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How Will Dwight Howard Integrate with the Rockets?


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#1 Red94

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    Posted 17 July 2013 - 05:06 PM

    New post: How Will Dwight Howard Integrate with the Rockets?
    By: ming wang

    The acquisition of Dwight Howard marks a turning point in the Rockets' fortunes. At last, Houston has two bona fide stars, two potentially top-10 players that can form the foundation of a championship contender. This week and next, I'll be looking at the impact of Howard's acquisition on the Rockets as a team. This week, I examine Dwight's potential contributions on offense; next week, I'll do the same for defense.

    In many ways, Dwight Howard is an ideal fit for Houston's offense. The Rockets shouldn't have to alter their offensive scheme much to accommodate Howard: Howard's strengths as a pick and roll (henceforth PNR) roll-man play to the strengths of the Rockets' offense, which emphasizes guard penetration (Harden/Lin) off of PNR plays and kick-outs to three-point shooters. Houston's offense, already sixth-best in the league last season, should be even better with Dwight assuming a major role.

    Last season, 42% of Houston's possessions came on a combination of PNR plays and spot-up attempts (many of which were the result of PNR plays). On last season's Lakers, Howard finished 11% of his possessions as the PNR roll-man and scored 1.29 points per possession (PPP) on such plays, good for 9th in the league. He also drew fouls on 23% of those possessions, an impressively high rate. Howard's effectiveness as a PNR player seems to fit well with the Rockets' emphasis on using this play as a way to generate penetration and efficient shots via three pointers, attempts at the rim, and free throws. Transition plays, which constituted 17% of the Rockets' possessions, were another crucial component of Houston's offense. Surprisingly, for such an athletic player, only 4% of Howard's offense last season came on fast breaks while a whopping 45% of his offense came on post-up plays. This puzzling distribution of possessions can perhaps be explained by the fact that Howard played on a team whose starting back-court had a combined age of 73 years at the end of the season (although the fact that the Lakers tied for 4th in pace last season seems to belie this explanation). I expect a healthy proportion of Dwight's post-up attempts to be redistributed towards PNR and transition opportunities in the Rockets' offense next year.

    Houston's offense last season heavily emphasized the three-point shot. According to Hoopdata, Houston took 29 three's per game, tied with the Knicks for the most attempts per game in the league. The Orlando teams that Dwight Howard played on were among the most prolific heavy-volume three-point shooting teams in the league. In the Stan Van Gundy years ('07-'08 until '11-'12) in particular, the Magic were consistently near the top-five in both three-point attempts and three-point percentage. This was in no small part due to an offense designed around Dwight's ability to draw help defense in the paint and create opportunities for the bevy of shooters (Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson) the Magic had at their disposal. In the '09-'10 season, a year in which the Magic led the league in both three-point attempts and makes per game, Orlando made 39% of its threes with Dwight on the floor and only 34% with Dwight on the bench. This difference of only 5% represents the difference between the best three-point shooting team last season (Golden State at 40%) and the 20th best team (Chicago at 35%).

    A graphical illustration helps emphasize the extent to which the Rockets can duplicate and even improve upon the three-point shooting success that Dwight's Orlando teams enjoyed. Below are two shot charts courtesy of NBA.com. The top chart represents the shot distribution of the '12-'13 Houston Rockets, and the bottom one is the shot distribution of the '09-'10 Magic. Note the similarities in the distribution and even in the number of attempts from each shot-zone (the Magic did take more mid-range shots, though).

    Shotchart_1374013645373                       Shotchart_1374016328861

    Last season, Dwight Howard had a usage rate of 22%, and his average usage rate on the Magic was around 25%. Given that Howard typically uses somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of his team's possessions when he's on the floor, he will likely soak up the bulk of Asik's offensive possessions. This is not to say that Asik won't get 20 or maybe even 30 minutes of playing time per night, but that Dwight should largely replace Omer in many of the Rockets' most oft-used lineups (the four most commonly used line-ups last season all featured Asik). Replacing Asik with Howard should pay immediate dividends for Houston's offense: Howard is a much more threatening roll-man (and a much better finisher around the rim), and defenses geared towards preventing the pass to Dwight off the PNR will have to concede driving lanes to Harden and Lin. The table below shows the offensive production of Asik and Howard last season as well as Howard's production during the '10-'11 season, in which he came in second in MVP voting:

    Player Points/36 FG% at Rim FT% TS% PPP Roll Man PPP Post-Up
    '12-'13 Asik 12.2 69% 56% 56% 1.02 0.63
    '12-'13 Dwight 17.1 70% 49% 57% 1.29 0.74
    '10-'11 Dwight 21.9 75% 60% 62% N/A N/A

    Even in his diminished state last season, Dwight is the far superior offensive player. If he regains his former offensive dominance, the Rockets will have the makings of an offense that can compete with any in the league.

    One dimension that Dwight brings on offense that Asik lacks is a post game. Post-ups formed only 4% of Houston's offense last season, and the Rockets scored only 0.73 PPP on such possessions, 26th in the league. As I mentioned above, Howard was heavily utilized by the Lakers in the post last season. Unfortunately, he put up a pedestrian 0.74 PPP on these possessions. Whether this underwhelming performance was the result of the shoulder and back injuries that plagued him all season is unclear. What is certain, however, is that on paper, Dwight is the sort of physical specimen that should be able to bully his way into productive outcomes (either via his own shot, a drawn foul, or a pass to an open teammate) in the post. Dwight has never had Pau Gasol or Yao Ming level footwork nor does he have the skill and touch that elite low-post big men possess. Nonetheless, adding a competent post-player will help spice up the offense and give the Rockets a second (or perhaps a third if you count Lin) player who can create his own offense. And with Hakeem Olajuwan potentially on board as an exclusive consultant and a coach who was a legendary big man in his own right, Dwight will have every opportunity to improve his low-post game.

    The biggest potential individual beneficiary of Howard's presence is Jeremy Lin. During the hey-day of Linsanity, Lin's offensive success was predicated on his PNR chemistry with Tyson Chandler, another athletic big man whose offense largely consisted of lobs and forays towards the basket. Dwight should be able to replicate much of Chandler's threat as a PNR roll-man, providing space for Lin to do what he does best: attack the basket. One major difference between Chandler and Howard, however, is that Chandler is a much better free throw shooter. Although their career marks from the foul line are not all that different (64% for Tyson and 58% for Dwight), Chandler has become a vastly improved free throw shooter (70% in the last four years), a development that has contributed to his offensive success as teams are less willing to foul him after he catches the ball in the paint. Alas, Howard's free throw shooting has exhibited the opposite trend throughout his career. He must work on his free throw shooting if he wants to reach his offensive potential and not hurt his team in late-game situations.

     Dwight Free Throws

    It will probably take some time for Howard to develop chemistry with his teammates on offense. Provided that he returns healthy, however, the Rockets should be immediately better on offense and Houston should transcend its performance from last season to become a top-3 offensive team in the NBA.


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    #2 Jeby

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      Posted 17 July 2013 - 05:14 PM



      (Posted this in another thread, but far more relevant here)
      The question of whether Dwight will get his touches in the post or in the PnR isn't exactly an either/or proposition from a coaching standpoint, if the Rockets take a page from the Spurs.

      In the Finals, the Heat would front Duncan aggressively to avoid letting him get the ball in the post. Duncan would then counter by coming out to set a pick for the ball-handler. Even when the Heat defended the play perfectly, the resulting PnR would occasionally have Duncan getting the ball back--on the block, matched up against the help defender.

      Howard doesn't have to choose between PnR and post-ups. He and Lin/Harden can force the defense to choose which way to die.


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      #3 timetodienow1234567

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      Posted 17 July 2013 - 05:55 PM

      More PnRs than post ups though.
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      Why so Serious? :D


      #4 Jeby

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        Posted 17 July 2013 - 06:35 PM



        Probably. It all depends on what the defense is more willing to concede. Also worth noting that some of the players with the strength to guard Dwight in the post (Perkins, Hibbert) lack the speed to guard PNR's.
        Also notable that Dwight wasn't just competing with PNR's for post touches in L.A.--Kobe, Pau and Dwight all had to share post possessions. Howard will be much more happy to slam lobs from Harden than clean up Kobe's midrange fadeaway trash.


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        #5 Mason Khamvilay

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        Posted 17 July 2013 - 06:42 PM

        Fun fact: In 2009 ORL made 39% of 3s with Dwight on court, 35.7% without.

         

        Dwight was used in alot of PnR's in Orlando so he can definitely do it, it's just a matter of making sure the floor is spaced out enough for him to do it:

        In 2010 and 2011, Dwight ranked top 2 in RAPM (a less flawed version of +/-)

         

        The floor spacing in L.A. wasn't very good which is why alot of his pick and rolls ended up looking like this:

        A failed pick and roll due to the lack of spacing, notice how no one is guarding Pau Gasol while Dwight rolls to the basket? It wouldn't be much different if Asik was in Pau's shoes--food for thought for advocates of a Dwight-Asik front-court tandem. 


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        #6 ale11

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        Posted 17 July 2013 - 09:03 PM

        ^^^^ That's Bynum, not Howard, but the point is still the same: bad spacing equals not taking advantage of the play.

        The only way PnR could be effective while both of them are on the court is if they set a double screen at the top and depending of the direction of the ball handler, one of them cuts hard to the basket. In that case, I'd like it to be Asik, because both the ball handler and Howard would demand all the attention, leaving Omer a nice free path to the basket. Of course, variety is the only way to keep one from being predictable.


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        #7 Jeby

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          Posted 17 July 2013 - 09:24 PM



          If Asik and Dwight are on the court at the same time for limited minutes, the Rockets could use the 2010 Lakers Offense: let your star shooting guard chuck shots with impunity and have your two 7-footers clean up the misses. It would lead to Dwight winning a championship and asking for a trade all at the same time.


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          #8 Mason Khamvilay

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          Posted 17 July 2013 - 10:52 PM

          ^^^^ That's Bynum, not Howard, but the point is still the same: bad spacing equals not taking advantage of the play.

          The only way PnR could be effective while both of them are on the court is if they set a double screen at the top and depending of the direction of the ball handler, one of them cuts hard to the basket. In that case, I'd like it to be Asik, because both the ball handler and Howard would demand all the attention, leaving Omer a nice free path to the basket. Of course, variety is the only way to keep one from being predictable.

          Why be unpredictable when you can be unstoppable? With 4 3pt shooters and Dwight rolling to the basket I see only one of three scenarios: 

          Dwight dunks it.

          Somebody gets an open 3.  

          Harden scores. 

           

          Besides, unpredictability goes away in the playoffs because teams will thoroughly study game tape and know what to look for. I'd rather be perpetually unstoppable than temporarily unpredictable. 


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          #9 RollingWave

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            Posted 18 July 2013 - 01:00 AM

            If Asik and Dwight are on the court at the same time for limited minutes, the Rockets could use the 2010 Lakers Offense: let your star shooting guard chuck shots with impunity and have your two 7-footers clean up the misses. It would lead to Dwight winning a championship and asking for a trade all at the same time.

             

            I think that's been the Laker offense since 1996 regardless of having how many 7 footers ;)


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            #10 RollingWave

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              Posted 18 July 2013 - 01:09 AM

              Also, consider this.

               

              Last year, the Laker's didn't have many good 3 point shooter, Nash was good obviously (and Blake was too when Nash wasn't on the floor.), but outside of him, the only guy who was above average and had considerable playing time was Jamison.  MWP was below average, Kobe even worse. and Pau / Hill simply never took any 3s.  

               

              But the Lakers were still 9th in offense, despite major injury time to Nash / Pau and Dwight playing at 60-70%.


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              #11 thejohnnygold

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              Posted 18 July 2013 - 01:47 AM

              When discussing offense and, subsequently, the personnel running it it is not sufficient to point out that certain player combos are not effective.  Of course they are not.  This is not a news flash.  You don't run a pick n roll with Kendrick Perkins and Hasheem Thabeet.  Similarly you do not put Nate Robinson in the post and ask him to score.

               

              To presume that Houston can run an "unstoppable" pick n roll and should eschew other modes of offense is great on paper.  It's not going to happen--nor should it.

               

              So, when discussing Dwight and Omer sharing the floor one must presume that highly intelligent and experienced coaches would devise a useful and effective attack that masks their weaknesses and maximizes their strengths--it's what they are paid to do.

               

              There are multiple ways to skin that cat.  Easiest is simply feed Dwight in the post (unpopular to some, but that will pass after seeing it's full effect).  Presuming he is fully healthy, he commands a double team and we're right back to Orlando's offense with a twist.

               

              By putting three point shooters outside, the help defense cannot afford to sag off and help on Dwight.  Most likely the help comes from Asik's man.  As soon as this happens Dwight should go ahead and shoot...a miss will be easily corralled by an un-boxed out Asik who should follow the double and use himself to shield the defenders from the rebound--essentially boxing them out.  Don't forget--the more time we spend around the post the more fouls the opposing bigs are going to accrue.

               

              Dwight can also pass out if help comes from the wing and we still have three shooters out there to shoot, or swing the ball around the arc to the open guy....once this action begins Asik can float up towards the top of the key on the weakside and set up a screen should one of the perimeter players find an opening and can then drive around Asik where the post defense is still not set due to Dwight.  Asik can roll, Dwight is still on the block--there is plenty to like about this.

               

              Saying they cannot play together because you can't space the floor properly for the standard pick n roll is no more than saying the round peg does not fit the square hole.

               

              Dwight is uber-athletic and can throw down anything close to the rim.  Asik sets monster screens and boxes out like a human wall.  These assets can be utilized and should be utilized.  I don't think we will, nor should, run this offense all the time--or even a lot of the time--but I tire of the nay-saying.  It's entirely feasible and I look forward to the first time a team goes small against us and McHale punishes them with size and brute force down low.  Unless the opponent can start raining threes it will get ugly fast.

               

              Bottom line is Howard does nothing but open up opportunities for everyone--coaches and players.


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              #12 timetodienow1234567

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              Posted 18 July 2013 - 02:51 AM

              I don't think Dwight could be successful posting up against Marc Gasol. But, against most others, he would command a double team with the amount of good centers dwindling since Shaq. 


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              Why so Serious? :D


              #13 thejohnnygold

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              Posted 18 July 2013 - 01:07 PM

              I agree that certain centers have the strength and savvy to guard Dwight solo in the post.  For them, I would recommend another course of action.  Some say "dictate the terms to the other team--make them react to you..." and all that macho stuff.

               

              That just sounds stubborn to me.  Sometimes an opponent's strength negates one of yours and adaptation is necessary--why else construct a roster with variable parts....why even bother with coaches with this attitude?  Just pick whatever play you want to run, find players that can do it, sit back and watch. 

               

              I would love to see the Rockets set up a "mid-range" game that essentially involves dribble penetration off a screen that draws the post defender off their man--once he steps out the dribbler pulls up and intentionally lobs a floater towards the rim, but intentionally off to whichever side Asik/Howard are on.  The rotation defense will be unable to box out/defend Asik/Howard from getting the pass and dunking it.  Heck, it should even help Asik's fumbly fingers as the lob passes will be soft enough for him to hang onto.

               

              If the post defender refuses to come off their man then it's a free pass to the rim....again--not an all-the-time-offense, but having that in the bag of tricks will be useful.


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              #14 Mason Khamvilay

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              Posted 18 July 2013 - 02:52 PM

              It would be cool if you could find videos to further illustrate all these things you make sound so easy. For example:

               

              once this action begins Asik can float up towards the top of the key on the weakside and set up a screen should one of the perimeter players find an opening and can then drive around Asik where the post defense is still not set due to Dwight.  Asik can roll, Dwight is still on the block--there is plenty to like about this.

               

              It sounds fine and dandy, but if you had a video that would be very helpful. 


              Edited by 2016Champions, 18 July 2013 - 02:52 PM.

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              #15 timetodienow1234567

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              Posted 18 July 2013 - 04:05 PM

              Did you guys watch the finals? I think SA will beat us badly if we play Asik/Dwight together.
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              Why so Serious? :D


              #16 thejohnnygold

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              Posted 18 July 2013 - 04:44 PM

              I don't want to be Captain Obvious, but there is no video of Dwight and Omer playing together--which is what I am talking about.  What I am talking about is only for Dwight and Omer....I probably would not use the same set, or plan of attack with other people.

               

              Just run the play in your head...move the pieces with your mind...it's like youtube, but without the ads.


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              #17 Mason Khamvilay

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              Posted 18 July 2013 - 04:51 PM

              I don't want to be Captain Obvious, but there is no video of Dwight and Omer playing together--which is what I am talking about.  What I am talking about is only for Dwight and Omer....I probably would not use the same set, or plan of attack with other people.

               

              Just run the play in your head...move the pieces with your mind...it's like youtube, but without the ads.

              Get creative. Find a video of 2 big men--any big men(preferably big men who can't shoot but whatever you can find is better than nothing)--running the play you just ran in your head. If you can't do that, then maybe the play in your head doesn't work as well in reality as it works in your head. 


              Edited by 2016Champions, 18 July 2013 - 04:53 PM.

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              #18 thejohnnygold

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              Posted 18 July 2013 - 05:10 PM

              Ummm, ok...that's sound logic...if there isn't video it must not work?  Wow.

               

              Here are some drawings--I hope they suffice.

               

              Okay, this is the set up and the play starts once Dwight gets the ball in the post.  If the defense switches and decides to front Dwight that would change the play, but that can be adapted to easily enough.

               

               

              Next, the Asik screen.

               

               

              This play requires Dwight to recognize where the help came from and get the shot up quickly so that the rotation defense won't get there...not that it matters much as that will pit a 7 footer against a pg or sg for the rebound--assuming Dwight doesn't make it.  Asik can dunk ball if he is able or he can pass out to open 3 pt. shooter.  This all fits within Morey's offensive belief system.

               

               

              Now, if the help comes from the perimeter we run this action.  Dwight can kick it out to Parsons who, at 6' 10", can shoot over the recovering defender, or swing it around the arc.  Lin can drive, shoot, or pass....and then Harden can do the same with the added bonus of the back screen Asik has just set on the defender's blind side.

               

              Another option...

               

              As soon as Parsons' man goes for the help defense, Parsons cuts right behind, and past, him towards the basket.  Howard simply has to deliver a little drop off pass (a la Duncan and Ginobili in SA) and Parsons can finish strong at the rim.  If Howard can't get him the ball, he runs cross court to the opposite baseline three spot.  He will either be wide open, or his defender must leave Dwight and chase him.  The options and variables are endless.


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              #19 Mason Khamvilay

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              Posted 18 July 2013 - 05:23 PM

              I can find video examples for plays, why can't you? Just wondering..


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              #20 thejohnnygold

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              Posted 18 July 2013 - 05:25 PM

              When working from original ideas it is more difficult rather than basing things off of what already exists.

               

              Here is a quick video of another variation off of the same set.

               


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