Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard underperformed during his final guaranteed season with the Rockets.
Dwight Howard, like his Houston Rockets, had an uninspired 2015-2016 NBA season.
Going in to the season with knowledge that Howard would be able to opt out of his contract come summer, it was understood that Howard’s future would be affected by the Rockets’ success during their 2015-2016 NBA season.
With Howard having been injured for half of the 2014-2015 season in which the Rockets finished second in the Western Conference, the Rockets figured a healthy Howard would result in an even better record for their 2015-2016 campaign. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The Rockets went from being one of the top teams in the Western Conference to barely making it into the playoffs.
While Howard is not the only reason the Rockets struggled this season, his play was not enough to alleviate his team’s struggles.
Next: Howard's 2015-2016 Regular Season
Apr 27, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and center Dwight Howard (12) between plays during the third quarter in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
2015-2016 Regular Season
71 games, 13.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg, .62% fg
Howard’s game has declined each of the three seasons he has spent in a Rockets uniform. His defensive numbers have remained consistent, but his scoring numbers have dropped by several points.
Throughout his career, Howard has never been a great scorer, but when the Rockets signed him in 2013, they figured they would get somewhere close to 20 points out of him night in and night out. Howard only managed to do that during his first season with the Rockets in which he averaged 18.3 points per game.
In his second healthy season with Houston, Howard averaged 13.7 points per game. Despite Howard scoring four points less than he did during his first season as a Rocket, it’s difficult to tell whether that was because Howard was incapable of scoring more, or if it was because his offensive touches decreased.
Howard has had a difficult time figuring out how to be effective on teams where he is not the first option. In Orlando, where Howard had the most success, the ball always went through him first. Sine leaving Orlando, Howard has struggled to figure out how to play with other stars. It’s not that he has a difficult time accepting that he is the second option, it’s just that it’s easier for him to score when he’s the focal point of the offense.
Next: Howard's 2016 Postseason
Apr 21, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) attempts to spin around Golden State Warriors center Marreese Speights (5) during the third quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 97-96. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
5 games, 13.2 ppg, 14.0 rpg, 1.4bpg
While Howard has put up solid numbers in each regular season he has spent in Houston, he always seems to elevate his game during the playoffs. He averaged more points in his first postseason with Houston than he has during any other postseason with each of his three teams.
This season, Howard’s playoffs number were almost identical to his regular season numbers. The only area in which he improved was in rebounding in which he averaged 14 per game.
Despite the Rockets only advancing past the first round once with Howard, the Rockets came to expect “Playoff Dwight” to emerge each postseason. With him and James Harden both firing on all cylinders, they made for a tough combo to beat.
With the Rockets falling to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of this year’s playoffs, it may have been the last postseason we see the duo play together.
Next: Howard's Best Moments
Mar 23, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) calls to a teammate during a play in the third quarter against the Utah Jazz at Toyota Center. The Jazz won 89-87. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Howard’s best moments this season came around the turn of the calendar year. The Rockets were in the midst of a five-game winning streak fueled by Howard’s seven straight double-doubles.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) January 14, 2016
In a lot of ways, it felt like it would be the turn of the season. Howard was playing at his best, and it seemed like the Rockets finally figured out how to win.
After winning five straight, however, the Rockets lost their next game, and then quickly returned to being the team that they were before Howard was playing up to his potential.
Outside of his play in January, Howard struggled to perform all season. Again, it is unclear whether or not it is because he his no longer the player he once was, or if he just has a difficult time being effective on a team in which he is not the first option.
Next: Howard's Future
Mar 14, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) spins with the ball as Memphis Grizzlies forward Alex Stepheson (35) defends during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Howard will opt out of his contract this summer in order to make more money. Whether or not he will resign with the Rockets remains to be undetermined. In his recent appearance on TNT’s Inside the NBA, Howard told the TNT crew that he hasn’t even begun to think about where he will play next season.
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While Howard having not thought about his decision is extremely doubtful, it is likely that he is honest when he says that he is not sure where he will be playing next season.
For the Rockets, a lot of factors will determine whether or not they choose to resign him.
First, Howard has to want to return to Houston. He may choose to go somewhere else in order to play a larger role on offense.
If Howard would like to stay in Houston, the Rockets would then have to decide on whether or not they would like to retain Howard and under what conditions. There is no question that Howard is no longer the player he once was. With that in mind, he is undeserving of the type of money the Rockets initially signed him for. If Howard is seeking out a max contract, it is likely he will have to look elsewhere.
The Rockets would like to keep Howard. He is still a potent defensive force, and he is able to offer solid offensive production. If Howard wants to stay in Houston, however, he will have to accept the fact that he’s not worth the money he once was, and that his role on the team will be less important.
If those parameters are too difficult for Howard to swallow, it is unlikely he will be wearing a Rocket uniform come next fall.
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