Dwight Howard to Houston and Other Big NBA Offseason Moves

dwight-howard-hostonThe Houston Rockets are the big winners of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Many NBA analysts and writers tabbed Houston as the favorite to land the 7-time All-Star center all along. And Howard confirmed these rumors with the following tweet:

I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best.

Many people wondered if Howard would stay at least one more season since the Lakers could’ve offered him $30 million next year. However, he decided that a four-year, $88 million deal with Houston was plenty of money.

He’ll now join a strong Rockets cast that features All-Star shooting guard James Harden (26.3PPG, 6.7RPG), small forward Chandler Parsons (18.2PPG, 6.5RPG), point guard Patrick Beverley (11.8PPG, 2.8APG) and center Omer Asik (12.3PPG, 11.2RPG). Asik isn’t expected to be in Houston much longer though since the Rockets are furiously trying to trade him with the arrival of Howard.

Five teams with cap room courted the thee-time Defensive Player of the Year, including the Lakers, Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks. But after considering all of the offers, Howard chose to go with the team that he feels gives him the best opportunity to win.

dwight-howardThis was supposed to be what Los Angeles was last season. However, they struggled all year long, finally making the playoffs as a seventh seed. Leading scorer Kobe Bryant went down at the end of the regular season, which heavily contributed to San Antonio’s easy sweep of the Lakers. With an aging Bryant still rehabbing his ruptured Achilles tendon, Howard figured that Houston’s young nucleus of Harden, Parsons and Beverley gives him a better long-term chance to win.

Dwight Howard’s signing has created a slight domino effect where other big-name players have finally ended their team search. That said, let’s take a look at some of the recent NBA offseason moves and rumors.

Pistons land Next Best Thing in Josh Smith 

josh-smith-hawksWith several teams focused on Howard, Josh Smith was somewhat of an afterthought in the free agent market…except in the Detroit Piston’s eyes. Detroit management made it clear from the start that Smith was their man, and he rewarded them by signing a 4-year deal worth $56 million.

Last year was pretty dismal for the Pistons after they finished 29-53 and never made a serious playoff push. So having a multi-talented power forward like Smith on board will immediately pay dividends. He averaged 17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG and 4.2 APG for the Hawks last season. Detroit figures to have one of the league’s better front courts since they also feature 6’11” Greg Monroe (16.0PPG, 9.6RPG) and 6’10” Andre Drummond (7.9PPG, 7.6RPG, 1.6BPG).

Gasol staying put with Lakers

pau-gasol-steve-nashTo say that Pau Gasol struggled to find his place last year with Howard in the lineup was an understatement. The Spaniard suffered one of his worst season ever after averaging 13.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG and shooting 46.6% – all down from career averages of 18.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 51.8%.

This being said, it was thought that L.A. might trade Gasol if Howard re-signed with them. Since this fell through, it’s a given that the Lakers will keep Gasol, and he’s likely to move back over from power forward to his natural center position.

Paul Millsap signs Two-Year Deal with Hawks

paul-millsapNow out of the running for Howard and all but guaranteed to lose Smith, Atlanta salvaged something by inking a two-year, $19 million deal with Paul Millsap. The former Utah Jazz power forward averaged 14 PPG and 7 RPG last season, and should make a nice compliment to center Al Horford and PG Jeff Teague.

Millsap’s Utah teammate, DeMarre Carroll, will also be coming to the Hawks after signing a two-year, $5 million deal. The fourth-year man out of Missouri averaged 6.0 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 16.8 MPG.

Dallas Mavericks grab Jose Calderon

There is no consolation prize to losing Dwight Howard this summer – especially for a desperate Mavericks team. But they’re hoping that the addition of PG Jose Calderon can boost their chances of returning to the playoffs next season.

Calderon, who played with both the Raptors and Pistons in 2013, signed a fairly big four-year, $29 million deal with Dallas. He averaged 11.3 PPG, 7.1 APG and shot 90.4% from the free-throw line last year.

San Antonio is eyeing Kenyon Martin

Despite being 35 years old, Kenyon Martin showed that he still has something left in the tank after averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG for the New York Knicks. Now that he’s a free agent, the Spurs are interested in adding him to their bench. He would back up Tim Duncan at power forward and spell Tiago Splitter at center.

Chris Copeland signs with the Pacers

Chris Copeland may not be much of a defender, but he can definitely provide some offense (8.7PPG) along with a nice three-point touch (42.1%). Taking this into account, Indiana picked up the second-year man out of Colorado through a two-year, $6.1 million deal. As a hybrid small forward/power forward, he’ll definitely give the Pacers a different look off the bench.

Houston Rockets want Dwight Howard, trying to trade Thomas Robinson

dwight-howardA few weeks ago, the Houston Rockets finished up a pretty solid season after making the playoffs and taking two games from the Western Conference’s number one seed, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Of course, there is definitely room for improvement following a first round playoff exit, and the Rockets are looking to spend big in the free agent market this summer. Their first choice appears to be Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard.

Apparently, Houston has been interested in Howard for quite some time and are trying to clear cap space for the seven-time NBA All-Star. Seeing as how he’ll command a maximum contract, the Rockets desperately want to have enough cap space by July’s free agency period. Their first step to making this happen involves attempting to unload top-five draft pick Thomas Robinson for anything they can get.

dwight-howardThe 6’10” power forward is expendable after a disappointing rookie season that was split between Sacramento and Houston. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote about this with the following:

The Houston Rockets are determined to trade forward Thomas Robinson – the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA draft – to create salary-cap space for the pursuit of the Los Angeles Lakers’ free-agent superstar Dwight Howard, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The Rockets have made clear to multiple rival teams that they plan to accept the best offer to move Robinson and eliminate his $3.52 million salary for the 2013-14 season.

Without the salary of Robinson and others, the Rockets will have the space to offer Howard a maximum deal starting at approximately $20.5 million a season.

thomas-robinsonIt’s no surprise that Robinson is trade bait in this situation. After being selected fifth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Kansas product has failed to live up to expectations. He played 51 games in his rookie season for Sacramento and averaged 4.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 0.4 BPG. Robinson was then traded to Houston, where he played the final 19 games of his rookie year and didn’t do much better after averaging 4.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 0.3 BPG.

Going back to Howard, the 6’11” rock-solid center would definitely give Houston the star power they need to enter the Western Conference’s upper echelon. The Rockets already feature shooting guard James Harden, who averaged 25.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.9 RPG and 1.82 SPG last season. They also have solid role players in Jeremy Lin (13.4 PPG, 6.1 APG), Chandler Parsons (15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG), Carlos Delfino (10.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG) and Omer Asik (10.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG).

Putting Dwight Howard in the middle of all this could make them a top 3-4 team next season. In 76 games for the Lakers, he averaged 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.4 BPG while shooting 57.8% from the field. And these numbers came despite playing alongside several other career All-Stars such as Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.

Of course, picking Howard up is no guarantee because the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors are also hot on his trail. Plus they still need to find a taker for Robinson, which may not yield a lot in return.

There’s also the matter of Los Angeles still being able to sign Howard. This is a definite possibility since the Lakers will have plenty of talent again next year. On the other hand, Howard may not want to relive last season’s disaster, where L.A. was most one of the most disappointing teams in NBA history.

The free agency period starts on July 1st, so it’ll be interesting to see where Howard is leaning after this point.

NBA Power Rankings for Dec. 25th, 2012

When the Los Angeles Clippers were struggling in November and mired in a four-game losing streak, many people started to wonder if they’d truly joined the ranks of the elite. But following a huge winning streak, the Clippers are definitely among the league’s best teams. Now let’s take a look at where exactly they rank in the NBA’s top 10 clubs.

1. Miami Heat (19-6) – Miami retains the top ranking after winning three games last week – including one huge victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. A four-game road trip is coming up, but only the Milwaukee Bucks should pose a real threat during this stretch.

2. Los Angeles Clippers (21-6) – We expect a lot of jostling at the top of the Western Conference throughout the season. But for now, the Clippers are tops among the West and second overall after winning their past 13 games. What’s especially impressive is how six of these wins have come on the road.

3. New York Knicks (20-8) – The Knicks have stumbled a bit lately after losing three out of the past five games. But we still feel as if they’re one of the league’s top three teams at this point. Some people are worried that Amare Stoudemire’s impending return could hinder the team’s outstanding offensive production. However, if they want to get by Miami, they’re going to need some extra help.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (21-6) – The Thunder’s 11-game win streak is over, and the team has now dropped two straight games and two spots from our last power rankings. One was a road contest against Minnesota while the other loss was a close road game against Miami. On a side note, shooting guard Kevin Martin may not be James Harden defensively, but he’s certainly doing well offensively (15.7 PPG, 45.8% 3P).

5. San Antonio Spurs (21-8) – The Spurs stumbled in our past power rankings after losing four out of their last five contests. But they’ve since rebounded with victories over the Hornets and Mavericks; the latter was actually a 37-point blowout. San Antonio has shown some great balance with six players averaging double digits.

6. Memphis Grizzlies (18-7) – After getting off to a hot start this season, the Grizzlies have been up and down in December. They’ve went 6-5, but have excelled lately with four out of the past five games being victories. Zach Randolph is definitely looking like an All-Star at this point with 16.8 PPG and 12.8 RPG.

7. Atlanta Hawks (16-9) – There’s a big gap between the Heat/Knicks and the rest of the East. For our money, Atlanta is the next best team. However, they drop a spot from last week after losing two out of the last three games. At least these losses came to Philadelphia on the road and Oklahoma City at home.

8. Golden State Warriors (18-10) – Most people have been waiting for a Golden State collapse since they weren’t predicted to be among the NBA’s top clubs. But this fallout hasn’t come yet and the Warriors are right in the thick of the Western Conference race. PF David Lee just seems to keep playing better and better since he’s now averaging 20.0 PPG and 11.3 RPG.

9. Indiana Pacers (16-12) – The Pacers opened the season in our top 10, but quickly fell out the following week. And for the early part of the NBA season, we hadn’t seen the same team that went 42-24 last season. Only recently has that club started to surface after Indiana won six out of their past seven games. None of the victories are particularly impressive, but they are wins nonetheless.

10. Houston Rockets (15-12) – Along with the Pacers, Houston is another team that’s resurfaced in our top 10. The Rockets landed in our power rankings in Week 2, but have since failed to be anywhere close until now. They’ve captured wins in six of the last seven games – including road victories over the Knicks and Bulls.

NBA Power Rankings for Nov. 5th, 2012

Now that we’re a few games into the 2012-2013 NBA regular season, we finally get a chance to see how some teams perform when it really counts. Okay, so maybe these first few games don’t count for everything, but they’re a lot more relevant than preseason results. Interestingly enough, some of our previous top teams have stumbled out of the gates – L.A. we’re looking at you – while others have been surprisingly good. Let’s discuss all of this and more in our latest NBA power rankings.

1. Miami Heat (2-1) – A loss on the road to the Knicks hasn’t wavered our confidence in Miami’s ability to repeat this season. Ray Allen has made a nice transition from the Celtics to Heat since he’s averaging 15.7 PPG while shooting 56.3% from the three-point line. Lebron James is his usual self too by posting statlines of 23 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 6.7 APG.

2. San Antonio Spurs (3-0) – Are the Spurs too old to remain an NBA power? They certainly haven’t shown any signs of dropping off so far with an undefeated early season record. SF Kawhi Leonard is injecting some nice youth into San Antonio by averaging 12.7 PPG and 3.3 SPG.

3. L.A. Clippers (2-1) – For the first time in his career, SG Jamal Crawford spent time working on his shooting this summer. And it’s definitely paid off so far since he’s averaging 25.7 PPG and shooting 53.5% from the field. If this keeps up, maybe Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will be taking a back seat to Crawford’s talents.

4. Oklahoma City (1-2) – How much are the Thunder going to miss James Harden? We guess pretty badly after beginning the season 1-2. However, Oklahoma City certainly has plenty of firepower with Kevin Durant, Kevin Martin and Russell Westbrook all averaging over 20 PPG to open the season.

5. Indiana Pacers (2-1) – Even without a true star player, Indiana looks to be a force in the East thanks to a well-rounded lineup that includes PF David West (19 PPG, 8.7 RPG), SF Paul George (14 PPG, 13 RPG) and C Roy Hibbert (11 PPG, 4 BPG).

6. L.A. Lakers (1-3) – It’s hard to rank the Lakers too far down the list because of an extremely talented lineup that includes Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace and Steve Nash. But the team hasn’t exactly had a dream start after dropping three out of their first four games.

7. Houston Rockets (2-1) – The Rockets leap into our rankings on the strength of good guard play from James Harden and Jeremy Lin. Harden is playing like an early MVP candidate since he’s scoring 35.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 6.3 APG. As for Lin, he’s averaging 15.7 PPG and 7.3 APG.

8. New York Knicks (2-0) – New York has five starters averaging double digit-scoring so far in Steve Novak, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony. The latter is putting up his usually-stellar 28.5 PPG and has the Knicks off to a very hot start.

9. Memphis Grizzlies (1-1) – Not much has changed for Memphis after starting out on the road at L.A. and Golden State. We can’t really fault the Grizzlies too badly after losing to the Clippers so it may be some time before we get an accurate gauge on whether they’ll move up or down our rankings.

10. Milwaukee Bucks (2-0) – The Bucks opened the year with a big win at Boston and also grabbed a home win against Cleveland. PG Brandon Jennings is playing excellent right now with 17 PPG and 13 APG while SG Monta Ellis (18.7 PPG) and SF Mike Dunleavy (18 PPG) are also off to good starts.

NBA Power Rankings for Oct. 29th, 2012

A week ago, we did a complete list of power rankings for all 32 NBA teams. Seeing as how the regular season doesn’t officially begin until tonight, we weren’t expecting the rankings to shift much – especially at the top. However, a major and surprising trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets blew this notion out of the water. That said, let’s discuss the trade and look at the top NBA teams heading into the 2012-2013 season.

1. Miami Heat – Nothing has changed here during the preseason since the Heat are pretty much the unanimous pick to repeat as NBA champions. The newest Miami pickup, Ray Allen, recently talked about how he doesn’t like the offseason divorce with the Celtics. However, winning a title in Miami should erase most of his negative feelings about leaving Boston.

2. L.A. Lakers – A week ago, we had the Lakers tabbed as the NBA’s third best team. After all, there haven’t been any regular season games yet to showcase the chemistry between Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and new teammates Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. However, we don’t really need to see it right now following the big Thunder trade.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder – After failing to come to terms on a contract extension with G James Harden, the Thunder sent him, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, two first round picks and a second round pick. For the future, this isn’t a bad trade when draft picks are considered and Martin should provide plenty of offensive punch. But there’ll be nobody replacing Harden’s perimeter defense contributions this year, and the Thunder are a worse team at the moment.

4. San Antonio Spurs – No major preseason trades to report from the Spurs. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since they have a strong core group in Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Unfortunately, the latter is dealing with some back problems that could hamper his production to open the season.

5. L.A. Clippers – The Clippers addressed their most pressing need of depth this summer after adding Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes. So far in the preseason, it looks like all four players could make solid contributions during the year.

6. Indiana Pacers – In the East, it’s basically the Miami Heat and then the rest. And for our money, the rest starts with the well-balanced Pacers who feature budding franchise center Roy Hibbert and smooth swingman Paul George.

7. Denver Nuggets – Many people wonder about Denver’s lack of a true superstar. But they added a very good player in Andre Iguodala and look poised to challenge for the West’s top spot with a number of solid role players in Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried.

8. Boston Celtics – Much of the Celtics hopes rest on how much better Rajon Rondo has gotten over the offseason. With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both another year older, Rondo will have to carry Boston more this year. Also, it will be interesting to see if Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa can fill the void left by Ray Allen at shooting guard.

9. Memphis Grizzlies – Nobody’s denying that the Grizzlies have talent with Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph providing plenty of offense and Marc Gasol and Tony Allen playing lockdown defense. But will this be enough to make a serious run at the Western Conference title? It might be if everything goes right for Memphis.

10. Atlanta Hawks – With Joe Johnson now departed to Brooklyn, nobody’s giving Atlanta much of a chance to win the Eastern Conference. And while we don’t see them as being any serious threat to the Heat, they could potentially make the Conference finals with the return of a healthy Al Horford. Josh Smith will need to step up in Johnson’s absence and stop taking so many ill-advised three’s too.