Offseason

Dave LeonardisContributor IIIJanuary 1, 2014

Revisiting Biggest Moves from 2013 NBA Offseason

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    The Houston Rockets made arguably the biggest splash of the summer by bringing in Dwight Howard.
    The Houston Rockets made arguably the biggest splash of the summer by bringing in Dwight Howard.Bob Levey/Getty Images

    This past NBA offseason drew a ton of hype as big names found new homes and contenders were assembled on paper seemingly overnight. As we enter a new year, it is time to take a look at how these moves have stacked up in comparison to our initial prognosis. 

    A little more than two months into the 2013-14 season, who looks wise and who looks foolish? What can we expect going forward? All of these questions will be answered. 

    Now, a couple things to keep in mind before going any further. This assessment is centered around major trades and free-agent signings (or re-signings) that occurred before the start of the regular season. 

    Unfortunately, Chris Kaman's signing will not be covered here. The same goes for the NBA draft and midseason maneuvers such as Rudy Gay's trade to Sacramento

    Let's see what moves have and haven't worked out thus far. 

Chris Paul and Doc Rivers Unite in Los Angeles

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    The two biggest moves of the Los Angeles Clippers' offseason were no-brainers. After firing Vinny Del Negro shortly after the end of last season, the team needed an experienced coach who could get them over the hump. 

    Enter Doc Rivers, who had just run out his string after an impressive run with the Boston Celtics. Rivers brought a championship pedigree to a team sorely needing a postseason boost. 

    With Rivers now in the fold, point guard Chris Paul wasted very little time committing to a future in Hollywood. He opted to re-sign with the Clips for five years and $107 million. With Doc and CP3 leading the charge, the Clippers seemed like the prohibitive top dogs in the Western Conference. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    The Clippers have jumped out to an impressive 21-12 start and have shown remarkable balance thus far. They are fifth in the NBA in scoring with an average of 104.5 points per game, while allowing opponents to score just 99.7 points a night (12th best). 

    After spending the summer in trade rumors, center DeAndre Jordan has made some strides under the new regime. He's averaging nine points, 13.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per contest. All three are well above his career averages. 

    As for Paul, he's maintained the kind of brilliance we have come to expect from the league's best point guard. He's averaging 19.7 points, 11.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. He is a fringe MVP candidate. 

    The significance of these moves, however, will come in the postseason. After suffering early exits in the past two seasons, this team will ultimately be judged on how deep it goes in the playoffs. With Paul's future no longer looming and a battle-tested coach calling the shots, there are no more excuses for the Clippers. 

    If Los Angeles can't make a run with all of these pieces in place, they'll have nobody to blame but themselves. 

Phoenix Trades for Eric Bledsoe

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    After years of playing the role of Chris Paul's understudy in Los Angeles, it was time for Eric Bledsoe to fly solo. The Clippers cashed in on their prized point guard prospect by agreeing to a three-team trade that sent Bledsoe to the Phoenix Suns. 

    In return, the Clippers acquired shooter J.J. Redick from Milwaukee as well as small forward Jared Dudley from Phoenix. Caron Butler would initially join Bledsoe in the desert, but was inevitably traded to Milwaukee in a desperate deal. Milwaukee ended up nabbing second-round picks in the original trade.  

    The initial reaction to the deal is: Why would Phoenix trade for a point guard (albeit a vastly talented one) when they already had Goran Dragic and (at the time) Kendall Marshall? The team opted to move Dragic to the 2 and pair him in the backcourt with Bledsoe. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    The Suns have been the league's biggest surprise thus far. After routinely stockpiling draft picks to prepare for a loaded 2014 NBA draft, it seemed as if Phoenix would go into the tank. 

    Instead, the team is 19-11 (as of Dec. 31) and holding down the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, Dragic and Bledsoe have formed one of the league's most productive guard tandems. 

    Dragic leads the team in scoring and assists with an average of 18.4 points and 5.9 dimes a game. Bledsoe is right behind him with a nightly contribution of 18 points and 5.8 helpers a game. Both have also done their part in creating turnovers by delivering at least one steal per contest. 

    Whether the team decides to move Dragic and opt for a more traditional shooting guard remains to be seen. Right now, the Suns are a team built for the future that is winning in the present. 

Milwaukee and Detroit Swap Point Guards

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    Allen Einstein/Getty Images

    Brandon Jennings' exile from Milwaukee seemed inevitable. As his pending free agency was approaching, the pride of Compton, Calif., publicly expressed his desire to play in a big city (according to ESPN's Chris Broussard).

    "I am going to keep my options open, knowing that the time is coming up," Jennings said in February 2012. "I'm doing my homework on big-market teams."

    During the summer, Jennings' thirst for the bright lights was quenched. After failing to draw a ton of interest on the open market, the 24-year-old was sent to Detroit in exchange for fellow young point guard Brandon Knight.

    As part of the deal, Jennings put his signature on a contract that would pay him $24 million over three years. The move would come shortly after Detroit signed Josh Smith to a four-year, $54 million deal. The Bucks would also receive center Slava Kravtsov and forward Khris Middleton. 

    Knight, meanwhile, would join a backcourt that included the newly signed O.J. Mayo.

     

    How It Looks So Far

    The deal hasn't done much for either team in terms of the Eastern Conference standings. Despite having one of the most talented starting rotations in basketball, Detroit is 14-19 and holding on to the seventh seed in a woefully bad Eastern Conference. 

    On the bright side, at least Jennings is earning his paycheck. He leads the team in points (17.5), assists (8.3) and steals (1.5). He's also shooting roughly 36 percent from the three-point line.

    As for Milwaukee, they have the league's worst record at 7-24 (as of Dec. 31). Knight's 15 points per game leads the Bucks almost by default. He's battled injuries all season and has made just 23 appearances so far this year. 

    From a production standpoint, Detroit got the better of the deal. Although, that was to be expected as they received the more proven player. However, the fact that the team can't stay above .500 in a weak conference makes the team as a whole a big disappointment. 

Detroit Pistons Sign Josh Smith

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    Allen Einstein/Getty Images

    Josh Smith's departure from Atlanta was to be expected. However, his decision to sign with the Pistons was a little surprising. Despite fluctuating between both forward spots with the Hawks, Smith's skill set made him better suited to be a power forward. 

    Smith is a superb athlete that is at his best playing around the basket. Plus, he's a career 28 percent shooter from behind the arc, which means he doesn't possess the deep ball that most small forwards traditionally have. 

    Despite all that, Smith joined a team that already had an emerging power forward in Greg Monroe. The team gave the 28-year-old a four-year deal worth $54 million. His presence along with Monroe and second-year man Andre Drummond forms an impressive frontcourt trio. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    To sum it up in two words, not good. As expected, Smith has struggled to find a rhythm playing on a team that already has two talented bigs clogging up the paint. In 33 games, Smith is averaging 15.1 points and 6.5 rebounds a game. He's also shooting 25 percent from three. 

    On defense, Smith is averaging at least a block and a steal per game (though his 1.4 swats per game is below his career average of 2.1). Furthermore, opponents are shooting 51.8 percent against Smith, according to 82games.com

    By comparison, opponents shot 49.5 percent against Smith last season. 

    Making matters worse, Smith was recently benched by head coach Maurice Cheeks in a Dec. 28 clash with the Washington Wizards. The two have since reconciled, but it says something when a team is already sitting down its highest-paid player this early in the season. 

    The Pistons have been a disaster as a whole, so Smith isn't the only one worthy of blame. Still, a man making $14 million annually should be more productive than he has been and he certainly shouldn't be getting into tiffs with his head coach this soon. 

    There's still plenty of time for Detroit to turn things around, but that change is going to have to start with Smith.  

Atlanta Hawks Sign Paul Millsap

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    The two-year, $19 million deal that the Atlanta Hawks used to lure Paul Millsap to town is the kind of bargain that you would normally find on Black Friday. With Josh Smith out of the picture, the team needed a power forward to play alongside Al Horford

    They found it in Millsap. Already vastly underrated during his time in Utah, the skids were greased for a big year for the 28-year-old as he would be moving to a drastically weaker Eastern Conference. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    The Atlanta Police Department should lock up general manager Danny Ferry for theft for pulling off this steal. Millsap was already putting together an impressive season. He's averaging 17.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. 

    Now, with Horford done for the season due to a torn pectoral muscle (according to SI.com's Ben Golliver), Millsap is now responsible for an even bigger piece of the pie. By season's end, he could lead the team in points (trails by less than a point), rebounds (first), steals (first) and blocks (just behind Horford's 1.5 swats). 

    Meanwhile, the Hawks are third in the Eastern Conference with a record of 18-14. They are one of three teams above .500 in the East. 

    With Horford out, Atlanta's chances of making a playoff run take a huge hit. Millsap has been great thus far, but he can only do so much on his own. Regardless, the Hawks have pulled off the sneakiest signing of the offseason and now have something to look forward to next season. 

New Orleans Pelicans Make Draft-Day Trade for Jrue Holiday

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    The biggest splash on draft day wasn't made by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who held the No. 1 overall pick. It was made by the New Orleans Pelicans.

    With once-projected top pick Nerlens Noel slipping due to concerns over an ACL injury suffered during his freshman year at Kentucky, the Pels snatched up the talented shot-blocker with the No. 6 overall pick. 

    As enticing as a Noel-Anthony Davis tandem seemed, Noel's time in the Big Easy was short-lived. New Orleans would ship Noel to Philadelphia along with a top-five protected 2014 first-round pick in exchange for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. 

    The Pelicans would also receive a second-round pick, which they used on Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson. Noel would join fellow rookie Michael Carter-Williams as the linchpins for a rebuilding 76ers team. 

    Meanwhile, Holiday filled one of the Pels' biggest needs at point guard. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    Obviously, the Pelicans are the winners of that deal as of right now. Noel continues to nurse a knee injury that could keep him out the rest of the season, while Holiday is averaging 15.3 points and 8.3 assists for the Pellies. 

    New Orleans is also a game below .500 and coming off a big win over Portland on Dec. 30. If the team can stay in the playoff hunt, giving up that 2014 first-round pick for an emerging 23-year-old point guard doesn't seem like that big of a deal. 

    Obviously, this deal will inevitably be judged by three aspects. First, can Holiday be a franchise point guard and help lift New Orleans to respectability? Second, can Noel stay healthy and live up to the potential he showed before his injury at Kentucky? Lastly, who will the Sixers take with New Orleans' pick and how will he fare? 

    If forced to do it over again, the Pelicans have to make that deal 10 times out of 10. As good as Greivis Vasquez was for the team last year, his inability to push the pace and hold his own on the defensive end hurt the team. 

    Holiday doesn't seem to have trouble in either of those areas. He's an athletic guard with good size who can force a few turnovers. Time will tell if the Pelicans chose wisely, but it seems like they made the right move opting for the more proven option. 

New Orleans Pelicans Acquire Tyreke Evans in Three-Team Sign-and-Trade

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    New Orleans' other big move this offseason was reeling in former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans from Sacramento. After offering the former Memphis product a four-year, $44 million deal, the team eventually acquired him in a three-team sign-and-trade that involved the Kings and Trail Blazers. 

    In the deal, the Kings acquired point guard Greivis Vasquez, while Portland landed center Robin Lopez. Lopez and Vasquez were two of the Pelicans' biggest bargains last season. However, Vasquez became expendable after the acquisition of Jrue Holiday. 

    As for Evans, the initial reaction to his arrival caused some head-scratching. After all, the team had a need at small forward and already had a high-priced shooting guard in Eric Gordon.

    Would Evans be their small forward? Would he come off the bench? If so, why would New Orleans pay him so much money? What does this mean for Eric Gordon? 

    As it turned out, Evans' role was as the super-sub. He would play some small-ball 3, while also providing insurance for the oft-injured Gordon. It was an expensive gamble, but one the team felt was warranted. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    A month ago, this move looked like a huge mistake for the Pelicans. Evans struggled to find his shot and averaged just 11.7 points per game in November. Since then, he's been much improved. 

    Evans closed out December averaging 15.7 points per game. In his last five games, he averaged 20.2 points, 8.2 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals a night. He's been the team's most aggressive backcourt option going to the basket with an average of 4.1 free-throw attempts per contest. 

    As good as he's been of late, there's no denying New Orleans overpaid for his services. At the end of the day, they are paying an average of $11 million a year for a glorified sixth man. If they can find a taker for Gordon's albatross of a contract, the Evans deal isn't as hard of a pill to swallow. 

    For now though, he's earning his paycheck and has been one of the key reasons why New Orleans could snake themselves into the bottom of the playoff bracket this season. 

Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce Come to Brooklyn

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    After going on a spending spree last season in an effort to win now, the Brooklyn Nets took an even bigger step toward immediate success during the summer by bringing in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce

    The Celtics traded the two future Hall of Famers (according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski) to Brooklyn along with guard Jason Terry for a package that included Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks and three first-round picks (2014, 2016 and 2018). 

    Garnett and Pierce would round out a starting five that already possessed Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. This would give rookie head coach Jason Kidd one of the most star-studded starting rotations in NBA history. 

    For Boston, the move was a step toward the rebuilding process. With Rajon Rondo sidelined by a torn ACL and the team getting long in the tooth, the time had come for a youth movement. It seemed fair to give the team's aging stars one last chance to compete for an NBA title. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    Garnett and Pierce's last shot at a championship won't come in Brooklyn, barring something unforeseen. Through 31 games, the Nets have looked abysmal. Kidd has looked lost in his first run as an NBA coach and one has to wonder when the team will pull the plug. 

    The Nets are 10-21. As if that wasn't bad enough, Garnett and Pierce look like they are on their last legs. KG's averaging a paltry 6.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. As for The Truth, he's contributing 12.6 points a night. 

    The Nets' plight seems to be Boston's gain. With the team looking less and less like a contender, suddenly those draft picks look a lot more valuable. As tough as it will be to find a taker for Humphries and/or Wallace's contracts, it's a decent price to pay in exchange for cutting ties with expensive veterans who have lost a step or two. 

Minnesota Goes on Spending Spree

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    Jordan Johnson/Getty Images

    In an effort to finally build a contender around star forward Kevin Love, the Minnesota Timberwolves opened up the checkbook over the summer. The team brought in Kevin Martin to give themselves more of a scoring punch. 

    He was acquired in a sign-and-trade that sent point guard Luke Ridnour to Milwaukee. The deal for Martin was worth $30 million over four years. Additionally, the team brought in Corey Brewer from Denver to boost their defense.

    The ex-Florida Gator's deal was for $15 million over three years. Lastly, the team re-signed center Nikola Pekovic and forward Chase Budinger. Pekovic's contract was for $60 million over five years, while Budinger re-upped for three years and $16 million. 

    With these moves, Minnesota has provided Love with possibly the best supporting cast he's ever had as a pro. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    The faces may be new, but the results are still the same. Minnesota is a game below .500 and just outside the top eight seeds in the West. Love has been doing his part with an average of 26.5 points and 13.7 rebounds a game. 

    The supporting cast has been productive, but not to the point that puts wins on the board. Pekovic has been solid (17.5 points, 9.1 rebounds a game), as has Martin (19.9 points per game). Brewer has been inconsistent, but is still contributing 12.1 points a night. 

    As for Budinger, the team is still waiting for him to make his debut, as he is on the mend from knee surgery. When healthy, he's an underrated scorer with sneaky athleticism and a nice touch from long range (career 35.8 percent shooter from behind the arc). 

    Minnesota is 25th in the NBA in three-point percentage (33.8 percent). Obviously, Budinger's return would be a nice added boost. From a production standpoint, Minnesota made all the right moves. 

    However, the only thing that matters is making the postseason. With the team failing to make the playoffs since 2003-04, time is running out and Love's patience has to be wearing thin. 

Golden State Signs Andre Iguodala

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Of all the moves made this past summer, the Golden State Warriors adding Andre Iguodala was my personal favorite. With so many proven scorers on the roster, the W's aren't reliant on Iggy's offense. That frees him to do what he does best: lock down opponents on the perimeter. 

    Plus, it's fun to watch an athlete such as Iguodala on a young team that is as exciting in transition as the Warriors are. 

    Golden State acquired the former Arizona star in a three-team sign-and-trade with Utah and Denver. The Jazz received Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush and Andris Biedrins, as well as draft picks. The Nuggets received Randy Foye and a 2018 second-round pick from Golden State. 

    The Warriors gave their newest addition a four-year, $48 million deal, according to CBSSports' Royce Young.

    The only downside to the Iguodala acquisition is it gave Golden State six starter-quality players to fill five spots. Naturally, that's a good problem to have, but someone was going to have the misfortune of being the odd man out. 

    In this case, it was Harrison Barnes, who is now tasked with leading the second unit. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    A testament to how deep the West has become is the fact that Golden State is 20-13 and holding down the seventh seed. The team has shown remarkable balance. 

    They are 12th in the league in scoring, second in rebounding and 10th in points allowed. While the improvement on defense can't rest solely on Iguodala's shoulders, he's certainly done his part. According to 82games.com, opponents are shooting 45.9 percent against him this season. 

    His 1.6 steals per game are just behind Stephen Curry's 1.8 thefts a night. Offensively, he's been a minor contributor with an average of 10.7 points per game. 

    Ultimately, the success of this move comes down to how they manage all of the moving parts. Do they leave Barnes as the sixth man? Do they utilize a small-ball lineup of Curry, Klay Thompson, Iguodala, Barnes and Andrew Bogut more often? That's something to keep an eye on going forward. 

    Right now, Golden State looks like a dangerous dark horse in the Western Conference and the addition of Iguodala gives them an added wrinkle. 

Cleveland Rolls the Dice on Andrew Bynum

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    Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Cavaliers became the latest team to take a chance on once-prominent center Andrew Bynum. After missing all of his lone season in Philadelphia due to knee trouble, Bynum signed a two-year, $24.5 million deal to be one of the last remaining pieces of Cleveland's rebuilding project. 

    The Cavs safeguarded themselves by making the second year a team option and guaranteeing only half of the $12 million owed in the first season. It was a wise move given Bynum's inability to stay healthy throughout his career. 

    The upside was, if Bynum can return to his old form, you just added one of the best centers in the league for 50 cents on the dollar. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    Even with the low amount of risk involved in the deal, this was a bust for the Cavaliers. When he hasn't looked rusty, Bynum has looked unmotivated. Recently, the Bynum saga took an even more dire turn. 

    He was initially suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team," but the Cavs have since lifted the ban (according to CBSSports' Matt Moore). The team is trying to find a taker for Bynum prior to Jan. 7. After that, the guaranteed money on Bynum's contract jumps to $12 million. 

    According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, the Cavs have discussed a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers that would bring Bynum's old teammate Pau Gasol to Cleveland in exchange for Bynum. 

    The report says the Lakers are "reluctant to part with the four-time All-Star without receiving assets of some value in return."

    As bad as this has turned out for Cleveland so far, you can't blame them for trying. You can't expect to hit snake eyes every time you roll the dice. The Cavs took a chance on an aloof, oft-injured center and got exactly what they paid for. 

    If they can turn Bynum into someone like Gasol, it will salvage the deal. If not, it would be the latest misstep in what has been a bad series of events since LeBron James skipped town a few years ago. 

Charlotte Bobcats Sign Al Jefferson

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Al Jefferson signing with the Charlotte Bobcats was a perfect match for everyone involved. The Bobcats needed a low-post scorer and the 28-year-old Jefferson needed to secure one last big payday. 

    The Bobcats gave Big Al $40.5 million over three years, which was a large sum of money even for someone with Jefferson's talents down low. Still, the addition of Jefferson along with the drafting of Cody Zeller helped overhaul Charlotte's frontcourt and give it more of a scoring punch. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    The Bobcats were always going to need more than Jefferson to be competitive, even in a weak Eastern Conference. For what it's worth, Jefferson has done his part. 

    He's averaging 17 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He's even getting it done on the defensive end. He's contributing 1.4 blocks and a steal per contest as well as allowing opponents to shoot 46.2 percent against him (according to 82games.com). 

    Thanks in large part to a terrible conference, the Bobcats are sixth in the East with a record of 14-18. A deep playoff run seems unlikely, but Charlotte does possess something few Eastern Conference teams have: a low-post presence. With the right matchup, they could sneak out of the first round. 

    Jefferson's services didn't come cheap but, so far, he's been as good as advertised. 

Dallas Mavericks Sign Monta Ellis

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Whether Monta Ellis' signing with the Dallas Mavericks constitutes as "major" depends on your feelings of the well-traveled 28-year-old. Ellis has never been a "star," but he's been a productive combo guard who can help out on both sides of the ball. 

    With the Mavs needing to reel in some big fish to put around the aging Dirk Nowitzki, Ellis was a decent-sized trout. He was certainly an upgrade over his predecessor, O.J. Mayo. 

    Dallas gave Ellis a three-year, $30 million deal to be a part of their rebuilt backcourt that also included Jose Calderon running point. Sure, Ellis is a bit of a chucker, but he's a solid second option to take pressure off Dirk. 

    While the duo of Ellis and Calderon doesn't invoke the glory days of Steve Nash and Michael Finley, it was a nice effort by a team striving to stay afloat. 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    As expected, Ellis has produced. His 20.3 points per game are just behind Nowitzki's nightly clip of 21.3 for the team lead. He's delivering six assists per game and leads the team with close to two steals per contest. 

    Furthermore, the Mavericks are clinging to the eighth spot out West with a respectable 18-13 record. With the conference so top-heavy, the Mavs may be nothing more than first-round fodder for the top seed if they make the playoffs. 

    However, Ellis was a nice addition to a team that is only a couple pieces away from being back on track. He can't turn the Mavs into contenders, but he can lead a supporting cast that can make Dallas competitive. 

Houston Rockets Sign Dwight Howard

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    The Houston Rockets have been chasing Dwight Howard for quite some time. When he wanted out of Orlando, the team feverishly put together pieces to try to strike a deal. When he ended up in Los Angeles, Houston did whatever it took to prepare themselves to make an offer D12 couldn't refuse. 

    Finally, over the summer, the Rockets got their man. Since the early retirement of Yao Ming, the Rockets have been desperate for someone to fill the void inside. It seemed only right that they do so with the best center in the game. 

    Howard signed with Houston for $88 million over four years. His arrival is huge for multiple reasons. First, a team desperate to improve defensively is getting one of the best rim protectors in the game. Second, he gives Houston another elite talent to go along with James Harden and Chandler Parsons. 

    Lastly, Howard's departure from Los Angeles is one of the rare instances of a star in his prime (a big man, no less) leaving the bright lights of Hollywood for greener pastures elsewhere. 

    The acquisition of Howard came with some risk. For the two seasons prior, D12 dealt with injuries and a seemingly never-ending amount of drama that spanned over two cities. How would he fit in Houston after the carnage he created in Orlando and LA? 

     

    How It Looks So Far

    Howard has shown signs of being the Dwight of old. His 17.9 points per game are second only to James Harden's 24 points a night. He's third in the NBA in rebounding with an average of 13.1 boards per contest. 

    Defensively, he's contributing 1.8 blocks per game. As he grows more comfortable with the team, the Rockets will only become more formidable. Two months into the season, he's been healthy and smiling. There's been no spats with coach Kevin McHale or any PR nightmares. 

    The only person who has taken issue with Howard's arrival is former starter Omer Asik, who has asked for a trade numerous times since the team signed the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. 

    Howard's first season in Houston hasn't been perfect, however. He's still a liability at the free-throw line, converting just 55 percent this season. 

    Still, as with any high-profile team, the Rockets will inevitably be judged on how they fare in the playoffs. With a solid starting rotation and good depth, there isn't much holding this team back from making some noise. 

    Howard has carried a team to the Finals before. Houston is paying him to help do it once more.