Aside a few notable names that switched rosters,houses and cities willingly or otherwise, the NBA midseason trade period proceeded and ended without much of a shout. Hitherto this period lived up the massive hype; dousing fans and media alike with shock moves that had social media on fire. As hyped as this season’s mid-season trade period was despite the set retirement of a bonafide international superstar, there was not a vetoed move for Chris Paul to don the Purple and Gold of the Lakers but a white, then red, then black home jersey of the Los Angeles Clippers. Back then (2011) the co-tenants of the Staples Center made away with a point guard who made fans have sensations of an Isiah Thomas induced dejavu whenever he stepped on the court.
For every Lance Stephenson-who got tossed from the Clippers to Memphis Grizzlies for Jeff Green- there was a Carmelo Anthony descent from the rookies of Colorado to once again ascend the high rise buildings of Manhattan in 2011. For every Tobias Harris move from the South to the northern motor city of Detroit, there was no Cleveland Cavalier General Manager named David Griffin shipping Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder for J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.
The season came and went without a whiff including the world’s oil capital whose franchise basketball team has been doing some digging off late heading down the NBA’s depth by accumulating more losses than it had envisaged. The Houston Rockets, started the season wobbly, fired its coach and have till this point of the season, looked a distant shadow of the greasy three point shooting team that made the Western Conference Finals a year prior.
As the league commences the second phase of regular games, the Rockets lie eight of a surprisingly weakened Conference after amassing 27 wins and 28 losses. Many problems have gone wrong with this team; Ty Lawson’s move has not worked out as planned which has led to James Harden dominate the ball like he did last year-more on that later-, Corey Brewer and a slew of backups continue to be erratic and physical ailments have rendered the team on many nights short of men in the front court particularly.
In order to make something out of the break by way of refreshing the roster, General Manager Daryl Morey made the strange decision to trade back up big Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to Detroit Pistons for veteran Center Joel Anthony and a future pick. But if the rumours were true, the Rockets front office failed to give into the media by trading away three Defensive Player of the Year winner Dwight Howard.
Dwight is an athletic gem who in the past four seasons has battled with varied injuries to his back and knees to get back his sharpness and bounce that made him a lock to dislodge Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace as owner of the most Defensive title collectibles. The 12 year veteran is still producing at a very good level, averaging 14.6 points and 12 rebounds for the season per basketballreference.com but is reportedly unhappy with the limited number of touches he receives at the offensive end of the court.
To many these numbers reflect the declining production in Howard’s game- averaged 14.2 rebounds and 20.7 points in his fourth year at Orlando Magic-but things are not always what they seem to be especially when talk of D12 pops up. With no perimeter game unlike many of his kind who are firing away from deep-Cousins, Karl –Anthony Towns- Dwight shoots close to the basket with 63% coming within 4-16 feet from the rim and 37% at the rim. Stepping away from the rim, Howard converts .527 percent of his shots but ups his average at the rim converting .773 percent of his shots; the attempts come via his go-to move-post ups. Through the first part of the season, Dwight ranks 14TH among players averaging ten possessions per play and a minimum of 10 minutes through post ups with a 59.6 success percentile according to stats.nba.com.
However, despite the efficient way of scoring, the Rockets consistently fail to utilize his gifts to generate much needed points and all fingers point to Khloe Kardashian’s ex-boyfriend James Harden for that. The lefty Shooting Guard is an expert in scoring having posted the league’s second best numbers in that department last season.
His ability to score at will earned him Players Most Valuable Player of the Year last season. This season was supposed to be different for Harden expected to score but without hanging unto the ball virtually the whole time to save him for the long haul after complaining of exhaustion last season.
For Houston to execute this plan, Lawson was roped in at the expense of four rotation players. Fast forwarding to the All-Star break, the deal can be safely termed a disaster. Not only has Lawson’s play and production regressed, Harden has gone back to his old but-not- so beneficial ways by gobbling up possession. Harden blazes the way in isolation or one on one plays among players averaging ten possessions per play and a minimum of 10 minutes with a whopping 413 possessions.
Though his scoring rate checks in at 72 percentile in such situations it would be beneficial to Houston to have its’ inside-outside presence working in tandem to stand the best chance of winning. Just as Kobe got his touches and Shaquille O’Neal got his, the Lakers started many seasons as serious title contenders and that is where Houston ought to be.