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Friday, July 5, 2013
Howard's potential statistical fit: Rockets

By Steven Martinez & John McTigue
ESPN Stats & Information


Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty ImagesDwight Howard and James Harden could be teammates this upcoming season.


Earlier this week, the Stats & Information Group took a look at how Dwight Howard would fit with the Rockets. We've updated that post to reflect the current news.

Rockets Offense
The Rockets didn’t have much of an interior presence on offense last season. The Rockets posted up on a league-low 4 percent of their plays and averaged a league-worst 3.5 points per game on those plays, less than half the league average.

Even in a down season, Howard averaged 2.4 points per game more on post-ups last season than the Rockets did as a team.

In his last season with the Magic, Howard averaged 10.8 points per game on those plays, three times the offensive output of the Rockets last season.

Howard provides an offensive upgrade over Omer Asik, who started all 82 games at center for the Rockets last season.

Asik averaged 10.1 points per game for the Rockets, but did his best work off the ball, as over half his points scored were on cuts to the basket or pick-and-roll plays. Asik averaged less than a point per game (0.73) on post-ups last season.

Rockets Defense
The Rockets allowed opponents to shoot 61.6 percent inside five feet last season, the sixth-worst rate in the NBA.

Howard’s impact as an interior defender last season was diminished, with opponents shooting 59.5 percent inside five feet with him on court and 61.8 percent with him off court (57.6 percent on court, 63.9 percent off court two seasons ago).

However, Howard’s presence does deter opponents from trying to shoot from in close. Opponents averaged nearly five more attempts per 48 minutes inside five feet with Howard off the court last season.

A Winning Formula?
In the 2008-09 season, the Magic made the NBA Finals with Howard in the middle and a strong group of 3-point shooters. That season the Magic attempted the second-most 3-pointers per game (26.2) while posting the sixth-best shooting percentage from beyond the arc (38.1 percent).

That season the Magic shot 39.0 percent from 3-point range with Howard on court and 35.7 percent with him off court.

The Rockets already have put together the shooters. All that's missing is Howard.

Last season the Rockets attempted the second-most 3-pointers per game (28.9) while posting the eighth-best shooting percentage on those shots (36.6 percent).

Howard’s presence could free up Rockets shooters even more, something that could pay big dividends.

Of the top 10 3-point shooting teams last season, eight made the playoffs. The Heat had the second-best 3-point shooting percentage last season en route to the NBA title, defeating the Spurs, who had the fourth-best 3-point field goal percentage.

Houston's big-man lineage
Howard, who has averaged 18.1 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, would have a lot to live up to, following in a line of prominent Rockets big men.

Elvin Hayes
Hayes came with the Rockets when they moved from San Diego to Houston, then spent a second stint with them from 1981 to 1984.

Hayes was a four-time All-Star who ranked fourth in franchise history in total points.

Moses Malone
Malone averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds on 51 percent shooting in 464 games with the Rockets from 1976 to 1982. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in points per game and rebounds per game, and made five All-Star teams. Malone won two MVP Awards (1979 and 1982) and led the team to the 1981 NBA Finals.

Ralph Sampson
Sampson was the first overall pick by the Rockets in 1983 and was hindered by knee issues throughout his career. He averaged 19.7 points and 10.5 rebounds and made four All-Star teams.

Hakeem Olajuwon
“The Dream” spent 17 seasons with the Rockets after being selected No. 1 in the 1984 NBA draft and won titles and Finals MVP Awards with the team in 1994 and 1995. Olajuwon was selected to 12 All-Star teams and won the 1994 NBA MVP award.

He is the team’s all-time leader in games, points, rebounds, steals and blocked shots.

Yao Ming
Ming’s career, like Sampson’s, was also shortened by injury. He still managed to make eight All-Star teams in his Rockets career, which spanned from 2002 to 2010, and averaged 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.