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Trading Dwight Howard Would Be a Horrible Idea For Houston Rockets

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A poor season start has the Houston Rockets faithful searching for quick fixes, but a trade of super star Dwight Howard isn’t the answer…

During a 4-7 start with most losses being blowouts, fans began to worry and push blame on coach Kevin McHale for not motivating his team adequately, and it led to him losing his job (a hasty decision that was somewhat unmerited, but that’s a different discussion). When firing McHale didn’t pan out as we all would have liked, fans were forced to find a new scapegoat, and many have turned to Dwight Howard.

There have been rumors of trade discussions and many fans have supported the idea of trading Howard. I’m here to put that idea to rest. There are many things wrong with the Rockets this season: poor shooting, porous defense, lack of effort, etc. They are all issues that desperately need to be addressed, and every player on the team has to accept at least some of the blame. However, if there were one player who deserves less blame than he gets, it would be Dwight Howard.

There was a time when Dwight Howard was a 6’11”, 265 pound blemish on the NBA’s reputation. The way he exited Orlando and the way he played (or didn’t play) in LA portrayed him as the perfect candidate for a scapegoat for his team when struggles arise. He caused a ton of chemistry issues and handled himself poorly when it came to trade and free agent negotiations.

There isn’t much more that the Rockets could ask of Dwight than what he’s doing for the team right now.

However, Rockets fans need to realize that the Dwight who existed from 2010 into the first half of 2013 never made his way to Houston. Since his arrival in the summer of 2013, Dwight Howard has been exactly the player the Rockets wanted, albeit a few nagging injuries. He’s played hard and kept his nose clean, and disgruntled fans need to stop blaming him for Houston’s disappointing season as of late. Actually, no – they can wrongfully blame him if they want – they just need to stop suggesting that Houston should trade him.

Except for his rookie season and last season when he was plagued with injuries and only suited up for half the games, Howard is averaging his fewest minutes per game at 32.7. However, he is managing to average a double-double with 13 points per game and 12.2 rebounds per game (third in the league), along with leading the team in blocks per game at 1.8 per game (11th in the league). At just over 2 turnovers per contest, Dwight is handing the ball more securely than he has in ten years. He is also shooting his best free throw and field goal percentage since the latter part of his tenure with Orlando when he was considered a top five player in the league.

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The only statistic that is significantly lower than his career averages is points per game, which is the basis for many people’s argument for why he should be traded. I do agree that it would be better if he were scoring more, but it’s not like he isn’t playing efficiently; the only reason he isn’t scoring as much as he has in the past is because he isn’t shooting as often as he used to when he was his team’s primary scoring option. There isn’t much more that the Rockets could ask of Dwight than what he’s doing for the team right now.

Sure, there are times when it is apparent that at 30 years old; he isn’t the super explosive Dwight Howard that we’ve seen in the past. He has dealt with some nagging knee and back injuries that have kept him from playing as much or as hard as he’d like. But he has embraced his role well and has said that he’s willing to make sacrifices to win in Houston.

When he plays at 100% (and he’s been cleared to play in back-to-backs, so he should be fully healthy very soon), he’s still one of the best centers in the NBA.

If that isn’t enough to sway public opinion back in his favor, there are several other reasons why trading Dwight Howard just isn’t a logical option.

Oct 19, 2015; Houston Rockets center Howard smiles from the sideline during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Rockets need a backup center. Though Clint Capela is averaging career highs in nearly every imaginable category and is looking like he could become an elite center, he isn’t ready for big time minutes on a nightly basis. He has a serious fouling problem and still makes rookie mistakes from time to time. He’s probably the best backup center in the league, but isn’t ready quite yet to fill Dwight’s shoes.

Even if Capela were though, there would be no big man with his play style to back him up. Terrence Jones and Donatas Montiejunas are great players, but both are more of a power forward and aren’t the  rebounding (just a combined average of about 7 boards per game this season) at the rate the Rockets need from the center position. The only way to trade Dwight without causing this problem would be to trade for a center, and there isn’t a center on the market with numbers or productivity like Dwight’s. Not to mention the fact that the lineup that has been most successful so far this season features a twin towers approach with Howard and Capela both starting.

2. Dwight Howard would not have all that much trade value. Sure, you could get some draft picks and a couple young players with potential, but the Rockets have plenty of draft picks and young players with potential. Youngsters like KJ McDaniels who is spending most of his time with the Rockets’ D-league team. You’ll get an argument from me McDaniels has earned his minutes, but if he’s not getting them why would adding more youth solve any issues?

The only legitimate type of trade that would make losing Dwight even close to worth it would be if Houston could land a big time star. However, no team would trade their big time star for Howard, who has dealt with injuries and is past his prime by a couple years. If I thought Houston could land a player like Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard in a trade for Dwight, I’d be more open to the idea. But that won’t happen. Any addition to the team that could come from a trade involving Dwight would leaving a gaping hole in Houston’s lineup and we’d be missing him the first time Motiejunas messed up a perfectly good alley-oop pass from Harden.

3. Mid-season trades run the risk of ruining team chemistry. It’s no secret that the Rockets have had their fair share of chemistry issues this season. The team has seen a coaching change, 3 starting point guards, 2 starting small forwards, 4 starting power forwards, and 2 starting centers. However (I’m knocking on wood as I type this), things have started to look much better recently. Ty Lawson has finally started playing respectably and Motiejunas is back and helping to restore order. Now that they’ve finally returned to .500, the last thing the Rockets need right now is to bring in new personnel and have to start at square one, especially if that’s at the cost of losing Howard.

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All things considered, Dwight Howard is a player whose value to the Rockets is undermined constantly. The team has not had the season they had hoped for by any point of evaluation, but trading Howard would do nothing more than make matters worse. I still believe that the team will figure itself out before too long and return to last year’s form with Dwight as one of the centerpieces. In no way am I supportive of any notion to scrap the whole thing and try to rebuild, and I like the idea of having a top tier center on the team. As long as Dwight continues to put up the numbers he’s at right now, there’s not much argument against the fact that he’s about as good as it gets for centers in the league.

He’s had his fair share of issues in the past and he smiles a lot, but that’s no good reason for assuming he doesn’t take his job seriously. This is the same smiley guy who can be seen all around Houston hosting philanthropic events!

In summation I feel Dwight’s play in Houston has been everything a Rockets fan could ask for. Considering the fact he’s posting the third best numbers for a center and isn’t complaining about his touches or role on the team I think he’s doing more than his fair share. Trading him at this juncture would create more problems than resolutions.  Now if you are asking me how we make the Rockets better… well that’s another article and you’ll just have to check back to Space City Scoop to see what suggestions I and the staff come up with.

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