The following is an e-mail conversation between Red94 founder Rahat Huq, and myself, Red94 writer Michael Pina. It began with us debating whether or not the Rockets should go after Dwight Howard, and evolved into a more general discussion about the team, this offseason, and where things are headed next. This is Part I, look for more entries in the coming days.
Rahat: They should absolutely go after Dwight Howard. He should be their primary and sole target from now up until the draft. They should only abandon that course if and when it becomes clear that the Magic have no intent on trading him. I don’t have to really sell anyone on the merits of such an acquisition—he’d give Houston the type of dominant force they haven’t had since McGrady’s 2004-05 season.
The chance of him walking would be a considerable risk, but one worth taking considering the alternatives. The team has to make some sort of bold move to change course from these past three years.
Michael: Couldn’t agree more. Howard needs to be targeted, and whoever trades for him has the financial leg up—being able to offer a higher annual increase in salary on top of another year to the contract—on everyone else. If Howard comes aboard, everything changes. All of a sudden the Rockets are on prime time television, they’re a viable, interesting topic of conversation for the first time in nearly five years. (And nothing against Patrick Ewing, who’s been his basketball mentor these past few seasons, but I think Kevin McHale could turn him into a better offensive player as he enters his prime, which is dangerous to think about.)
Here’s sort of a side question for you. I wrote a few days ago that Rudy Gay should also be a target, but only in the sense that he’s the first step towards roping someone like Howard in as well. After watching the Heat struggle with a key injury in these playoffs, do you think financially tying yourself into two or three good/great players is a mistake, a calculated risk, or a no brainer?
Also, how far do you go with a Dwight Howard offer? How many draft picks do you throw in the deal, and are any Rockets untouchable?
Rahat: It’s a no-brainer, dependent on whether the players are all true stars. The Heat’s problems stem elsewhere, mainly over-investing time and money in the likes of aging veterans like Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, and Shane Battier.
Regarding Howard, considering that the team’s current best player, Goran Dragic, can’t even be traded, no one is untouchable. All draft picks are in play. When wallowing at 14 for three consecutive years, one can’t think of marginal commodities in holding back on a potentially franchise-changing deal.
Michael: Despite my deep man crush on Chandler Parsons, I agree that nobody on this particular roster is untouchable in the pursuit of a superstar, but sometimes I feel like we enter a dangerous territory by lumping them—the league’s eight or nine true superstars—together in a single group, as if they’re all equally valued objects.
I’m not so concerned with Dwight Howard’s back as I am with him as an individual. I understand, and see eye to eye with you, on the stance that any move at this point is better than no move at all, but what if the Rockets simply turn into the 2012 Orlando Magic? What if Howard comes aboard but doesn’t like Kevin McHale, and it turns into a public fiasco? What can you really bank on with this guy?
If you’re of the opinion that this team should, and then could, begin to rebuild through the draft, then if the whole thing blows up in our faces after one year it isn’t all that bad. But still, wouldn’t getting in bed with someone who’s basically become more circus freak than basketball superhero frustrate you, on some level, as a diehard Rockets fan?
Rahat: Howard, after his antics this year, is currently at the top of my list of most unlikable superstars in sports. He came off like a pathetic child and deserves all the criticism he’s getting. But his talents are undeniable. His presence alone can make a team a contender.
If he leaves, as long as the team is careful not to take back too many long-term contracts (I would take back Glen Davis or Jason Richardson), we aren’t really any worse off than we are now. That’s the thing about this. With Daryl Morey’s proven ability to build teams like what we have out of scratch on the fly, the Rockets can just get right back to this point within a year after drafting the next Chandler Parsons and acquiring the next Kyle Lowry/Luis Scola. Don’t forget, Dragic will still be here.
Michael: Speaking of Goran Dragic, how much is too much? I know you’re super high on him and believe he was Houston’s best player (in a world with no salary caps or free agency, I’d take Kyle Lowry in a heartbeat, but that’s a totally different discussion) last season, but how does he react once he’s making $8-10 million dollars a year (an overpayment, by the way) over the next five, and, in the hypothetical situation that this team obtains a superstar, is asked more to run an offense than look for his own shot?
Purely speaking on a basketball level, I don’t think locking him up is “risky” by any means. Dragic is young, improving, and dynamic. But he’s also arguably the second best available point guard on the free agency market this summer, and Morey isn’t prone to overpay when the demand greatly outweighs the supply.
Rahat: He’ll be overpaid. But I think given that the alternative would be losing him for nothing, it might be worth it. Overpaying Dragic and getting value back for Lowry is a better course than keeping Lowry and losing Dragic…
More to come soon, but until then, join the discussion here.