Dwight’s Decision…Finally!

By Robbie Marbury
PSDC Big Man 

Pop some bottles and pour some champagne, The Dwightmare is finally over. Well, unless you are Houston, in which case it has only just begun. Friday evening, Dwight Howard made the decision to sign with Houston after the Rockets threw in a lifetime supply of gummy worms to sweeten the pot. This broke the hearts of Lakers fans, who finally know what if feels like to all the rest of us NBA fans.

The saga of who would sign Howard this offseason started well before the season ended, and it doesn’t really feel like it’s over now. Dwight can’t sign his contract until July 10, so who knows what will happen in the meantime. The Lakers could throw in a chocolate swimming pool with marshmallow floaties and Howard could change his mind. But for now, we will continue onward as if Howard will be a member of the Houston Rockets in 2013-14 (even though we all know he will be asking for a trade once the season starts and he realizes the Rockets reneged on their claim to let him ride in a space shuttle).

Howard started the day by letting Dallas and Atlanta know they were out of the running for his services. Then it was reported that Golden State was firmly in the mix because of them signing Andre Iguodala. Then it was Sam Amick’s turn to have some fun and broke the story that Howard was headed to Houston, but Howard’s plane was leaving for Los Angeles. What?

As much as I loathe Howard for all of his back-and-forth with Orlando, and having Stan Van Gundy fired, you cannot really blame yesterday’s uncertainty on Howard. Dwight started his day with a decision to make. He let the teams he was no longer considering know they were out, and once he made his decision he wanted to let LA know he wasn’t re-signing with them. The fact that USA Today reported he was going to Houston is what makes Dwight look like a fool. Actually, Dwight makes himself look like a fool, but this made him look more foolish, and it wasn’t his fault.

One person who isn’t foolish is Rockets GM, Daryl Morey. Houston has done a masterful job of rebuilding a team that saw Yao Ming become crippled with leg and foot injuries, and Tracy McGrady get old overnight. The ’09-’10 season was the beginning of the end for Houston. Yao didn’t play the entire season, and McGrady only played six games. In ’10-’11, McGrady was gone and Yao only played five games. But, during all the turnover, the Rockets have had a winning season every year but one (2011-12).

Has a team ever completely rebuilt without being absolutely terrible for a couple of seasons? Before Miami became the “Big 3” that they are now, they had a 15-win season. They bottomed out, shed contracts and freed up enough space to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Before the Lakers reeled off their most recent back-to-back championships, they had the Smush Parker years. And before Boston had their version of the “Big 3” they were a lottery team for two consecutive seasons.

The fact that Daryl Morey was able to construct this team without tanking like so many teams are attempting to do now is insane. With Boston, Philadelphia and Utah all either trading away their best players, or not re-signing any of their free agents, they are the norm when it comes to rebuilding. Just throw everything away, and press reset on the Xbox. No need to make smart, cost-efficient signings or draft and hold onto assets. Just blow it all up, lose a bunch of games and hope to win the lottery.

Not Houston, they acquired assets to get James Harden, then shed contracts and made smart signings instead of swinging for the fences to have enough space to sign Howard. I wanted to hate whomever Howard signed with, but you have to like the way Houston has conducted themselves. Houston has shown us all that rebuilding doesn’t mean putting a crappy product on the court, while your fans throw money down the drain. You can rebuild without alienating your fanbase. Who knew?

Nearly instantly after signing Howard, it was reported that Omer Asik was requesting a trade. Houston has possible trade offers for Ryan Anderson or Josh Smith through a sign-and-trade. If Houston pulls either one of those trades off to go with Howard, they will be the favorites in the Western Conference next season. Don’t look at me like that, it’s true. Who will be better?

The addition of Dwight Howard is worth seven more wins than Omer Asik, and that is if Dwight has another sub-par season. He spent most of last season recovering from back surgery, but even if he doesn’t improve at all, that is still seven more wins. Greg Smith and Donatas Motiejunas played the most amount of minutes at power forward of players that finished the season with Houston, and they had a combined 2.8 Estimated Wins Added (EWA). Ryan Anderson had 8.3 EWA and Josh Smith had 9.8 EWA. With anyone of those two joining Howard, Houston would win 13-14 more games next season. With Oklahoma City not re-signing Kevin Martin and San Antonio being another year older, 58-59 wins could be enough wins for the top spot in the West.

The most discerning thing about this Houston team is that Howard could be the oldest player on the team at 27 years old. Dwight has never been known for his maturity or leadership, those are actually two of his worst traits. Will he be able to grow up and lead this team? Will James Harden be the leader and just let Howard think that he is the alpha dog? Or will Howard be angry and pout like he did with Kobe?

I have no idea how Howard will act, and I don’t think anyone knows, not even Dwight, but this time Howard is the only one to blame if this goes wrong. He made the decision to go to Houston. He wasn’t drafted there or traded there, he chose to be a Rocket. Only time will tell if Houston blasts off, or, yet again, Howard mans the controls of a sinking ship.

Follow Robbie on Twitter: @rmarbury

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