• In case you missed parts 1 and 2, they can be found here and here.  As is common knowledge now, Houston emerged from the trade deadline adding Lou Williams and shedding the salaries of K.J. McDaniels and Tyler Ennis, with the latter act serving as a vehicle to open its cap sheet for the buyout market.  The former move, of course, served to take one of the league’s already most potent offenses to even greater heights, as was witnessed Thursday night in New Orleans.  Williams very well may not ever hit seven 3’s again in a game during his Rockets tenure, but what he represents, in all seriousness, is the presence of a player who is not Corey Brewer.  I quipped the line Thursday night throughout the sparkling debut, but it was really meant in earnest.  It’s not true to say Corey Brewer brought nothing to the Rockets – the chaos he created and his energy in transition undoubtedly contributed to winning.  (Lineups with Brewer had a positive net rating).  But every time the Rockets worked the ball around the perimeter to find Brewer open in the corner, every time a closeout necessitated Brewer creating his own shot, a once promising possession died in futility.  As we saw Thursday, that is no longer the case.  Set the shooting aside (Williams hits 39% on 3’s overall, and over 50% on corner 3’s), Williams’ ability to put the ball on the floor simply represents another weapon, whereas this time last season the Rockets only had one in James Harden.  When D’Antoni rolled out the Harden-Gordon-Williams three-guard sets in stints against the Pelicans, one wondered how any team could possibly ever match up.  The duo of Harden and Gordon have been enough of a handful already for opposing teams this season.

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in features, musings

  • Check out Part 1 if you have time to kill where I discuss everything from Pat Beverley’s role on the team to my evolving appraisal of Clint Capela.  When I started writing, Corey Brewer was still a Rocket.
  • I’ve been racking my brain all afternoon in attempts to discern who the Rockets could be targeting in light of the news they hoped to acquire a player in the $10million to $12million range.  The natural conclusion would direct one towards the list of available bigs but all seem woefully underwhelming in some respect or are otherwise unobtainable.  Is Taj Gibson still effective?  Can we stomach the remaining years on Kenneth Faried’s contract?  (He’s basically Montrezl Harrell).  And how dirty are you willing to feel to win?  Andrew Bogut would fit an obvious need, not just for his physicality and passing ability, but with the added chip on his shoulder from being dumped by Golden State.  But could you, dear reader, fan of this team, stomach the addition of someone so hated?  I really don’t think I could.  Honestly, I just don’t.  I may have said the same thing about Jason Terry, I can’t remember, before he went on to become one of the most instrumental influences on the 2015 team, but Terry was just annoying.  I don’t think he was ever hated.  Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor both carry intrigue, for different reasons, but Philadelphia would purporetedly have no interest in a reunion with Houston’s primary asset, K.J. McDaniels.  This goes without mentioning my doubts Houston would be eager to re-sign Noel this summer at his likely asking price…unless they’ve turned the page on Capela.
  • Adding another wing like P.J. Tucker or Wilson Chandler would carry obvious benefits, especially if loading up for a rematch with the Warriors.  Maybe Morey and D’Antoni have determined they can only live small, and need, rather than a true big man off the bench, another versatile wing defender who can slide up one slot.  For instance, a trade for Chandler puts the rotation at Harden, Beverley, Capela, Ariza, Anderson, Gordon, Williams, Chandler, Dekker, Harrell, and Nene with those first eight getting the bulk of the minutes in the postseason.  Maybe you go ultra-small, experimenting with bench units featuring Chandler and Dekker as the 4/5?  The problem, however, is that I don’t know that Houston has enough assets remaining to entice the Nuggets into a deal.  Tucker is another story.
  • Update at 6:48 A.M. at 2/23 – I went to bed expecting to wake up to news, but there’s only crickets.  So I’ve killed the last half hour perusing hoopshype’s league-wide player salaries page in search of possibilities.  (If you go that route, don’t scroll up on the page too fast or you end up stuck on a Nascar page with no hopes of return).  The most striking thing upon perusal is the number of grotesquely offensive contracts remaining in the league.  Many of these are legacy payments, like Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.  Some of these are just bad – Chandler Parsons, Joakim Noah.  You don’t finally crack the magical $12million mark until the 73rd highest paid player in the league, J.R. Smith.  Can you believe J.R. Smith is making more than Eric Gordon?
  • Several of you asked me about Brook Lopez who, aside from earning a salary too high to receive back in trade ($21million), is basically a dinosaur who wouldn’t fit in with this group.  Sure, he’s possibly the best post-up center in the league, and one might argue he could anchor the second unit when Harden sits, but there’s no evidence D’Antoni has any interest in playing this way, especially when he now has both Eric Gordon and Lou Williams to provide said anchoring of said second unit.  In D’Antoni’s mind, just running something else with other good players is a better option than the TNT conventional wisdom of “dumping it in when you need something”, and rightfully so.  This is not to mention that Lopez’s 5 rebounds per game will not be helping the team on the boards.  If the Rockets are to make a trade for a big man–and that is highly in question–I can almost assure you it will not be for that player’s post-up ability.
  • Amir Johnson at $12million on an expiring contract is a player for whom I know someone very well-placed within the Rockets organization has had a very public affinity prior to his hiring by the team.
  • The Jazz are reportedly shopping Derrick Favors who has another year left beyond this season’s $11million.  Speaking of Capela not taking the next step, check out Favors’ decline in production this season from last, now at age 25.  He probably is what he is at this point in time.
  • Austin Rivers makes almost as much as Kyle Lowry and Stephen Curry.
  • Going down the list, as I said last night, Andrew Bogut just seems to make the most overall sense from every perspective, ranging from fit to need to contract.  He fills an obvious need inside and doesn’t hamstring the team long-term.  But man, if they made such a move, it would take some kind of mental gymnastics to get myself to root for him.
  • The Rockets are reportedly content with their big man rotation, but if they trade for a wing, someone is the odd man out.  For instance, as I discussed last night, even if playing someone like a Wilson Chandler as a smallball ‘4’, that eats up Dekker’s minutes as Dekker is essentially the current backup ‘4’.  Does that mean they’d be looking to ship out Dekker?
  • As a reader pointed out, one angle might be pursuing a young player set to hit free agency to whom his current team is fearful of commitment.  This would be a good avenue to add another piece to the core, especially with the team not set up to have significant cap space in the summer.  As I’ve said all year, I do expect the Rockets to attempt to operate above the cap this summer, and one indication of that was their willingness to match on Motiejunas.  Had they been able to retain him, it would have eaten into their expected space.  Their preferred course in that situation possibly provides a glimpse into their future planning.

in musings

  • My fingers are literally shaking as I type this, in fear that its contents will be obsolete prior to my hitting publish.  That usually is the case this time of year and prior to free agency.  This year, things seem even crazier, with several stars (‘Melo, Paul George, Drummond) and impact players (Wilson Chandler, Galinari, Lou Williams) reportedly in play, and the league’s most dominant big man already dealt.  And of course there is the added wrinkle that Houston is already good and probably looking to upgrade its chances for the stretch run.  I’ll add onto this as I go, as we approach the Thursday deadline, or until something significant occurs necessitating its own post.
  • Part of why it seems everyone is piling on the ridicule of Kings management (aside from the fact that they completely embarrassed themselves on Sunday) is an outrage over the shakeup they facilitated.  If you’re stupid to your own detriment, nobody cares, aside from a little bit of mockery.  But if you’re stupid and it has widespread ramifications that affect everyone, that’s when you will really hear about it.  Maybe the Davis-Cousins experiment fails.  But there’s just as great a chance, in my opinion, that it completely alters the landscape of the West.  And that absolutely should not have happened.
  • I tweeted this morning about Clint Capela, wondering whether it might be wise to sell high in a year when a seemingly unprecedented number of stars are available.  Allow me to offer a disclaimer: this does not mean that I no longer hold Capela in high regard.  What I’m saying is that while in December, I considered Capela nearly untouchable, as the season has progressed, with Capela not demonstrating an ability to play heavy minutes, I’m beginning to wonder if my analysis should be mended.  If the stamina issues which have plagued him are going to be a long-term concern, Capela’s production will not justify the dollar figure he will command.  Understand that I’m not advocating that we just trade him.  What I’m saying is that if the concern I just raised is valid, the Rockets should at least explore selling high while the rest of the league is still in the dark as to the point of concern.  And in a market like this, now would be the time, especially when Houston does not figure to have any significant amount of cap space available this summer to add a second star.
  • And the Rockets just traded for Lou Williams.
  • Update at 7:05 P.M. on 2/21 – I knew it would happen, and it did.  The Rockets made a trade in between my writing this post and hitting publish.  In acquiring Lou Williams for Corey Brewer, Houston bolsters the second best offense in the league by replacing its worst offensive player with another dangerous scoring threat.  All of those demoralizing open corner 3’s Corey Brewer routinely bricked will now go to a 39% 3-point shooter, making Houston’s second unit absolutely deadly.  Even with James Harden on the bench, Mike D’Antoni can now feature lineups with both Eric Gordon and Lou Williams, maintaining the pressure on the opposition.  But this takes Wilson Chandler out of play, which is sort of a bummer.  Additionally, of some interest is that the pick the Rockets are sending back to Los Angeles does not come with protections attached, sort of an oddity for a Daryl Morey deal.  One could argue that Houston is so far ahead in the standings that it doesn’t matter, but its still rare to see Morey concede on such a negotiating point.  I think the Lakers too did well for themselves in this trade.  The Rockets did great.

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in musings

Longtime readers of this page will recall that through the early years, I maintained a running series entitled “Discerning Morey’s Philosophy.”  I’ve updated it here and there, mainly to keep it alive, but I’m no longer guided by my initial mission.  As I’ve learned with time, there isn’t some over-arching philosophy dictating all aspects of transactional management.  And with time, Daryl’s opinions too have likely evolved.  To that extent, I’ve been wondering recently, especially in light of the Boogie Cousins fiasco, to what extent are the lessons learned from the past applied to present dealings?  Now if I asked Morey on the record, he no doubt would tell me that he weighs every situation differently on a case by case basis.  But I don’t know if the reality is different.

In the early years, before James Harden, Morey took fliers on failed prospects such as Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, and Terrence Williams.  But the Terrence Williams situation soured so quickly that I don’t think you’ll ever see Morey spend anything of value on an unproven talent with attitude concerns.  Then of course there was Royce White, who was mentally unstable.  If they’re ever picking that high in the draft again, its a safe bet the Rockets will this time ensure the prospect is willing to get on the team plane.

And that brings us to the recent lessons learned from Dwight Howard.  Unlike the formerly mentioned players, Howard was an established superstar.  But its on the record that his presence wrecked the Rockets’ lockerroom.  Is that why Morey held off on bidding for the even more talented Boogie Cousins?  And if so, had the Dwight Howard saga not occurred, might Morey have acted differently?

The risk pendulum operates on a sliding scale, whereby the better you are, the more you have to lose.  Before James Harden, the Rockets had nothing to lose.  (That’s why they tried things like drafting Marcus Morris as a small forward, a decision I’ll defend to this day).  I would argue that they still are not at the point where they could pass up on a talent like Cousins.  I, however, am not inside that lockerroom.  I may look at the standings and see a team that would get crushed in a series with Golden State; Morey may see a team who has only come so far because all of its players get along so well.

in essays

The Red94 Podcast: On the Boogie Cousins trade

As I said in the episode, we probably will never know how much Daryl Morey was willing to give up for Boogie Cousins.  All we know is from reports that the other offers on the table were embarrassingly low.  Did Morey even make an offer?  If he didn’t, was it out of a fear from the lessons learned from the Dwight Howard experience?  Would he have been willing to include Clint Capela and Sam Dekker in a potential deal?  It might not have mattered as reports have surfaced regarding Kings ownership’s infatuation over Buddy Hield.  I still maintain that objectively speaking, what the Rockets could have given was a better offer than what the Kings got for Cousins.  But the normal rules of objectivity and rationalism do not apply.

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