On the MVP race, contention

  • I noted the point on Twitter over the weekend, but the Klay Thompson explosion from Friday night just underscores the James Harden MVP campaign when you consider that the Beard plays on a team where, if the second best guy scores even 18 points, you consider that a good night, and regardless, are just grateful he even suited up.  I shudder to think what the Rockets would be without Harden, while, if not a 50-win team without Curry–I heard a local radio personality say the Warriors would probably still win 50 without Curry, and I don’t agree; you can’t underestimate the amount of space his presence creates–Golden State would at the least still be moderately respectable.  Since Curry is going to win it regardless, we should just end the charade and rename the award ‘Best Player on the Best Team.’
  • On that note, this is why I never can take anyone seriously the moment they cite to awards of any sort in their merit-based discussions.  There were years in the 90’s when you could have just renamed the MVP the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ as sportswriters grew tired of handing the trophy back to Michael Jordan, choosing to honor Charles Barkley and Karl Malone instead.  Derrick Rose certainly has one of Lebron’s trophies in his mantle, when voters decided they just weren’t going to reward Lebron after the stunt he pulled in leaving Cleveland.
  • Don’t look now, but Houston’s offense has slowly crept up towards the top 10, with the team currently sitting at 12th in offensive rating.  The bad news is that their defense has slipped down to 6th.
  • The Rockets currently are tied for 4th in the West, but are two games out of 2nd, and three games out of 7th.
  • I saw a lot of overreaction after the Warriors game, with one national writer even going so far as to say that the Rockets were teetering on the edge of irrelevance.  Let’s all calm down now.  Houston was absolutely shellacked by Golden State last week, and the disparity between the two teams could not be any more evident.  But there isn’t really much embarrassment in being inferior to what appears to be one of the historically great teams in modern history, and certainly does not fully define the Rockets’ claims for contention.  Upon last check, eight teams enter the field from each conference, with the necessity of victory in each of three rounds for advancement.  Losing to one team, when you’ve held up well against everyone else, is not the end of the world.  Case in point: had Dikembe Mutombo’s Denver Nuggets not shocked the world in upsetting Seattle in 1994, there probably is no first banner hanging at the Toyota Center right now.  And at last check, there is currently a very real possibility of a similarly dangerous #8 entering the fold, this season.  The moral here is that its silly to override the Rockets’ overall body of work with their showings against the best team in the league.  Houston has a lot to do if they want to actually win it, but the Rockets absolutely are a contender.






in musings
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Rockets Roundup: 01/26/2015

A quick and digestible look at the most top-of-mind Rockets news of the past few days. 

Houston Chronicle. Lakers can’t handle James Harden as Rockets cruise in L.A.

“As James Harden toyed with his hometown team, setting up teammates for open looks and taking a few for himself, Harden’s greatest challenge seemed to be deciding between all the ways he had to tear through the Lakers’ defense…”

NBC Sports. Did win over Lakers break Rockets out of defensive slump?

“…The obvious answer for why it looked better Sunday is that the Lakers — especially now without Kobe Bryant— are an unfocused disaster on offense. They lack quality shot creators or anyone you have to fear. Of course, the Rockets saw it as something more than that, as a springboard for themselves to get back to their identity. And when you asked any Rockets’ player about the improved defense they used some variant of the word “focus,” adding they had to do it more consistently…

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in columns
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Around the TrueHoop Network

We’re in the midst of the most exciting NBA season in years.  The TrueHoop Network has it covered.

  • Which is less likely: a fifty point explosion or a 20/20 with assists?  Aaron McGuire at Gothic Ginobili takes a deep statistical look at the respective likelihoods of Brandon Jennings’ two substantially different career-best games.
  • Forum Blue & Gold assesses the Lakers’ trade assets; also, an exploration of real versus perceived value.
  • Will Brook Lopez be dealt?  Brooklyn’s Finest with a discussion.
  • What was the best team of the George Karl era?  Roundball Mining Company reflects back, with implications.
  • Clipperblog has a post mortem of the Austin Rivers trade.
  • Rudy Gobert has been surprisingly effective passing the basketball, per Salt City Hoops.
  • Cowbell Kingdom takes aim at the team over the firing of Mike Malone.
  • People are starting to rethink whether the Love-Wiggins trade was the right move.  Cavs the Blog provided its own regrade of the trade.
  • Bucksketball looks in on the Milwaukee Bucks’ shot selection.
  • “Toronto’s style and effectiveness have dwindled over the past few weeks as their pace has quickened,” writes Raptors Republic.
  • Hoop76 muses that while the Sixers might be better without Tony Wroten, they’ll also be more boring.
  • Elfrid Payton is the Magic’s most important player, writes Magic Basketball.
  • From Queen City Hoops: what kind of “lady” would the All-Star game be?
  • Bourbon Street Shots notes that Eric Gordon has been playing far better than he had been before his labrum tear.






in from the editor
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Stats are a weird thing.

One argument that critics make of James Harden is that he does not possess the midrange game which is crucial for a championship team. He just depends on three-pointers and drawing fouls, which makes him predictable and means he can be shut down in the playoffs. And when one looks at Harden’s shooting numbers, this year is not that different from last year. In fact, Harden is shooting 34% from 16 feet to the three-point line this year in contrast to 41% last year.

But this does not match up at all with what I have seen this year. Harden has developed a mid-range game, and he uses it more than ever. The stepback mid-range jumper is another weapon in his arsenal and is why his scoring has increased even though Harden is not actually not drawing fouls at the same rate as previous seasons ( While Harden draws as many free throws as he did last season, you have to remember that he dominates the ball more compared to last year). Tonight, Harden took on PJ Tucker, a defender who has given him fits in the past, scored 33 points, and rose up to drain the classic mid-range game winner. New-style money ball, meet old-style classic ball.

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in game coverage
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All you really need to know about last night’s season-series sweeping win for Golden State over Houston was that the Rockets starters had an average plus/minus of about -27, the Warriors +26.  And it wasn’t even that close.

The Rockets turned the ball over more, shot worse, and played with less conviction/composure.  The Warriors’ have now posted the two highest scoring totals the Rockets have allowed this season (131 & 126), and their 40 point third quarter was the most points a team has put up on Houston in any quarter this season.  James Harden’s 33 points hide the fact that he wasn’t able to dictate much except from the free throw stripe.  Josh Smith’s double tech-ejection makes you forget the nice alley-oops he threw Dwight Howard.  And nothing Pat Beverley or Trevor Ariza did could slow down Steph Curry or Klay Thompson.

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in game coverage
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