Is Dwight Howard Worth the Money for the Houston Rockets?

Andy HuSenior Writer IIJune 23, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 26:  Dwight Howard (L) #12 and Devin Ebanks #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on from the bench in the second half against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 26, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The Spurs defeated the Lakers 120-89.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons has been courting Dwight Howard to join the team every day.

If this opportunity happened a few years ago, signing Howard to a huge, long-term deal would go without question. A few seasons ago, Howard was by far the most dominant center in the NBA and one of the top five players in the entire league.

After what happened with the Orlando Magic and Howard's subpar season (by his standards) with the Los Angeles Lakers, is he really worth the money that the Rockets would potentially offer him?

Even now, Howard will still command a max contract from certain teams that are looking to revitalize their respective franchises.


They Can Afford Him

Money isn't an issue for the Rockets.

In the 2012-13 season, they had the lowest payroll in the entire league with only roughly $44 million owed to player contracts. Obviously, their payroll will naturally increase as James Harden's new contract kicks in and other players' contracts are slightly increased.

However, their best chance to land a superstar-caliber free agent is now. There aren't many better players in this league than Howard, and one mediocre season does not remove him from the ranks of an elite player.

With the Rockets' current core, it's unlikely that they could win a championship unless they add another major player and a few more key pieces. Howard can be that player to fill in the void.


Where Does Omer Asik Stand?

In the midst of Harden proving himself to be a legitimate superstar, Parsons' improving play and Lin's lesser role in the offense, Asik quietly put together the best season of his career.

Last summer, Daryl Morey took a chance with Asik and offered him a hefty contract, as he expected his production in limited minutes would translate to a bigger role on a different team. The gamble paid off, and Asik has solidified himself as a double-double machine and one of the best post defenders in the league.

Asik's offense is where the struggles usually occur. He's not a natural finisher at the rim, and he isn't really the perfect pick-and-roll partner for Lin or Harden. Additionally, he doesn't have any range or jump shot at all.

In the 2012-13 season, Asik only managed to finish 60.5 percent of his attempts at the basket (per Hoop Data). For comparison, Howard has finished over 70 percent of his field-goal attempts at the rim in every season since he's been in the league.

However, neither Howard nor Asik is capable of playing power forward, and it's very unlikely that both players would be on the floor at the same time. After all, the Rockets are a perimeter-oriented team, and they need more space-creators on the floor.

It's also not very efficient having a center with a $25 million contract play limited minutes off of the bench. If Howard comes to Houston, then Asik has to go.


Very Few Superstars Available in the Future

The Rockets are the youngest team in the league, and they can wait a few years before competing for a championship. But this is probably the last offseason where they have a chance to land a superstar.

Howard and point guard Chris Paul are the two biggest names this offseason, and both seem to be unsure of their futures with their respective Los Angeles squads.

The Lakers had high expectations, but injuries and inconsistency led to a tough road to get into the playoffs and an eventual first-round sweep. The Los Angeles Clippers, on the other hand, saw their season come to an end early as well.

Next offseason, it's unlikely that the Rockets will play a huge part in the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh sweepstakes, and only James would be a better player than Howard at that point.

Right now, the Rockets have an opportunity to land one of the best centers in the league, and chances like this don't come around very often.