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Dwight Howard and James Harden could form NBA’s best duo

Jul 5, 2013, 7:43 PM EDT

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

Dwight Howard is a center. James Harden is a guard.

Howard is one of the NBA’s best defenders. Harden is one of the league’s top offensive players.

Howard is an elite interior scorer. Harden’s range extends beyond the 3-point line.

Howard is excellent as the screener in pick-and-rolls. Harden is superb as the ball-handler on those plays.

Howard and Harden, in any system, would be two of the NBA’s best players. Together, they should be great.

They won’t step on each other’s toes the ways LeBron James and Dwyane Wade do at times. Obviously LeBron and Wade have overcome those issues, but the overlaps in their games have caused complications.

Howard and Harden won’t have to deal with that.

Could Howard and Harden even become the NBA’s best duo next season? First, let’s set a baseline using each team’s top duos last season, as judged by combined win shares.

I’ll also slot in Howard and Harden to compare. It’s difficult to know whether Howard’s peak win-share total, set in 2010-11, or his lower total while playing through injury last season is more telling, so I’ll show both.

1. Thunder, 30.5 (Kevin Durant, 18.9; Russell Westbrook, 11.6)

2. Heat, 28.9 (LeBron James, 19.3; Dwyane Wade, 9.6)

Howard (14.4) Harden (12.8) using peak numbers numbers, 27.2

3. Clippers, 24.5 (Chris Paul, 13.9; Blake Griffin, 10.6)

4. Grizzlies, 21.4 (Marc Gasol, 11.5; Mike Conley, 9.9)

Harden (12.8) and Howard (7.6) using last season’s numbers, 20.4

5. Warriors, 20.3 (Stephen Curry, 11.2; David Lee, 9.1)

6. Nets, 19.9 (Deron Williams, 10.9; Brook Lopez, 9)

7. Rockets, 19.8 (James Harden, 12.8; Chandler Parsons, 7)

8. Knicks, 18.8 (Carmelo Anthony, 9.5; Tyson Chandler, 9.3)

8. Pacers, 18.8 (George Hill, 9.7; David West, 9.1)

10. Lakers, 18.5 (Kobe Bryant, 10.9; Dwight Howard, 7.6)

11. Spurs, 17.6 (Tony Parker, 9.3; Tim Duncan, 8.3)

12. Jazz, 15.3 (Al Jefferson, 7.7; Paul Millsap, 7.6)

13. Hawks, 15.2 (Al Horford, 8.8; Kyle Korver, 6.4)

13. Nuggets, 15.2 (Kenneth Faried, 7.8; Ty Lawson, 7.4)

15. Bulls, 14.3 (Joakim Noah, 7.3; Jimmy Butler, 7)

16. Trail Blazers, 14.1 (LaMarcus Aldridge, 7.2; J.J. Hickson, 6.9)

17. Raptors, 12.9 (Amir Johnson, 7.3; Kyle Lowry, 5.6)

18. Celtics, 12.8 (Paul Pierce, 7.2; Kevin Garnett, 5.6)

19. Bucks, 12.7 (Ersan Ilyasova, 6.7; Larry Sanders, 6)

19. Timberwolves, 12.7 (Nikola Pekovic, 6.7; Andrei Kirilenko, 6)

21. Hornets, 12.6 (Ryan Anderson, 6.5; Anthony Davis, 6.1)

22. 76ers, 12.3 (Thaddeus Young, 7.4; Dorell Wright, 4.9)

23. Mavericks, 11.6 (Vince Carter, 6; Darren Collison, 5.6)

24. Wizards, 10.8 (Martell Webster, 6.3; tie John Wall and Emeka Okafor, 4.5)

25. Cavaliers, 10.5 (Kyrie Irving, 5.3; Tristan Thompson, 5.2)

25. Suns, 10.5 (Goran Dragic, 5.7; Jared Dudley, 4.8)

27. Pistons, 10.4 (Greg Monroe, 5.9; Andre Drummond, 4.5)

28. Kings, 9.4 (Isaiah Thomas, 5; tie: DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, 4.4)

29. Magic, 8.9 (Nikola Vucevic, 5.7; J.J. Redick, 3.2)

30. Bobcats, 8.1 (Kemba Walker, 4.8; Gerald Henderson, 3.3)

Wade is 31, and he has spent his career drawing fouls, a style that is difficult to maintain. He showed during the playoffs that he might already be beyond his days of regularly dominating. That doesn’t mean he’ll fall off a cliff or won’t sometimes look like the best shooting guard in the NBA, but it could mean he and LeBron lose their footing as one of the game’s best two duos.

There are also questions about how Westbrook returns from his injury. Lingering effects could keep him and Durant from retaining their place atop this list.

But if I had to guess today, I’d say Durant-Westbrook will be the NBA’s best duo next season with Howard-Harden coming in second.

  1. johndavidbooty - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    Oh, brother. I see the media has christened James Harden as Micheal Jordan this off-season. I’ll repost my thoughts on this, because I find this reporting to be very odd.

    The one thing that surprises me the most in all of this is how much James Harden has been over-rated here. So, we are supposed to believe that Howard teaming with James Harden automatically makes Houston a contender? I mean, Harden is pretty good, but he’s not even better than Kobe was LAST season at 33, when Bryant was supposed to be an “old-man”. I’m not a Lakers fan, and really don’t have an opinion on where Dwight ends up, but I do think it’s ridiculous that Houston would be considered anymore a contender than any other team for landing Dwight, just because they have James Harden.

    Harden put up 25.9/5.8/4.9 on 43.8%.

    Bryant put up 27.3/6.0/5.6 on 46.3%

    Throw in Gasol, who averaged 17.5/12.1/6.6 over the last month of the season, and I’d still maintain that the Lakers have a better starting 5 with Dwight than Houston would have, but that’s neither here nor there.

    Just a little confused by all of the James Harden praise that’s been spreading. We might want to temper that a bit.

    • qadrir - Jul 6, 2013 at 4:17 PM

      You must be confused because you’re not smart. How conveniently you ignored who took more shots or handled the ball, Harden or Kobe?

      Go back and redo the stats and then realize where harden is stacked. No one is comparing Kobe to Harden. But don’t discount what the writer is saying. Howard and Harden may become the top duo next season and looking at the possibilities I will not doubt that. No current shooting guard plays pick and role better then Harden, second he draws the foul. Now he will have a big target for passes. Watch out this may be story and history in making.

  2. rodericksilva - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    You forgot that Nash is the best pick n roll guard and has the range too. Things didn’t fare well in LA with Nash/Howard combo.

    Howard and Harden are not a match made in heaven.

    • apkyletexas - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:22 PM

      Nash was a shell of himself almost the entire year.

      • sportsfan18 - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:32 PM

        That shell of himself still shot .497% from the field, .922% from the line and .438% from 3 pt range. He just missed another 50/90/40 shooting season. He has 4 in his career.

        His turnovers were a half turnover lower than his career number of 3.3 turnovers per 36 min’s of court time as he only turned the ball over 2.8 times per 36 min’s of court time.

        I agree with you that he wasn’t as good as he could be, but he still shot the ball very well (his numbers were all higher than Ray Allen’s in the 3 categories I mentioned, which shouldn’t be a surprise because Nash’s career averages in these categories are all higher than Allen’s too).

        You’re right that he wasn’t what he should have been last year, but he wasn’t garbage either.

        Ray shot .449% from the field and .419% from 3 pt last year.

        Nash shot .497% from the field and .438% from 3 pt last year.

    • ProBasketballPundit - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:27 PM

      You are absolutely right for pointing this out; two seasons ago Nash was the top p&r ballhandler in the league and Dwight was the top p&r screener, points-per-possession wise. BUT I don’t blame Nash or Howard for their lack of production on the Lakers. Mike Brown screwed everything up with that “princeton offense” which for some reason featured zero pick and rolls with Nash/Howard. Then D’Antoni didn’t do much to correct the issues and Nash got hurt. Plus Howard wasn’t quite himself…. Howard could possibly return to form.

    • voiceofreason6 - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:29 PM

      Howard ain’t gonna like Harden dominating the ball.

      • sportsfan18 - Jul 6, 2013 at 9:46 PM

        voiceofreason6

        Harden didn’t and won’t dominate the ball like Kobe did.

        Kobe took 1595 shots last year from 2 pt range and 407 shots from 3 pt range.

        Harden took 1337 shots last yr from 2 pt range and 486 shots from 3 pt range.

        Kobe’s usage rate was 31.9% of the teams plays while he was on the floor.

        Hardens usage rate was 29.0% of the teams plays while he was on the court.

        Kobe produced 112 points per 100 possessions he had last year.

        Harden produced 116 points per 100 possessions he had last year.

      • Anoesis - Jul 7, 2013 at 12:32 AM

        I don’t know what a “usage rate” is, but less than a 2% difference is pretty small in any stat. Ditto for a 4-point difference in points-per-possession.

    • bigmeechy74 - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:19 AM

      Yeah. Nash is in his prime. Harden is washed up. Oh wait nvm… other way around. How did you get 32 thumbs up for that comment?

      • rodericksilva - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:37 AM

        i didnt say Nash was in his prime. i didnt say Harden was washed up. Nash has been feeding guys for years and can still do it. The Harden/Howard combo is not a lock to be a smashing success like your thinking.

      • bigmeechy74 - Jul 6, 2013 at 10:27 AM

        I didn’t say it was a lock. But even comparing Nash and Harden at this stage of their careers is kind of silly. Nash is one of my all time favorites. I’m not trying to trash him. But let’s be honest. He is pretty much done. I hope I am wrong though.

      • qadrir - Jul 6, 2013 at 4:22 PM

        I love comments from Lakers fan, a great resource for Late Night comedians like J Kimmel.

    • qadrir - Jul 6, 2013 at 4:20 PM

      Nash is history. he is old with a back problem. He take two shots before each game, at some point next season his spine will cave in. You cannot live your life on pain killers. Give it a rest.

  3. scorp16 - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    A little early in the NBA year to be writing off “old” Dwayne Wade…..don’t you think. Guess it’s that time of year again.

    • fanofthegame79 - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:50 AM

      And if Wade has slipped even a half a step, I’m sure LeBron can pick up the slack.

  4. Chris Ross - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    I think they’ll be freat together. Moreover, the Rockets have tons of 3 point shooting so they should be able to be good helping him out in that respect. I’m not sure how Asik fits into the picture but this will be fun

    http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/executive-of-the-year/

  5. 13arod - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    Blake griffin and Chris Paul is better

    • 3xchamps - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:18 PM

      you gotta be able to do more than just throw alley oops to win a championship

  6. apkyletexas - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    I’m trying to think who is the best guard Howard has ever played with (outside of injured, part-time Nash). Rafer Alston? Quentin Richardson?

    Harden is going to be a huge upgrade over any former guard pairings for Howard. You might see Howard’s scoring jump considerably with the amount of attention Harden will demand from defenses.

    • blueballzny - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:47 PM

      What about that guy named Kobe Bryant?

      • fanofevilempire - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:57 PM

        one day he will be back, then they will all know.

      • badintent - Jul 5, 2013 at 11:10 PM

        Tendon injuries are nasty. Even for Kobe and his German stem cell treatments. Did you see him on Kimmel ‘s show ? He could not jump or even bend his knees to shoot a jump shot(shot set shots) against a 4 year kid.He will not play ball until he is 100%(see D . Rose) and that could be in 2014. Jodie Meeks is now Kobe. Not good.

    • alaisterxrose - Jul 5, 2013 at 11:17 PM

      What about jameer nelson?

    • fanofthegame79 - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:52 AM

      Whoa, if we’re talking shooting guards, fine. But don’t forget Howard played with a young and not-so-injured Jameer Nelson…a player who, during that time, was a top point guard in the league.

  7. howsmyrash - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    And they should produce exactly two less championships than the Wade and James duo. Because Howard is a baby. And will never win a championship.

  8. ss3walkman - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    Wade and James
    Durant and Westbrook

    Howard and Harden will not be above them

  9. mrlitl - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    @apkyletexas

    Howard played with Kobe last year. I’d say he’s better than James Harden. And has more hardware

    • apkyletexas - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:37 PM

      Good point. I always think of Kobe as a forward for some reason – I guess he’s always seemed more powerful than a shooting guard to me. Strange that Kobe and Dwight couldn’t form much of a combo last year.

      Guess it will all depend on coaching, offensive style, and health. As usual.

      • 1historian - Jul 6, 2013 at 10:36 AM

        Don’t forget maturity – IMO that’s what this all hangs on.

    • bigmeechy74 - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:24 AM

      You just say “Kobe is better. He has more rings.” You should try actually thinking about how their games and style of play will mesh. Harden’s style should (theoretically) be a perfect match for dwight. Kobe bryant going one on one and shooting fall away mid range jumpers… not so much

  10. dirtydavis - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:35 PM

    I still pick Kb24 and Gasol over D12 and harden… In a two on two game that is

  11. rickyspanish - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    apkyletexas

    Jameer Nelson.

  12. remyje - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    All that time and dedication put in this article just to be wrong smh.. Let me know if you want my e-mail or phone number so I can rub it in a year from now

  13. pensman29 - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:01 PM

    Wow what a team game

  14. larrybrown43 - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:13 PM

    Fools Gold: Howard is like Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo. They love the celebrity aspect of professional sports not the amount of hard work and determination to be elite. If this guy cared so much about his career he’d be in the gym practicing free throws. It’s one area of basketball a player can work on all by themselves. This guy pouts and has done nothing in the playoffs. He gets his “good not great” numbers during the meaningless regular season. Because it’s a slow news month this story got far more attention than it deserves.

  15. patfic15 - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    Sam Presti….you began the destruction of what could have been an incredible run last summer. Now watch as your competition grows to a level you will never reach.

    • Vir Publius - Jul 7, 2013 at 9:15 PM

      This is the single DUMBEST comment I have ever seen from anyone in a public forum. People who pretend they know the basketball business and that the James Harden trade was bad for the Thunder need to take the time to actually read the new CBA and how the rules work.

      Presti knew that he could keep Harden (the team’s third, or maybe even fourth best player), live in the luxury tax and milk 3-4 good years out of a Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka core. He also knew the compounding luxury tax would make it impossible for the team to keep them together at the end of that time frame, right when Westbrook and Durant’s contracts were up for resigning; so the Thunder would lose one of those superstars so they could get back under the tax threshold. Its the problem the Heat are in now. You can go into the luxury tax for a couple of years, but no franchise (not NY or LA even) can survive above that threshold after that because of its compounding nature.

      Harden is good at basketball, but he has NOTHING on Durant and Westbrook. People who doubt Westbrook need to watch what happened to the Thunder once he was out, and also consider how easily the Thunder masked the loss of James Harden this last year (still finishing #1 in the west). Durant is the 2nd best player in the world. Ibaka is cheaper than Harden, one of the best 4s in the game, and an ongoing defensive player of the year candidate.

      Presti gave up a 4 year title window for the Thunder, when they’d have to be competing against the most dangerous super team the league has ever seen in Miami, in exchange for giving the Thunder a 15 year window by staying out of the tax.

      And Houston is proclaiming a guy who was on OKC’s bench the second coming of Kobe Bryant. Get a clue.

  16. pudgalvin - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:46 PM

    I think you might be able to replace jimmy butler with derrick rose and see how that duo fares next season.

  17. losanginsight - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:55 AM

    What are the free throw %of these duos?
    As everyone seen free throws matter in close games. Good luck to the Houston fans.

  18. rodericksilva - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:16 AM

    SportsFan18 yep. Like he said a shell of himself. Ha ha. I think people will be in for a surprise from these “20″ win Lakers.

  19. sportsfan18 - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:50 AM

    Many Laker fans and Kobe fans have pointed out that Kobe had one of his better seasons last year.

    The numbers above in the article show the changing of the guard.

    At #10 was Kobe and Dwight. Even adding both of their numbers together, they were still lower than Durant and LeBron were by themselves…

    Kobe has had a great career and he’s still darn good but he’s on his way down.

    • 1historian - Jul 6, 2013 at 10:44 AM

      Thumbs up.I hate the Lakers, don’t like Kobe, and never will but in his prime he was the BEST and his prime is in the rear-view mirror and getting farther away by the day. He should just walk away and leave us with memories, but I don’t think he’s capable of that and that is truly sad. To me there’s just about nothing as sad as watching someone who was once GREAT hanging on, not knowing enough to just quit.

      I remember when Jim Brown hung it up in 1966 – he was at the top of his game, in 8 of his 9 seasons he had racked up 1000 yards (in a 12 game season) and one of the reasons he gave was that he wanted to “hang out with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones”. (He was in England at the time)

      FYI – The Beatles were an English rock group that broke up about 43 years ago

  20. xdv02 - Jul 6, 2013 at 4:13 AM

    Until Howard can make free throw, they will not be the best duo. Teams keep fouling him if they behind in 4th and make some basket, they will win for sure! He’s not a superstar like other in NBA simply because he’s a liability of his team in the 4th. Superstar suppose to be carry the team when it need the most, never with Howard. The Rockets will be grounded for the next 4 years of his contract.

  21. kerby720 - Jul 6, 2013 at 4:55 AM

    Am I the only one that thinks Stephen Curry and Dwight would have been a better duo? I just feel like they are a more natural fit for each other. I mean sure Harden is an elite player also, but Curry is a PG so he’s a more natural assist guy. Whereas Harden is a bit more of a ball dominator, although he does have a penchant for getting assists (though not as much as Curry). Plus Curry is by far a better outside shooter.

  22. robertacastillo - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    I did not quite understand why Andrew Bynum was traded for Dwight in the first place. I realize Andrew had a temper and at times was unprofessional in attitude, but he was not to far behind in rebounding and was a better shooter than Dwight Howard. But so be it the trade was made. However, when Dwight came to the Lakers I really do not see what difference he made. He cannot shoot. So why all the noise.Yes the Lakers definitely need to make some changes and have their work cut out, but Harden and Dwight certainly do not make a championship team, it takes more than a duo for that.

    • Kurt Helin - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:09 AM

      The Lakers traded Bynum because they had a good idea what was coming with his knees and commitment to the game.

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