The Houston Rockets finally got star center Dwight Howard back from an injury last week. He will undoubtedly be limited as he tries to obtain back in game shape and fully heal, and will probably not play a lot more than 20 minutes a game. Although he is not back at full strength, he will still have a massive affect on the game, and should continue to get stronger every week.
The Rockets have now been among the top teams in the conference despite the lack of Howard. James Harden is having a great season and is among the top candidates to win the MVP award. Houston has added depth and seen players such as Corey Brewer and Josh Smith who have stepped up since being added. They still have several injuries to key players, but have a well-built roster that may contend in the Western Conference. Their second unit is significantly improved from a year ago, and they have reliable shooters and wing defenders which will greatly benefit them in the playoffs.
But Howard’s return is the most important, as he makes them a real contender in the Western Conference. He is much less dominant as he was several seasons ago, but his presence on defense can help the team become an elite unit on that end of the court. They can block shots and supplies the intimidation factor that they currently don’t have. They can also score in the reduced post together with his strength, however it remains to be observed how effective they can be without the same explosiveness.
Howard can get his legs back under him in time for the playoffs, where hopefully he can go back to the shape that made him among the top centers in the league. He makes the Rockets on offense and defense look better, providing them with the best superstar to simply help take the burden off of Harden. He has a little time to get his conditioning back and should utilize his minutes as much as possible to acquire a better feel for his teammates. It’ll take some time, but he has some important games before him to simply help him get back to it.