Rockets Trade Rumors: Dwight Howard Deal Likely As Houston Rockets Fall Out Of Playoff Spot?

Rockets trade rumors again include Dwight Howard as a moving piece. These Houston Rockets trade rumors have come up following another bad loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. On Wednesday, February 10, the Rockets lost to the Portland Trail Blazers (again). The 116-103 final was not as close as the score might indicate, as the Rockets were down by double-digits at halftime. Despite Howard having a really good game on offense, the Rockets just couldn't find a way to keep pace with one of the prospective playoff teams in the West.

Howard finished the game with 28 points and 13 rebounds, hitting 13-of-17 shots from the field in just over 35 minutes of action. When he was on the court, though, the Blazers out-scored the Rockets by 24 points in this one. It didn't help matters that the Rockets turned the ball over 20 times and got out-rebounded 49-40 by the Blazers. The end result was that the Rockets slipped to 27-28 and fell out of a spot in the 2016 NBA Playoffs.

Many Houston Rockets trade rumors involving Dwight Howard had floated around the NBA during the first half of the season, but they were constantly refuted by the front office. In fact, a report from ESPN back on February 3 quoted sources close to the Rockets as stating the team did not want to trade its starting center. Now the team has lost three straight games and fallen behind the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, and Utah Jazz in the Western Conference standings, though.

Dwight Howard Dunk
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

A main reason that many NBA analysts felt the Houston Rockets would trade Dwight Howard is that he plans to opt out of his current contract during the offseason. Howard has a player option for just over $23 million that he will pass up in order to sign a new long-term deal. This is a common practice by star players in the NBA and one of the main reasons that agents often negotiate for a player option to be included. It gives Howard a lot of control, but also keeps an extra year in place should his talents fall off.

When NBA free agency begins this offseason, all teams will be able to offer Howard a new deal. The Orlando Magic saw that coming and dealt Howard to the LA Lakers before his contract could expire. Now the Houston Rockets are in a similar position as the NBA trade deadline approaches on February 18. The franchise can decide to hold on to Howard in the hopes of negotiating a new deal in the offseason or part ways with him for a package of young players or draft picks as a long-term solution.

Having Dwight Howard and James Harden as an All-Star duo hasn't worked out exactly as Houston Rockets fans may have hoped. Rather than contending for a spot in the NBA Finals, the team is instead at risk of missing the 2016 NBA Playoffs entirely. This is where the front office could intentionally make a decision to scrap the current plan and play for the 2016-17 NBA season. Falling out of the postseason would mean a lottery pick and a shot at one of the elite players coming out of college. That might be exactly what the franchise needs now.

Dwight Howard And Stephen Curry
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics surfaced as a suitor for Dwight Howard, with team president Danny Ainge reportedly speaking with the front office in Houston about him. No movement was made in that regard, but it could get revisited during the coming All-Star break. Even if no deal is made that involves Howard, other Houston Rockets trade rumors indicate the team would like to shed salary to possibly lure Kevin Durant in free agency. That could mean players like Ty Lawson, Patrick Beverley, and Trevor Ariza won't be Rockets for long.

[Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images]