The Dwight Howard and Houston Rockets era has come to an end as the big man returns home to Atlanta signing a 3-year $70.5 million deal.
The minute the Houston Rockets signed Mike D’Antoni as their new head coach it was presumed Dwight Howard wouldn’t return.
Key to this speculation was the fact issues kept surfacing in the media regarding the discontent of the big man regarding his lack of offensive usage. There was the constant rumors franchise star James Harden and Dwight Howard just didn’t like each other. Earlier this season reports were published stating each of the stars had visited management requesting for the other to be traded.
Though both stars and the Rockets management did their best to assuage the media storm as the old saying goes “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”.
— Tamberlyn's Tip-Off (@TTOTambz) July 2, 2016
During the first day of free agency social media and NBA related shows reported Howard had recruitment meetings scheduled with the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics and 2 other teams.
Curiously there was no indication the Rockets were in the mix.
Meanwhile Twitter was abuzz regarding the recruitment session Houston was embroiled in with Hawk guard Kent Bazemore. Reports stated James Harden, Hakeem Olajuwon and a bevvy of other former players were in attendance at the session to convince Bazemore to join Houston.
Ultimately the Rockets efforts to snag Bazemore fell flat as he signed a deal to return to the Hawks.
— Tamberlyn's Tip-Off (@TTOTambz) July 2, 2016
Then news hit that Howard had accepted the Hawks’ deal to return to his home town Atlanta. The deal is said to be for a term of 3-years and a reported $70.5 million dollars.
What this means for Houston is they have freed up significant dollars from their cap space, and with a few more tweaks to the roster could potentially offer two max deals to bring in star talent.
The problem is the Rockets may have the money, but if they can’t get meetings with star talent it can’t be utilized. It was anticipated Houston would meet with Hassan Whiteside, Mike Conley and Al Horford to lure 2 of them to the Rockets. That won’t happen however as Whiteside and Conley have both agreed to deals which will find them returning to their current teams.
So, while Houston have ample salary cap space, the available high end free agents are evaporating as free agency continues. The Hawks Al Horford may still be an option, however most pundits expect him to go elsewhere. Many believe Horford is waiting on Kevin Durant’s decision and will either sign with Oklahoma City or potentially the Boston Celtics who have been aggressive of their recruitment to land him.
Scanning the free agent board for top talent there are some viable options still available:
While these 3 players are solid producers, Gasol is on the back end of his career, Anderson and Barnes are both solid, but neither would be considered All-Star talent. At this point, it seems likely any move GM Daryl Morey will make will have to be via trades.
As for Dwight Howard, while he leaves disenchanted over his lack of offensive usage in H-Town, he also exits with some career highlights including his playoff performances where he raised his level of play. Specifically in each of his 3 post season forays he averaged double-doubles:
- 2013-14: averaged 26 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 6 games
- 2014-15 averaged 16.4 points, 14 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 17 games
- 2015-16 averaged 13.2 points, 14 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 5 games
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Ultimately Howard’s exit felt inevitable, and whether he was misused or simply didn’t fit the system it’s unfortunate his Rockets tenure didn’t capitalize on his assets.
On the bright side, by joining the Eastern Conference, the Rockets will only have to deal with him twice a season.
I’m sure Rockets fans join Space City Scoop in thanking Howard for his 3 seasons and wish him good fortune in Atlanta.
SCS will update as free agency news develops. For now if you’re a fan who wants to follow free agency closely consider checking out my Free Agency Profiles for all 30 teams:
And early free agent signings:
Along with articles covering the draft:
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