Just a few hours ago, the Houston Rockets were officially eliminated from the playoffs after losing to the Curry-less Golden State Warriors. Fans and media members alike were all relieved that they didn’t have to watch the train wreck that is this current Rockets team anymore. This team’s attitude all stemmed from their two superstars, Dwight Howard and James Harden. The two of them didn’t even see eye-to-eye as it was, and it seemed to carry over to the entire team.
So, here we are with the Rockets heading for vacation, and the reports are already coming in about the teams that are the front-runners to sign Howard in the off-season. Via ESPN:
The Rockets will have a comprehensive list of coaches to view whenever the season ends. Bickerstaff, who remains in good standing with management, will be part of that conversation. Alexander and Morey believe that Harden will play a role in helping to hire a coach and potentially sign free agents.
Howard is not expected to have a role. It’s expected that he will become a free agent and seek a new team. Orlando, Milwaukee, Portland and Charlotte are the favorites.
Two of the four teams seen as favorites to acquire Howard’s services are in the playoffs this year, and the other two seem to only need a few more pieces to be playoff teams. The truth to this situation is, however, that both Houston and Dwight Howard are going to be better off as soon as he leaves. We’ve seen many players who have benefited from a change of scenery, and Howard would definitely be a person to add to that list. As history has shown us, Howard needs a sturdy coaching staff and a much less chaotic player situation. He’s not the number one guy that he might think he is, but he’s still more of a threat if he’s in a situation that plays more team ball instead of one-on-one superstar hero ball. His averages have been declining since his first season with Houston, and it’s clear now that if he’s your best or second best player on your team, then you’re going to have a very bad time. Howard’s attitude, injury history, and tendency to lack a “killer instinct” is proof enough that he needs other superstars to take the heat off of him. Throw in guys like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in Portland who can light it up from outside and still facilitate the ball, then Howard could fit in very nicely.
Looking at the flip side, Howard leaving gives the Rockets the ability to reconfigure the supporting cast around James Harden. After the loss on Wednesday night, Harden even said that he wants an upgraded roster. When your superstar says that, it pretty much means that you better press that restart button. There were many failed experiments with players like Ty Lawson, but this offseason has some quality guys that could go along with Harden. Someone like Mike Conley is available as well as a big man like Pau Gasol or Al Horford. Two-way players are the kind of players that need to surround Harden because we all have seen the kind of defense that he plays. Harden was supposed to be one of those guys, but as he gets older, his defensive game wasn’t as intimidating as it once was. This off-season will test GM Daryl Morey more than ever, and the fans will be watching very closely to make sure there are no slip-ups on the way.