I joined Nate Duncan on his Dunc’d On podcast in an interview published Sunday night.  The call was recorded earlier in the month, hence the long discussion over the potential contributions of now former Rocket Michael Beasley.

We discussed a variety of topics, from the offseason additions of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, to the team’s potential strengths and weaknesses.  I ultimately predicted a 51 win season, but put the Rockets’ ceiling at 55 wins, reiterating a point I’ve been making for weeks: this current roster is as, if not more talented than the 2015 team.  And all of the chemistry issues figure to be gone.  Why can’t the Rockets repeat the success they enjoyed that year?

Nate and I both expect the team’s offense to be amongst the very best in the league, but naturally were in agreement that the defense will be the biggest barrier to a rise in the standings.  I should correct myself, however, over a point I made in support of my premise.  I stated that it was questionable whether Patrick Beverley was any longer a good defender.  On the contrary, as I recently outlined, Beverley was 5th best last year among all point guards in DRPM.  It was the prior season when he finished in the bottom 20’s.

The cause for concern is Trevor Ariza who slipped all the way down to 45th among small forwards, below even Chandler Parsons and Chase Budinger, and just ahead of Carmelo Anthony.  In 2015, Ariza finished 7th.  Unless Clint Capela turns out to be Dwight Howard circa 2010, Beverley alone can’t carry the poor defenders in this lineup.

You can tell from listening that I’m really excited about this season.  I know the Rockets probably won’t contend, but they’ll definitely be an intriguing team to watch and follow.  As I repeated many times, just simply removing the negativity of the past few years from the equation will be a step in the right direction.






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Reflecting back on the Michael Beasley era

I have no shame in admitting that Michael Beasley was probably my favorite player on the Houston Rockets last season.  At times, he looked like the team’s second best player.  I tweeted sometime late in the year, when the “tank or playoffs?” debate was raging, that I wanted the Rockets to make the postseason for no other reason than to ensure four more games of watching Beasley.  I was only partially kidding.  Yes, I had given up on the year, but there were times when I’d flip away to a different channel unless Beasley was playing.  I found him that entertaining.

On Thursday, Houston traded Beasley to the Milwaukee Bucks for guard Tyler Ennis in a deal that made perfect sense, despite the fact that I and everyone else I know hated it.  Beasley was the only other player on the team, besides Harden, who could create his own shot.  I noticed, along with many of you, that he seemed to be, strangely, the only player to whom Harden at times, would willingly defer.  With his mid-range shooting, ball handling, and ability to punish smaller defenders on the block, the Beasley-Harden pick and roll was a glimpse of hope the team seemed to stumble upon accidentally, and didn’t utilize nearly enough (because, of course…).  Before the Ryan Anderson signing, many of us hoped that combination might be a weapon heading into next season that a better tactician might have been able to utilize.

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Is Patrick Beverley a “lockdown defender”?

Patrick-Beverley

A video from bballbreakdown.com made the rounds earlier in the week, even garnering a retweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.  It professed to elucidate the viewer as to why Patrick Beverley is a “lockdown defender.”

The narrator zeroes in visually on Beverley’s tactics, underscoring a low and wide stance which he explains is a break from established fundamentals.  The narrator surmises that its this unorthodox approach which is the catalyst for Beverley’s productivity.

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On Yao, the current path, and the CBA

  • The feeling I observed a few weeks back from Cowboys fans upon news of Tony Romo’s latest injury was a familiar one.  I felt that way too after the injury that forced Yao Ming to finally give in and hang it up.  It’s a strange place when losing the player that represents hopes of accomplishing anything of significance triggers, not impending doom, but rather, casual resignation.  Its a realization that the writing is on the wall and that it is time to move on.  In those days, I am partially ashamed to admit, I had advocated trading Yao to reclaim any value he may have had; I did not think he would ever be able to stay healthy.  Ashamed because of the ambassador for the game he turned out to be – a reality only reinforced through the hindsight benefit (or misfortune) of witnessing the dramatic end of the Dwight Howard era.  But trading Yao, if possible, would have been the right basketball move.  Who knows, however, if they ever would have explored it given the foreign business opportunities the big man’s presence on the roster opened up for the big boss.

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No progress on the Donatas Motiejunas front

I wrote two weeks ago on the Donatas Motiejunas contract negotiations, a process that has been and will be in limbo until October 1, the date when, unless its extended, the Rockets’ qualifying offer to Motiejunas expires.

Finally, last night, it seems there was some news on that front, but unfortunately for Motiejunas, rather than actual interest from another team, the soundwaves were nothing but frustration expressed by his agent:

“He wants me to make an offer and I’m not negotiating against myself,” Armstrong said. “Daryl (Morey, the Rockets general manager) and I are talking, but at this point there’s nothing to discuss. You know the value of a player. You know the value of a starting center in the NBA. There is no back-and-forth because of the rules. They’re using the rules to their advantage.”

Of course, as I explained in that September 1st piece, there’s no reason for Morey to negotiate against himself either.  If that October 1 deadline passes and Motiejunas still hasn’t accepted the qualifying offer, he remains a restricted free agent.  And to our knowledge, with no outside interest to date from other teams, he and his agent appear to have little to no leverage.  As I delineated in my earlier post, if Motiejunas has soured on the Rockets or wants to bet on himself, he can take the qualifying offer, and test the waters again next summer, but as an unrestricted free agent.  More from Armstrong:

“The Rockets are using the rules of restricted free agency to their advantage instead of focusing on what I would hope is the only thing that I would think is important to everybody, which is winning games,” Armstrong said. “I hope with coach (Mike) D’Antoni and the staff that they want to put the best team on the court to help the organization win games. If that’s the case, let’s get past the restricted free agency and the rules and put the best players on the floor to help him win basketball games.

I get the intent here, but for a professional with a fiduciary responsibility over another individual’s financial interests, Armstrong just sounds incredibly unsophisticated in the highlighted quote.  To be clear, there are instances when playing the press game can be beneficial.  He could’ve claimed the Rockets weren’t dealing in good faith had they spread details of Motiejunas’ medical records, as Carl Landry’s agent alleged some years ago.  Or he could have made the oft-repeated charge that Morey viewed his players as assets, something that actually did take legs, and for which the Rockets did take a public relations hit.  But here, Armstrong just comes off as if he doesn’t understand the basics of the collective bargaining agreement.  “Winning” and financial responsibility aren’t exactly mutually exclusive ends.

It’s unfortunate.  I like D-Mo a lot and hope he’s back, but this will end about as bad for him as it can for someone who will still probably rake in at least $8 million a year, I predict.  Hopefully the two sides can have a meeting of the minds on a figure that’s in line with what they each think he’s worth.  Because the market has spoken and the only noise is deafening silence: there most likely isn’t going to be a price to match.  Armstrong should work on fixing that instead of embarrassing himself further with quotes like the above.






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