NBA: Could Dwight Howard Going to Houston Rockets Help or Hurt Jeremy Lin?
If there was any team to look forward to in the coming years-aside from the Miami Heat-it would be the Houston Rockets.
After three years of futility, the Rockets shed cap space and imported some flashy new pieces in the form of James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik in the 2012 offseason.
The result? A Houston Rockets squad that finished with a 45-37 year in 2012-13, developed an identity as one of the fastest, highest-scoring and most exciting teams to watch in the NBA, clinched the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff picture and took the heavily favored Oklahoma City Thunder to six games in a grueling first round playoff series where the young Rockets showed surprising grit and fire.
While Harden flourished into a superstar, Jeremy Lin recovered from a rough start to become more consistent near the end of the regular season, prior to suffering the injury during the Oklahoma City Thunder series that brought his whole postseason crashing down.
And with cap space to spare for one more major player to add to the mix, the Rockets likely have one in mind--one seven foot center, Dwight Howard.
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year and seven time NBA All-Star who led the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals is a free agent this summer and while the Los Angeles Lakers have expressed their desire to keep him in purple and gold, the man who is arguably the best center in the league has reportedly been eying the Rockets as his potential new home.
CBSSports.com reported this week that Howard is intrigued by the Rockets, and rightfully so. In many ways, the Rockets are the complete opposite of the aging, injury-prone and chemistry-lacking L.A. Lakers that struggled to make the playoffs and were sent home packing in a sweep against the San Antonio Spurs. The Rockets are younger, faster, hungry. With a talented core of Harden, Parsons and Lin, with Asik anchoring the center, and a blistering offense that tallies up points by the bushels, Houston has a nucleus that could help the Rockets contend for years.
Adding Howard to that mix would undoubtedly help the Rockets. Putting a still-young and defensive-minded, rebound oriented Howard on the Rockets could help plug the holes in the Rockets' defense. The Rockets often let defenders slash down the lane with reckless abandon, but against a bonafide defensive stopper like Howard, that would no longer be an option. And of course, having him down low creates an offensive threat in the post that the Rockets didn't have.
Harden would immediately benefit, having a threat on offense down low that opens up more opportunities for him to score from the wings. Parsons, who is developing his three-point shot nicely and becoming a major offensive weapon, would undoubtedly see some more open looks on the perimeter from the double-teams that Harden and Howard could draw.
But how does Lin fit into all of this?
It's no secret that Lin's offensive game in New York, which rose to new heights early last year during the heights of "Linsanity," he struggled after Carmelo Anthony came back into the fold, as well as a coaching change that no longer featured him running the offense. And it took Lin some time-most of the season, in fact-to get accustomed to the flow of the offense in Houston that revolved around Harden, then Parsons in the point-scoring hierarchy.
With a season under his belt, and some time to assess his strengths and weaknesses to address over the offseason, Lin should be coming back for a 2013-14 campaign ready to roll. Of course, there is the risk that Howard's inclusion in the offense would just squeeze Lin out of the picture altogether. After all, three's a crowd and four just might not be enough, even with the Rockets' pass-heavy system.
Yet, on the other hand, having Howard onboard could just as easily work to Lin's advantage. What point guard wouldn't love a big, reliable target to throw to the post to on offense like Howard? Lin connecting with Howard on potential alley-oops and low post passes could have the Rockets' offense rolling. And in addition, with so much attention on Harden, Howard and Parsons, that leaves Lin wide open. And as he's shown in the past, he can create his own shot when he needs to.
It wouldn't be too difficult seeing Lin adopt the kind of role that Rajon Rondo adopted in Boston during the prime years of Boston's Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, where Rondo was mainly a ball distributor, but could be counted on through offense. Right now, the offense runs entirely through Harden-he gets the most touches and the most shots, as all superstar players do. Adding in Howard changes everything. With more viable offensive options, Lin's role as point guard would be more important than ever, and affords him time as he learns how to make those critical decision-making skills needed for a starting point guard in the NBA to be successful. Rondo isn't a great shooter, but he's athletic and explosive, much like Lin. Under the right circumstances--and Howard's presence would create those circumstances--he could develop into a player of a similar fashion.
Of course, all of this is theoretical, as there is no way to tell what kind of offense Rockets coach Kevin McHale would implement if they do get Howard. But should Jeremy Lin fear the arrival of Howard in Houston? To the contrary, if things go right, for Lin, it would be a most welcome change.