After months and weeks of deliberation, it appears to be a two-horse race for the services of Dwight Howard.
In one corner, you have the challenger, the Houston Rockets. Armed with some of the best young talent in the league in James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Chandler Parsons and lots of caproom to bring in more supporting players.
In the other corner is the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers. They have one of the greatest players of all-time in Kobe Bryant, one of the best point guards of all-time in Steve Nash, and a history of championships.
The debate of Los Angeles vs. Houston and the Lakers vs. the Rockets has been made thousands of times. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in what those teams are comprised of, specifically Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash compared to Jeremy Lin and James Harden. Much has been made about the Rockets having the younger superstar and talent in general, but are they really someone Dwight wants to play with?
Jeremy Lin was thrust in the spotlight, ironically, under Mike D’Antoni when Linsanity swept New York City and the nation last year. Lin’s run peaked against the Lakers, but it was a special run nonetheless. Since then, he’s come back down to Earth and his flaws have become all that more apparent. He’s a point guard who can’t create shots for others and doesn’t have much of an outside shot.
Last season, Lin ranked 34th among guards who played in 10 or more games in assist percentage. The likes of Earl Watson, J.J. Barea, and Beno Udrih had higher percentages that Lin. On top of that, Lin isn’t a great shooter and needs to get to the rim to be efficient, and even then he isn’t great.
With Steve Nash, you know what you’re getting. He’s known for creating shots for teammates. His 32.8% assist percentage last year was far and away his worst since 2000, yet he was still top 20 in the league. When Nash was on the floor last season, every Lakers starter had higher points per possession than when he was off the court. Yes, even Kobe Bryant.
And Steve Nash the shooter? Well he’s much better than Lin, to say the least. And Nash doesn’t need to get to the rim to be a great offensive player or to score.
You thought Jeremy Lin was bad at creating for teammates? Well James Harden is much worse. His 25.7% assist percentage was the best of his career last season by 6%. Yet that still ranks 48th among guards last season. As someone who watched the Rockets a decent amount last year, too often Harden would dribble around at the top of the key until the shot clock was low, then resort to flinging the ball to a teammate to bail him out. His 14.9% turnover percentage was also the worst of his career last year. And, just like Lin, he’s most efficient when he’s attacking the basket.
Lastly, Kobe Bryant. The polarizing, demanding figure himself. On the court, he’s known for his intensity and high expectations for his teammates. While he has never had the reputation of an assist man, his 29.7% assist percentage was the highest of his career last season and shows his willingness to make concessions in his game to get others involved. As a scorer, he’s known more for his jump shot, especially as he’s gotten older, than his ability to get to the rim.
If Dwight Howard truly wanted to make a decision based on where he’ll be most able to win a title, the answer is a simple one. While the Rockets may have a more appealing team on the surface, the fact remains that Howard would be a highly frustrated player with Houston.
As abysmal as the Lakers were last year, the fact remains it was an anomaly. You can’t predict or expect that many players to be injured. You can’t expect or predict a coach to get fired five games into the season. This season, the Lakers are all going to be healthy, including Howard himself. Under D’Antoni last season, the Lakers were one of the hottest teams in the 2nd half of the season.
We can’t predict what Dwight Howard will do. Anyone who says they know is lying because Dwight Howard doesn’t even know. What we can hope is Howard will make the move that puts himself in the best position to win a title, because that team is the Lakers.