Why James Harden is still the best player on the Rockets
Reason #1 Contracts
With the luxury tax growing, big contracts will be given out less frequently and Dwight has a 4 year deal for 88 million, an average of 22 million a year. Harden's 5 year 80 million, average 16 million a year. It's a lot better deal, plus Harden is 23 and this deal takes him until he is 28. Howard's deal ends when he is 31 (unless he opts out after the third year), and most centers don't age well. Dwight doesn't look much different after missing time last year with a shoulder injury, and some time the year before with a back injury. Shooting guards can be stars for a longer time then centers, as evidenced by 34 year old Kobe Bryant, who was 3rd in the league in scoring last year and has been playing since '96. How many star centers are there in the league right now that are 34?
Reason #2 Centers Aren't As Important As They Used To Be
Since the '03-'04 season no team has won a championship with a center. Here's the list:
2003-2004: Detroit Pistons, Best Player: Chauncey Billups, Position: Point Guard
2004-2005: San Antonio Spurs, Best Player: Tim Duncan Position: Power Forward ( some people think Duncan is a center he is naturally a Power Forward)
2005-2006: Miami Heat, Best Player: Dwyane Wade Position Shooting Guard
2006-2007 San Antonio Spurs, Best Player: Tim Duncan Position Power Forward
2007-2008 Boston Celtics, Best Player: Kevin Garnett Position Power Forward
2008-2009 Los Angeles Lakers, Best Player, Kobe Bryant Position Shooting Guard ( Beat Dwight's Magic in 5)
2009-2010 Los Angeles Lakers, Best Player, Kobe Bryant Position Shooting Guard
2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks, Best Player, Dirk Nowitzki Position Power Forward
2011-2012 Miami Heat, Best Player, LeBron James Position Small/Power Forward
2012-2013 Miami Heat, Best Player, LeBron James Position Small/Power Forward
The last Center to win a ring as the best player on their team was Shaq in '01, but then he also had a young Kobe who was almost as good as him. In all three of Shaq's rings he had a great shooting guard on his team, 2 with Kobe, 1 with Wade. The last one to win a ring completely on his own was Hakeem Olajuwon in '94-'95 and '93-'94, and he may not have won those rings if Michael Jordan hadn't taken those years off to play baseball.
Reason #3 Stats
Dwight lead the league in rebounds with 12.4 RPG which is the least to win a rebound title ever and while rebounding is very valuable but Nikola Vucevic was in 2nd with 11.9 RPG and he was Howards replacement in Orlando. The man Howard will replace in Houston is Omer Asik, who averaged 11.7 RPG. Howard came in to help with their post offense, but Howard has been criticized all his career for his lack of post moves. Harden was 5th in the league in scoring with 25.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 5.8 APG.
Reason #4 Team Stats
The Rockets had the 2nd most team points per game last year with 106.0- .1 behind the Nuggets for #1. The Lakers ranked 6th with 102.2. The Lakers opponents shot 59.8% from within 5 feet last year, 22nd in the league WITH Dwight out there who is supposed to be one of the best rim protectors in the game.
Reason #5 Crunch time
Dwight's struggles from the charity stripe have been well documented. Last year he shot 49.2% from the free throw line. Hack a Howard will be used like it always is if the Rockets are winning by a couple points near the end of the game, and why not he misses more then he makes. Harden had a strong showing in OKC in last year's playoff series and pushed the series to 6 after Russell Westbrook went down, while Dwight's last image as a Laker is getting ejected in the final game of the Spurs sweep of LA.
Finally, Harden is a great scorer who is trending up while Dwight is trending down with injuries and ego seemingly taking their toll.