In 2010 when LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh got together, many figured it would be the next big dynasty in the league, and with four finals appearances and two championships, they were partly right. However, after these 2014 finals where Miami lost to the San Antonio Spurs, one thing was clear as could be — the Heat were no longer a big three; instead, James was the big one while the other two struggled. Today, LeBron James has decided to opt out of his contract, and one of his best opportunities would be signing with the Houston Rockets, as he would join Dwight Howard and James Harden, which would create a new big three.
It is becoming more evident than ever that in order for LeBron James to win more championships, he needs help. As great as he is, these finals showed that despite his talent, he cannot win a championship without a team. After all, Michael Jordan would not have won without Pippen, Rodman and a slew of others, much like how the big three in San Antonio would not have won without each other. Having won a championship with a three-headed dragon, it would make sense for LeBron James to come to the Rockets where they already have two all-stars. By adding James, it most likely would push them over the hump.
On Houston, they have a great balance of power on the starting lineup. Dwight Howard is, arguably, the best center in the league by averaging 18.3 ppg, 12.2 rpg and 1.8 bpg. Howard, who has already expressed that the team needs another all-star would be a key component and attractive piece that James would want to play with. Unlike his big man in Miami, Chris Bosh, Howard is a true big man who will score in the post, take the largest load in terms of rebounds and protect the paint, considering he is a former defensive player of the year after all. Additionally, Howard will make it easier on James who will not have to do as much as he did in Miami. While James was in south beach, he was the leading rebounder at small forward, coveting 7.1 rpg. While certainly James will help on the glass, by playing alongside Howard, he will be allowed to focus on scoring, assists and defense.
With LeBron James aligning himself with James Harden, it will give the former MVP a right hand man, much like how Wade was to James in Miami. Last season Harden was one of the top scoring players in the league, averaging 25.4 ppg, which certainly is attractive to James. One thing that is questionable with James coming to Houston is who will be the principle ball handler. Last season it was Harden who was the principle ball handler, who also averaged 6.1 apg. Meanwhile, James was the principle ball handler on Miami while also putting in 6.4 apg. While Harden has greater numbers in assists, James is a better facilitator, not to mention that the former MVP did not have the help that Harden did. Unless Houston picks up a substantial point guard or elects to start Jeremy Lin at the point guard position, James’ arrival most likely would shift the offensive system to run through himself instead of Harden. This could be a good thing, but it also will put more pressure on James, something he may be wanting to get away from. Not to mention that this change may not be something that Harden will be thrilled about.
Houston has more help than just the big two. While Lin may not be the firestarter he was for part of the season in New York during the 2012, he is a very solid role player who can play as facilitator, knock down threes and is a decent on-ball defender. Additionally, Lin still will occasionally tear it up on the offensive end and put in 20 or so points when needed, but he does not do this on a consistent basis. Elsewhere, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley are both solid role players who can be counted on a consistent basis. However, the big question mark there is that both players have team options going into the free agent season. Of the two, Parsons has already been declined from the Rockets, making him a restricted free agent. It is a risky move because, while the Rockets could pick him up by matching another team, if he is offered too much, he may no longer be on the team. Additionally, it will put the pressure on them to bring him or someone else on before James decides his future.
The bigger problem with the Rockets team is that, with the exception of Lin or Beverley (depending on who starts), they do not have much of a bench. Asik is a good center, but he has stated his thoughts about not liking being a backup to Howard, which has led to only 20 minutes average of play per game. However, it would not be surprising for the Rockets to finally unload the center, who is set to make almost $15 million this upcoming season. Of course, the problem then becomes being able to find a suitor despite his opinionated nature and an underwhelming season. However, if he does get moved, the Rockets could find a decent grouping of players to come off the bench.
LeBron James will change the makeup of the Rockets in a drastic way. First and foremost, they will have one of the most efficient guys in the league, who can basically do everything on the floor. Inevitably he may very well make the Rockets the top offensive team, after a season where they were only ranked second. His biggest impact though will be on the defensive end as he will be coming to a team that only ranked 23rd in points allowed last season. Also as discussed, the Rockets will have one of the best facilitators, where Harden and Lin will not have to do the entirety of ball handling, while also putting their lackluster 18th place in assists up significantly.
The four-time MVP wants a squad he can rely on. He wants a set of players that will take the load off of himself, where he does not have to do everything and put the load on his shoulders. By going to the Houston Rockets, not only would LeBron James help create a new big three, but by signing with them, he would be on a younger team with a longer longevity than the Miami Heat.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey