As the NBA season winds down and the Finals loom large, for many organisations, attentions turn to the summer and rebuilding their rosters.
The Houston Rockets are one such organisation. Following a dissappointing season that saw them go from conference finalists in the 2014-15 campaign with 56 wins to a 41-41 record, the Houston front office knows that plenty of works needs to be done to lead them back to prominence.
A first round exit at the hands of the Golden State Warriors this year - largely without Stpehen Curry for that series, too - will come as no comfort to their shortcomings.
James Harden is undoubtedly the cornerstone of the Texas-based franchise and is one of the elite offensive players around the league. Dwight Howard was envisioned to be a key component when he joined the organisation three years ago, but working in a secondary role to Harden on offence has left the former three-times Defensive Player of the Year in a row stagnating.
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Howard has a player option in his Houston contract that he is almost certain to neglect this summer as he seeks a max-contract and frankly, a bigger role with another team.
According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, the Rockets are already planning for life without the eight-time All-Star and have got some key targets in mind.
“A person familiar with the organization told Sporting News that landing Hawks star Al Horford is the Rockets’ top-line goal in free agency, and Ryan Anderson also would be a possibility,” Sean Deveney reported.
Horford, the third overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, has earned an All-Star appearance in each of the past two years. The man from the Dominican Republic is coming off a 2015-16 campaign that saw him average 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting at a 51 percent clip from the field.
It’s also not surprising that the team is interested in a player with a much more sound offensive game than Howard. Horford was 34 percent from three-point range this past season and not many players at the pivot spot can extend their game to the perimeter.
Still, Howard has averaged a double-double throughout his entire career and can have a profound influence when utilised correctly. The stats don't lie, Howard can still clean the glass with the best of them and is a presence in the paint, but questions have arisen surrounding his hunger this past season as rumours continued to bubble about problems behind the scenes.
For all the qualities that Horford may well bring to the table, would the Rockets even use them? Given how prominent Harden is to everything they do offensively, it doesn't seem like there's room for a second option in the starting five.
If the Rockets adjust their style, Horford may well find the Toyota Center an attractive landing spot. Otherwise, he won't find following Howard's latest career trajectory too appealing.