Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Is Houston a real title contender with Dwight? Any issues you see?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: With Dwight Howard, the Rockets would have the makings of a contender, which is as much as you can ask. I think it puts them potentially on the same plane as anyone else in the West with Finals ambitions, given Oklahoma City’s subtractions (Kevin Martin, Maurice Cheeks), San Antonio’s age and Memphis’ and Denver’s coaching changes. A “third star” would be nice, but Howard’s game needs to be catered to, so too much sharing could be counterproductive. Mostly Houston needs shooting.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I wouldn’t jump the Rockets ahead of Miami, San Antonio or Oklahoma City simply with the addition of Howard, but assuming they would fill out the roster with other veteran players, I would put them firmly in the mix for the Western Conference title and an outside shot to win it if everything fell into place. The only questions and issues with Howard are the ones that have always existed — can he dispense with the extraneous nonsense and hypersensitivity to outside forces and simply do the things that justify putting your franchise in his hands? Making free throws, for instance.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: It would be premature to call them a title contender on the spot, but it certainly gets the conversation going. Signing Howard and following that up with a nice return in an Omer Asik trade, then the conversation is going strong.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: They have the potential to be a top-10 team on both ends of the floor, which is what you need to be if you want to contend for a title. Howard gives them the ideal roll man to go with their pick-and-roll ball-handlers and their shooters. And they were already a top-10 offensive team. He’s obviously a difference-maker defensively, but the Rockets already had a terrific defensive center – Omer Asik. So they will need to get better on the perimeter to make a big jump from 16th in defensive efficiency. That’s the one issue I see.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: This is a trick question, because the Lakers just knew they were going to make The Finals last summer when they added Howard and Steve Nash. And we all know how that turned out. I don’t think Howard’s addition would make them an instant title contender. But his presence should certainly push the Rockets into the upper echelon of the Western Conference playoff pack. With Howard inside and James Harden on the perimeter, along with a solid supporting cast that includes one of my favorite young utility players in Chandler Parsons, the Rockets would be an extremely formidable team. But title contender … I need to see them in the flesh before putting them in that category.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Sticking Dwight in the post for Houston could help as far as rebounding goes, but they will obviously have to change the uptempo way they played last season if they want to get Dwight enough touches to keep him happy. To me it seems like it will be difficult to maintain a balance between being perimeter-based and maintaining a presence in the paint. But if Dwight can get healthy enough to run the court like he used to in Orlando, it could be fun to watch the Rockets take off. That said, adding Dwight alone to the Rockets does not vault them past OKC or San Antonio.
Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: Dwight Howard is one of the best centers in the league and would obviously be a great addition, but he and Harden won’t be enough to make the Rockets a contender. They need a PG better than Jeremy Lin (at least the one who played in Houston last year, because the return of the Linsanity guy everybody admired 2 seasons ago with the New York Knicks would make the difference) and more depth. But if they could get another star …