Instant Trade Analysis: Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets…and what’s next for the Lakers?

Houston Rockets get: C Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard’s quixotic journey out of Orlando, into Los Angeles and finally settling in Houston has mercifully ended its stranglehold on the fortunes of no less than six franchises across the NBA. The seven-time All-Star center chose the Rockets over the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks, citing his desire to win more than anything, and Houston’s proximity to making that become a reality. As the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan astutely points out, this is the first time a player of Howard’s caliber has willingly left the Lakers in free agency. The next closest example of that ever happening is A.C. Green almost 20 years ago–a true indication of how rare an occurrence a moment of humility is for the 16-time NBA World Champions.
Let’s get this out of the way: regardless of what anyone thinks about Howard’s attitude, work ethic, decision-making ability or on-court ability, he made a solid choice. He looked at the immediate future for all of the clubs in question, and selected the one with a budding 23-year-old superstar, a cutting edge front office and nearly $20 million dollars in cap room in just two years time. Meanwhile, the Lakers asked him to trust a front office that has made very recent, very shaky decisions, look past coach Mike D’Antoni’s shortcomings and believe that a 35-year-old Kobe Bryant and a 39 year-old Steve Nash could come back from injuries and compete for a title. Dwight deliberated all of this knowing the pedigree of the Lakers organization and mulling an extra $30 million dollars in purple and gold change, but ultimately chose what he could see in front of him versus what was promised. I can’t say I fault him for making that decision.
If healthy, Dwight Howard is an absolute knock-out of a signing for Houston. Despite a reputation to the contrary, the Rockets finished the year 16th in defensive efficiency and second to last in points allowed per game, all of which should improve with a 3-time Defensive Player of the Year in the fold. He’s a more active shot blocker than the incumbent Omer Asik, as well as a better scorer on every avenue (well…except free throws). Howard should feast off a much better three-point shooting team than the Lakers were last year, with James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley and perhaps Jeremy Lin gunning from long. If spry and unencumbered by a recovery from surgery, Dwight should be able to mesh well with one of league’s best fast break offenses as well as improve defense on the run. The Rockets are young and untested with a coach that has won exactly 2 playoff games while holding a clipboard, so they’ll have much to prove before anyone considers them title contenders. But they’ve got all the necessary pieces in place to get there, and quickly.
Going back West, like every chapter in Lakers lore, whether it be a championship at the final buzzer of the season or on the receiving end of a sweep at the first round, the question is always “what’s next?” Let’s take a look at the hanging plot threads:

(Finish this one up over at Silver Screen!)

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