Dwight Howard to Houston rumors highlight Spurs need
Every Spurs fan’s wet dream the past couple of seasons has been somehow ending up with Dwight Howard. A new dominating big man to usher San Antonio into the post-Duncan and Manu era. It’s never going to happen for a multitude of reasons, but what’s worse is that Howard may end up in Texas after all. Just not with the Spurs.
The Mavericks were long rumored to be in the hunt for Dwight Howard this summer, citing the franchise’s half-assed effort (at best) to repeat as NBA champions this season. The Mavs were going to tread water for a season and clear cap space to take a stab at bringing in both Howard and Deron Williams. Zach Lowe at The Point Forward detailed how difficult a feat that would be for the Mavs back in February, before Howard exercised his player option with the Orlando Magic for next season.
Now it appears the other member of the Texas triumvirate, the Houston Rockets, are making moves in an effort to put together a package strong enough to deal for Howard. Most recently, they dealt Chase Buddinger and the right to an international player to the T-Wolves for the #18 pick in Thursday’s draft. The Rockets are set on getting a star like Howard and have said that they don’t care about getting an agreement from him to stay in Houston beyond the last year of his contract next season. They think they can convince him to re-sign.
I don’t doubt that they can. According to David Aldridge at NBA.com Howard’s people say there’s “not a chance” that he would re-sign in Houston if dealt there, but that’s far too premature. A lot of NBA players spend their offseasons living and working out in Houston. They like the city. The Clippers traded for Chris Paul with the idea that they would be able to convince him to stay in with the organization and the Rockets looked primed to try the same.
Where does that leave the Spurs? My immediate thoughts after the Spurs were bounced by the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals were that the Spurs needed to get back to the old days somewhat and bring in a better defensive big. Somehow. If Dwight Howard ends up in the same division, I’m even more gung-ho about the need for change in the big man rotation.
Tim Duncan is still a solid low post defender and team defender, but he hasn’t been able to successfully guard the pick-and-roll in several seasons. Tiago Splitter is better, but he’s not the type of player you really want to throw on Howard. Splitter doesn’t quite have the strength, especially in his lower body. Let’s just not talk about Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair, we’ve been there before.
Scanning the rest of the Southwest Division, you’re looking at big men like Dirk Nowitzki, Luis Scola, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Anthony Davis (probably — though I doubt he’s going to be a big offensive threat early in his career). There’s a lot of offensive firepower that the Spurs have to contend with just in the division, not to mention the rest of the West (Andrew Bynum, LaMarcus Aldridge, etc), and the worse part is that it’s diverse. There’s not a singular type of big man in that list, there are several. Face up shooter with a high release; physical wide-body with uncanny touch around the basket; creative low-post threat with a lot of junk in his game. It takes a versatile defense to contend with all that.
I’m not normally one to get caught up in athleticism too much — especially when it comes to big men, who are usually best described as “raw” when you find one with some explosiveness. There are very few polished athletic bigs in existence on those that are around are usually on max contracts. That said, I think the Spurs could finally use a big that can fetch the label around the league as a “physical specimen.” (Note: If someone says Ian Mahinmi I will ban you from the comments — I’m only half kidding)
Typically, the Spurs prefer to go with veteran bigs whose athleticism is eroding, but possess their smarts to sustain a high level of play. Now may be the time for the front office to take a risk and move away from that strategy. San Antonio’s defense is in desperate need of a big with the foot speed to defend pick-and-rolls away from the basket and the strength to bang down low.
Unfortunately for you readers, I’m not doing what bosses prefer, and that’s bringing a solution along with the problem. The Spurs are fairly constrained by the salary cap and might not have enough assets to trade for a legit defensive/athletic big. Here’s your assignment: work the Trade Machine, peruse ShamSports and leave your suggestions in the comments. Have fun with it, this is sports after all.