6. Successful Dwight Howard/Harden pairing
When the Houston Rockets landed James Harden they didn’t necessarily what they were getting at the time. Harden has been a sixth man for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had decided to ship away the former lottery pick.
But Harden ended up making the All-Star team in his first season in Houston, and it was clear that the future was bright with Harden at the helm. With that being the case, it was clear the Houston Rockets needed to add another star to pair with Harden, which put Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to the test.
Morey was able to land Dwight Howard, who was the biggest fish of the 2013 free agency class. Morey and Harden were able to get D12 to leave Los Angeles, which is one of the biggest media markets, in favor of Houston. In doing so, Howard left $30 million on the table, which is proof of how he was all-in on the Rockets.
But the experiment never lived upto expectations, as the Rockets never made it to the NBA Finals with D12 on the roster. The Rockets secured the fourth seed in the West during Howard’s first season in Houston, but were ultimately eliminated by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, thanks to a walk-off 3-pointer from Damian Lillard.
During that season, Howard averaged 18.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks, which would all end up being career-highs for his Rockets tenure. Howard also made the All-Star team during his first season in the H, which ended up being his only All-Star appearance during his Rockets’ tenure.
Granted, the Rockets ultimately made it to the Western Conference Finals during Howard’s second season, but they were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors within five games. During Howard’s final season in Houston, the Rockets went 41-41 and barely slid into the playoffs.
This was arguably Howard’s worst season upto that point, as he averaged 13.7 points per game, which were the fewest since rookie season. He also averaged 11.8 rebounds, which was lower than his rebounding averages in nine of the previous ten seasons. Howard ultimately exercised his player option in his contract and left Houston after three years, which was bound to happen.
We’d heard rumblings of how Dwight and Harden didn’t get along, but Harden downplayed these reports, which is to be expected. Regardless of what exactly transpired, the failed experiment has certainly left Houston Rockets fans wondering what-if.
Next: No. 5