Apr 17, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball with Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) in pursuit at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

30 In 30: Houston Rockets

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LY W-L: 45-37

Key Additions: Isiah Cannan, Omri Casspi, Dwight Howard, Reggie Williams

Key Departures: Carlos Delfino, Thomas Robinson

Analysis: The Houston Rockets won the NBA’s offseason championship when they got the biggest fish on the market, center Dwight Howard, to what was previously thought to be unthinkable – leave the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent. Howard had a very disappointing lone year with the Lakers. His back, among other injuries, clearly wasn’t completely healed and hindered his performance, much like it did at the end of his tenure with the Orlando Magic. However, if Howard is indeed healthy, the Rockets instantly become a contender. Howard’s play has often been overlooked because of his free throw shooting and perceived lack of offense, but that’s just not true. Howard is a much more than just a dunker on offense. He averaged 22.9 points per game on 59.3% shooting from the field in his last completely healthy season (2010-11). He has a career rebounding average of 12.9 per game and has also blocked 2.2 shots per game over his career. When Howard is healthy, he is simply one of the best players in basketball.

Howard has also never had a sidekick like James Harden. Although the Magic did have a nice supporting cast during their NBA Finals run in 2009 with Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, he will play for a talented team this year. Harden was incredible in his first year with Rockets, averaging 25.9 points per game, fifth best in the league. Harden and Howard running the pick-and-roll must be a scary thought for opposing defense. Forward Chandler Parsons is one of the league’s most underrated players. In just his second season, averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game for the Rockets. Perhaps most importantly, he shot 38.5% from three. The Rockets also brought back Francisco Garcia (37.4% from three last season) and signed both Omri Casspi (32.9%) and Reggie Williams (30.6%) to surround Howard with shooters.

In Omer Asik’s first season as a starter, he averaged 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.06 blocks per game. Asik will either go back to the role he had with the Bulls as the best backup center in the league or the Rockets may try to move him (a rumored deal involving Ryan Anderson, a fantastic three-point shooter, of the New Orleans Pelicans, makes a whole lot of sense). At point guard, the Rockets like what they have seen from Patrick Beverly and have Aaron Brooks and Jeremy Lin there as well). Combine the above players with third-year big man Greg Smith, second year forwards Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas and rookie point guard Isiah Cannan and you have one talented team.

(Projected) 2013-14 W-L: 58-24

The Rockets are absolutely a contender for the NBA Championship and will be a major player for years to come.

In a bit of news, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Rockets will host Howard’s former team, the Los Anglees Lakers, on November 7.

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Tags: 30 In 30 Dwight Howard Houston Rockets James Harden

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