Dwight Howard Free Agency Watch: Part 4

As I mentioned in my last installment, one baffling phenomenon is the fairly prevalent opinion that the Rockets would be better off without Dwight Howard.  From every angle, I just can’t seem to make sense of the sentiment.

This was a great piece from Bill Simmons written some weeks ago in which, essentially, he argues that Howard is on the decline.  Funny thing is that I completely agree.  His best years are behind him and if he signs a four year deal with Houston, at the end of the term, when at age 31, I would be willing to bet that that would be the end of his days as a Rocket.  I don’t think he’ll be worth a max contract any more at that point in time.

(sidenote: Amazingly, James Harden will still just be 28 when the Howard era ends and if the team plans properly, which they obviously will, they’ll be able to reload for another run in The Beard era after Howard’s contracts comes off the books.)

But that Howard is on the decline shouldn’t preclude a pursuit of the center.  He’s still greatly effective and one of the best finishers in the league.  And while his character warts are evident (is there a more obnoxious personality in the league?), what exactly are the opportunity costs?  First off, I don’t need to delineate upon his oncourt abilities: those points have been hammered to death.  But the Howard detractors act as if some other viable option is being overlooked.  Josh Smith too will soon be on the decline and handing out large contracts to players like Paul Millsap is the surest way to perpetuate mediocrity.  Howard at least is still elite at what he does, even if he might not ever be the same.

I think fans often suffer from “Tim Duncan Syndrome”, assuming that if a player isn’t perfect, they just aren’t worth it.  There’s only one Duncan.  For everyone else, it’s an analysis of risk, weighing cons against pros, and a determination of what negatives can be absorbed.  Dwight Howard possibly isn’t worth $20million in vacuo of other considerations.  But if cast against the spectrum of this Rockets’ teams current outlook in fitting a final piece, the price is a no-brainer.

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