Dwight Howard is still a really good player, and Daryl Morey is right to not want to give him up without a key player and a first-round pick coming back.
The 29 other GMs in the league were also right for not wanting to do that for just a few months of Howard. Not with the Warriors, Spurs, Thunder and Cavs at the top and no chance that Dwight helps them break through that class in the league.
Dwight apparently likes Houston enough — and disliked the teams the Rockets were chatting with enough — to decide he didn't want to opt in to his contract to help Morey make a deal. It was probably the right move; 31-year-old Dwight Howard, at this rate, isn't going to be a player teams want to pay.
Surveying the NBA landscape after the trade deadline, it's seems obvious there just weren't deals out there. Morey knew he had to do something to ensure he doesn't lose two big men this offseason for nothing. Donatas Motiejunas wasn't playing, he didn't play during the Rockets' best postseason run in two decades, so he seemed expendable. Morey even said so himself after the deadline. Marcus Thornton's defense has been abysmal, and that's the Rockets' biggest issue, so he was expendable.
Morey is nothing if not a logical guy. The worst-case scenario for this season's Rockets is likely an 8-seed and a humiliating four-game sweep at the hands of Stephen Curry. At least if they miss the playoffs, they keep their pick.
Maybe the last 27 games is where Dwight decides he can control how much he make in his next contract, and the Rockets creep up to the 5-6 six seed and make a little noise. Maybe the All-Star Break gave everyone a chance to re-evaluate and get in shape, and wash the Kardashian off.
@BenDuBose Say it with me "Dwight Howard isn't the problem."— Christian E (@xiane1) February 19, 2016
I want to take a little aside and mention that I believe Marcus Thornton leaving could be a bit of addition by subtraction. Yes, he was the only guy on the bench capable of knocking down a three-pointer, but his defense is just horrendous. Rockets players — particularly the normally stoic Trevor Ariza — can be seen regularly glaring at him as his men cut backdoor or run out and get open layups. It's a problem.
Plus, those minutes on the wing open up, and they can't still just be going to Harden, Corey Brewer and Ariza (or Jason Terry). Sam Dekker is getting healthy, but will probably head to the D-League. It's time to actually give K.J. McDaniels some sink-or-swim minutes and see if a little young energy could help the Rockets. Ditto Montrezl Harrell.
Finally, the Beard is a free agent in 2017. The Rockets plan to have cap room to sign two big-ticket free agents (one could be Howard, but probably not). This summer is going to be fraught. In year's past, Morey's ingenuity has given Houston the flexibility to be in the mix for every level of free agent, and it's paid off with a stacked-on-paper roster.
Now, his advantage is gone. Every team will be able to offer max deals. Free agents will go where they please. Why would Al Horford sign in Houston? Why would Mike Conley sign up to play next to James Harden? Who do the Rockets have, outside Harden, that could bring back an enticing player in return?
There's nothing but doubt and uncertainty on the forefront. So as joyless and painful as this season has been, and as nauseating as the past week has been, it came to its logical conclusion. It's the only logical thing that has happened to the Rockets this year.