How Houston incorporates Dwight Howard into their offense is going to be interesting. Here are two facts to dwell on:
1) The Houston Rockets played at the fastest pace in the NBA last season. They averaged 98.6 possessions per game, which was faster than the Nuggets (97.8), faster than the Warriors (96.8), faster than everyone. They were a fast break team that ran a lot of pick-and-roll.
2) Dwight Howard didn’t enjoy running the up-tempo, pick-and-roll heavy offense of Mike D’Antoni wanted to install with the Lakers last season.
D’Antoni emphasized that point and told the Los Angeles Daily News he isn’t sure Howard is going to be a great fit in Houston.
“Steve Nash and Dwight Howard on the pick and roll, and that’s what I do?” D’Antoni remembers, wistfully. “I just thought, ‘Boy, that’s gonna be a staple….’ ”
“The thing that cracks me up is Houston, they do the exact same thing,” D’Antoni said, laughing. “And so (Howard) is gonna go to Houston? OK, so did they talk about change there? Don’t tell me that it’s that different.”
Kevin McHale went into detail with Howard when they met on how he wanted to use Howard in the offense, and the free agent center bought in and decided to take his talents to the Houston. They are apparently on the same page, at least right now. But in interviews since the signing McHale has talked about the value of Howard in the pick-and-roll with James Harden and Jeremy Lin and how he wants to use him that way. Look at it this way, in the past three seasons Howard has never shot better than a little over 50 percent on post isolations, but never lower than 74 percent as the roll man (via Synergy Sports). McHale’s smart enough to see what works.
Houston is certainly going to look different on offense — they should get Howard post touches, he is good there, but that will slow things down some. Things will change, the question is how much for the better? Remember the Rockets scored well last season — 106.7 points scored per 100 possessions, sixth best in the league.
If the Rockets can continue to score around that pace and start to defend better than the pedestrian level they were at last year, that is where Howard really can make a difference.
D’Antoni is a little bitter about Howard bolting, and I get that. But he’s not wrong in saying what Howard didn’t like in the Lakers offense is what made the Rockets good last season.