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.

Lakers finish One of Most Disastrous Seasons in NBA History

lakers-disaster-seasonComing into the 2012-2013 NBA season, expectations were high for the Los Angeles Lakers. Many people, including ourselves, had L.A. contending for the title this year. And why not since they added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to an already strong cast that featured Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Antwan Jamison.

But after being swept by the San Antonio Spurs in a highly noncompetitive series, those lofty preseason expectations seem light-years away. The closest that the Lakers managed to get during this matchup was a 9-point loss in Game 2. And the blowout playoff losses seemed like the perfect way to cap what’s been one of the most disappointing and worst seasons for a team in NBA history.

Sure Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles at the end of the regular season limited this club’s ability to compete with the Spurs. But that only explains the playoffs, and not the drastically underachieving team that finally secured a playoff spot in the last week of the season.

pau-gasol-steve-nashPeople were quick to dismiss awful preseason performances that saw the Lakers go winless. However, panic quickly set in after a 1-4 start that led to the firing of head coach Mike Brown. By late January, the team was 17-25 and in serious danger of missing the playoffs.

If there’s any silver lining to this season, it’s that L.A. did rally to go 28-12 over the second half and grab the Western Conference’s seventh seed. However, this is of little solace to Lakers fans who thought that the team stood a good chance of grabbing the 17th NBA Championship in franchise history.

So where did everything go wrong? Well for starters, Mike Brown’s decision to implement the Princeton offense was never popular from the get-go. Skepticism was warranted too as the team made a large number of turnovers in the early going.

dwight-howardCompounding problems was the fact that Howard missed most of the preseason and never got into the new offense. Additionally, Nash would miss most of December and January with a broken leg, thus adding to the team chemistry issues.

When Mike D’Antoni entered the picture as the Lakers’ new coach, things only got more complicated. Now the team was learning a more uptempo offense, with Howard and Gasol struggling to find their place. Gasol especially suffered and even lost his spot in the starting lineup to unheralded Earl Clark for a short while. The 7-footer also missed 33 games during the year in one of his most injury-plagued seasons ever.

kobe-bryantSo based on the injuries and lack of team chemistry, it’s a bit easier to see why Los Angeles had such a disastrous year. But management is not going to be accepting excuses this offseason, and some major changes are definitely expected.

Howard could re-sign with the Lakers next year after averaging 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 2.45 BPG. He’d likely earn $117.9 million over five years with L.A., as opposed to an $87.6 million, four-year deal with any other team. However, nothing is guaranteed since the talented shot-blocker is intent on testing free agency waters.

The Lakers also have plenty of payroll issues to deal with next season because Bryant is due $30 million, Gasol is set to receive $19 million, Nash would earn $9 million and World Peace is due $7.7 million – all before Howard is even signed. Based on these huge contracts, it’s a good bet that one of these stars will have to go.

Bryant appears to be the only certainty out of the five stars as he’s the face of the franchise and leading scorer. The Lakers would no doubt like to have Howard back too – if possible – so this leaves Gasol, Nash and World Peace left to discuss.

Gasol had some strong games to close out the year after tallying several triple-doubles. Plus he finally looked more comfortable in D’Antoni’s offense at the end. However, the Spaniard also has a player option for the $19 million and could be released. World Peace is in the same player option boat, but could stay on due to the fact that he’s only set to earn $7.7 million.

Considering all of this, it’s possible that we’ll be seeing a different Lakers team take the floor next year. And the big question is if they can put together a lineup that not only stays healthy, but also plays well together.

NBA Power Rankings for March 24th, 2013

chris-bosh-miamiThe biggest story in the NBA remains Miami’s incredible win streak, which is the second best in NBA history. With 25 straight victories, the Heat need just eight more consecutive wins to tie the 1971-72 LA Lakers for the most ever. Miami’s success has overshadowed the fact that the Denver Nuggets have also played excellent with 15 consecutive wins. Thanks to their great run, Denver has climbed over several teams into the Western Conference’s third seed. You can check out how the rest of the league’s top clubs are doing below.

1. Miami Heat (54-14) – The question right now isn’t if the Miami Heat are the NBA’s best team, it’s if they can become the greatest team ever. Doing so will no doubt require topping the 33 straight wins by the Lakers and winning this year’s championship. As for the streak, the next four games are very winnable with Charlotte, Orlando (road), Chicago (road) and New Orleans (road) coming up. On March 25th, the Heat will face off against the Spurs in San Antonio. Assuming they can win the next four contests, this could be the deciding factor in their quest for greatness.

2. San Antonio Spurs (53-16) – San Antonio has certainly remained steady this season and have gone 8-2 in March. However, things look to get a bit hairier over the next five games because they face Houston (road), Denver, the Clippers, Miami and Memphis (road). If San Antonio can win three or four of these contests, they have a good shot at closing out the regular season as Western Conference champions. Greg Popovich has done a great job at keeping his players fresh this year because nobody plays more than 33 MPG. So watch out come playoff time!

ty-lawson3. Denver Nuggets (49-22) – For most of the season, Denver looked like a low playoff seed. However, they’ve now ripped off 15 straight wins and are looking to lock up home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The win streak hasn’t been an easy task either because the Nuggets have had to beat Oklahoma City (twice), the Clippers, the Lakers, Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Memphis along the way. Much like Miami and their hot streak, Denver will face the San Antonio roadblock on March 27th.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (51-19) – One could make an argument that the Thunder should be ranked ahead of Denver since they’ve consistently won all season – including going 7-3 over the past 10 contests. However, the three losses were against other top Western Conference teams in San Antonio, Memphis and Denver; the Nuggets loss was particularly bad since it was at home. With so many other West teams playing well to close out the season, it’ll be a challenge for Oklahoma City to make the NBA Finals again…but it’s still a realistic possibility.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (47-22) – Memphis doesn’t exactly feature explosive scoring since Zach Randolph leads the team with 15.8 PPG. However, this might be the best defensive club in the NBA since they’re tied with Indiana in holding opponents to a league-low 89.5 PPG. Marc Gasol (1.71 BPG) plays in a big part in this because he swats plenty of shots and alters others. Mike Conley (2.30 SPG) and Tony Allen (1.48 PPG) also do an incredible job of pressuring the ball and forcing teams to make bad decisions.

blake-griffin-clippers6. L.A. Clippers (48-22) – With other teams currently surging in the West, the Clippers have simply been playing above average. This being said, it’s tough to figure out where they fit in when the playoffs roll around. L.A. certainly has the fire power to win in the postseason with Blake Griffin (18.6 PPG), Chris Paul (16.8 PPG) and Jamal Crawford (16.8 PPG). Plus their defense is pretty stout too with the Clippers holding opponents to 94.2 PPG. But the challenge will be putting all of this together through a seven-game series.

7. New York Knicks (42-26) – New York has really been an enigma this year. They began the season with the league’s best record for a while. Then the Knicks started cutting in and out of losing streaks while, subsequently, falling down to the Eastern Conference’s three seed at one point. As of now, they’re riding a four-game winning streak and tied with Indiana for the East’s second seed. Both Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have been huge since they’re averaging 28.7 PPG and 20.3 PPG over the past four games.

paul-george-pacers8. Indiana Pacers (43-27) – The Pacers are one of the more impressive teams this year when considering that their star, Danny Granger, has only played five games. Granger could be healthy for the playoffs; but if he’s not, Indiana should be fine with Paul George (17.7 PPG), David West (17.3 PPG) and George Hill (14.4 PPG) leading the scoring charge. Roy Hibbert (2.71 BPG) is also proving to be nearly impossible for opponents to shoot over.

9. Brooklyn Nets (40-29) – The Nets are desperately trying to hold onto the fourth seed in the East so they have first round home court advantage. They’re currently in the midst of an eight-game road trip, which should test this team’s mettle. Denver should especially be a tough contest because they’re on fire right now. One players that’s particularly interesting on this team is Reggie Evans, who’s averaging 10.2 RPG in just 23.6 MPG. He’s really been dominant on the boards lately after averaging 16.8 RPG in the past five contests.

10. Atlanta Hawks (39-31) – Atlanta moves back into our top 10 thanks to the demise of Chicago and mediocre play by Golden State over the past few weeks. This month started horribly for the Hawks when they dropped six out of seven games. But things have gotten much better lately with Atlanta winning five out of the last seven contests. The most impressive victories during this stretch include Milwaukee (twice), the Lakers and Brooklyn. Al Horford has definitely been a beast over the last five games with 19.0 PPG and 13.0 PPG.