During the Dwight Howard trade rumors, three teams have been reported as potential landing spots for Howard: the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets (and the Atlanta Hawks have emerged as potential dark horses). For the Nets, a Howard trade is an absolute no-brainer. He wants to play in Brooklyn, which means he would sign a contract extension this season. With him in the lineup, the Nets would be an immediate championship contender, and the draw of Howard would continue to feed into the unprecedented publicity and buzz for the franchise. Despite wanting to get a deal done, the Nets recently pulled out of talks because they were tired of waiting around for the Magic.
The Lakers emerged as the second team in the trade sweepstakes and trading for Howard also makes a lot of sense. The Lakers would be taking a risk that Howard doesn’t re-sign, but even if he is just a one-year rental, the Lakers have a chance to win a championship in that one season. Also, once Howard gets to L.A. and plays alongside Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol in the NBA’s second-biggest market, there is a good chance he would opt to re-sign with the franchise after next season. So while there is risk for the Lakers, it is a risk worth taking, the same of which can’t be said of the Houston Rockets.
Ever since the NBA season ended, Daryl Morey has been by far the most active general manager in the NBA. He has completely reshaped his roster as he continues to gather assets to use in a trade for the superstar he so desperately craves, but trading for Dwight Howard would be the worst mistake of Morey’s career.
The Rockets’ trade offer to Orlando includes Patrick Patterson, Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris and Kevin Martin, as well as the draft rights to their three first-round picks this year – Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and Royce White – PLUS multiple draft picks. In the meantime, the Rockets would take back Howard and at least two or three of the Magic’s bad contracts with some combination of Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, and Chris Duhon. Now, I must ask, how does this trade make the 2012-13 Houston Rockets any different from the 2011-12 Orlando Magic? The answer is that it doesn’t.
By completely gutting the roster to acquire Howard, the Rockets are putting themselves in the same position as the Magic were last season. They will have a roster with overpriced veterans and an unhappy superstar who can leave at the end of the season. If Dwight were to play in Houston, what pieces do they have that are even remotely enticing to play with? They traded away their center tandem of Sam Dalembert (to Milwaukee) and Marcus Camby (to New York) and have replaced them with Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan. They went from having one of the best one-two point guard combinations in the NBA with Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry to having Toney Douglas and Courtney Fortson. Chase Budinger was traded to the Wolves, Luis Scola was amnestied, and Courtney Lee is likely gone, so the Rockets would have a core of Howard, Turkoglu, Davis, and Richardson. The exact same group Orlando had last year when they finished as the sixth seed in the East.
That roster will not get it done for Howard and honestly, might not even make the playoffs in the Western Conference. San Antonio, Oklahoma City, both Los Angeles teams, Memphis and Denver will all likely make the playoffs again, with Utah and Dallas still competitive. Additionally, Minnesota and Golden State will be much improved after their offseason moves, so I just don’t see the Rockets sneaking into the playoffs. And what if they did happen to make the playoffs? Well, they have no shot at winning a championship this season and given that Howard would almost certainly not re-sign after the season, the trade would be a colossal failure.
I respect that Morey is aggressive in approaching ways to improve his team, because right now the Rockets have a lot of young talent but need big-time players to take the next step. Dwight Howard is not that player in one important sense. Not only would the roster be a disaster if that proposed trade went through, but Howard would be a huge distraction the entire year. It would almost be like sabotaging an entire season because there is just no way I see him being happy and content in Houston. It would just further extend the saga that has become Dwight Howard’s NBA career and be a public relations disaster for the franchise. When Howard inevitably leaves next season, the cupboard will be completely bare to launch a massive rebuilding effort. Houston would have few drafts picks and virtually no young talent to rebuild around, setting them back years.
If Morey wants to improve his team by adding a star, he needs to go after one who is locked in for at least two years so that he can continue to build a team around that player as opposed to having one year to get everything done with Howard. Guys like Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala, who have been on the trading block, while certainly not of the same quality as Howard, are still very good NBA players who would improve the Rockets at likely half the cost of what it would take to acquire Howard.
If Morey does decide to acquire Howard though, this will be a permanent stain on his record going forward.
Do you think it’s a mistake for Houston to trade for Howard?
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