The Houston Rockets find themselves entangled in trade talks for All-Star center Dwight Howard. But looking past the bustle of speculation and hype that surrounds Orlando's big man, it's tough to pinpoint just how Howard fits into Houston.
Given the Rockets' ever-shifting roster, is the right system with the right personnel in place for "D12"'s arrival?
Howard would be a "one-year rental" for Kevin McHale's squad, and with an indeterminate outlook on 2012-13, that rental might not be worth much.
To snag less than 365 days of Howard, the Rockets would likely have to surrender touted veteran forward Luis Scola, and prolific guard Kevin Martin. Jettisoning the team's two remaining established starters? Houston, we have a problem.
Howard's impending free agency blindfolds any potential suitor. His subsequent future, value and intentions are all shots in the dark. Perhaps such a risk makes sense for a team teetering on the cusp of the Finals, but the Rockets are certainly not that team.
Houston wound up just two games above .500 in the frenzied lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. They failed to reach the playoffs and have made no substantial improvements for short-term growth. If anything, the team has regressed in on-court talent, opting instead to stockpile prospective players and find younger upside.
In a faux-rebuilding effort, the Rockets snagged touted rookies Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and Royce White, while watching incumbent point guards Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic skip town. With the New York Knicks ready to re-sign Jeremy Lin, Houston is left with three-year pro Toney Douglas at the one.
Regardless of Howard's undeniable low-post impact, can Houston really contend for a title without a true set-up man and a slew of undeveloped youngsters?
Is there another angle that factors into a potential acquisition of Dwight Howard?
The Rockets ranked 19th in home attendance percentage this season, despite playing in the nation's fourth largest city. Still, Houston enjoys a loyal fanbase with plenty of marketable assets from June's Draft. A Howard-esque media splash predicated on ticket sales has disaster written all over it.
Thus, it appears Houston is in the race for the league's top center if only for the enticing name involved.
Practicality is frighteningly minimal here, and Howard does not make this team anywhere close to the Spurs, Thunder, Lakers and the rest of the Western Conference's best. If anything, the Rockets would bear eerie semblance to Dwight's current team, the Orlando Magic. Should Houston ditch Scola and Martin for Howard, the Rockets become a collection of scrappy wing and mid-range shooters surrounding one dominant big man.
Would Los Angeles Andrew Bynum really be much better? Is Houston just prolonging an inevitable rebuild?
What happens next is anyone's guess, but pursuing Howard could wind up being an H-bomb in H-Town.
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