Report: Rockets, Heat are discussing intriguing Howard, Whiteside swap

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard could be heading to a new team before the NBA's trade deadline on Thursday.
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The Houston Rockets are in a real pickle with Dwight Howard, the player the franchise thought could lead them to a championship when they courted him and signed him in the summer of 2013.

The Rockets are 27-28, out of the playoff mix and on the verge of total implosion. Howard is averaging a career-low 14.6 points a game while taking just 8.8 shots a game, the lowest since his rookie season. He can opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, meaning he could leave Houston with the Rockets receiving nothing in return.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has reportedly been gauging the trade market for Howard with the NBA’s trade deadline. Morey must decide if Howard will either opt in or opt out and re-sign with Houston, or if the Rockets are just better off dealing him now. The NBA’s trade deadline is Thursday.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News tweeted that Howard could be dealt this week and that the Rockets and Miami are discussing a trade that would include massively talented, but frustratingly immature center Hassan Whiteside.

The Rockets did get to the Western Conference finals last season, and although Howard had a solid postseason, the Rockets were often at their best without Howard, who played in only 41 games last season because of injury.

Howard has missed 13 games this season, and most recently the Rockets went 3-0 without him. They’re 7-4 without him this season, and 1-4 since he returned from a sprained ankle.

There’s been rumors that Howard doesn’t enjoy playing with James Harden, and really since the Rockets acquired Howard, 30, there have been doubts that he is a good fit for Houston’s offensive system. And, in fact, Howard ranks fifth on the team in total field goal attempts. Forward Josh Smith, recently reacquired by Houston from the Los Angeles Clippers, is averaging just about as many shot attempts per game as Howard, and in basically half the time.

A deal that would send the seemingly perpetually unhappy Howard to Miami for the 26-year-old and seemingly perpetually childish Whiteside is one Houston would have to explore.

Whiteside started to finally put his career together last season with the Heat, and he’s been very good this season, averaging 12.2 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.9 blocks. His presence alone is a game-changer on defense and he’s shown excellent touch around the basket on the offensive end. He has three points-rebounds-blocks triple-doubles this season.

Still, for all his upside, the supremely athletic Whiteside continually finds himself frustrating to veteran teammates like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who see him frittering away what could be a sensational career by making boneheaded moves that get himself and his team in trouble. Prior to the All-Star break he was ejected and suspended for one game for throwing an elbow into the head of San Antonio Spurs backup center Boban Marjanovic.

Howard could find a much better offensive fit on a team with a crafty point guard in Goran Dragic, a stretch-4 in Chris Bosh as well as Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng, both of whom are strong half-court players. The Rockets rank seventh in the league in pace; Miami ranks 29th.

This could be an opportunity for both teams to hit the refresh button and alleviate themselves of a headache.