Shutout – Sadly, in ESPN’s consideration of end-of-season awards and the All-NBA first team, not a single Rockets player was nominated. Surprising, since Omer Asik and James Harden have generated buzz about the Most Improved Player Award all season long. Tom Haberstroh (Insider) gave Harden a little love in his MVP column, even though the Beard didn’t crack his top 5:
Going for him: Top 10 in PER. Led a team whose second-best player is Chandler Parsons to a No. 7 in a stacked West.
Holding him back: Not much except he’s the only MVP candidate whose team played better with him on the bench (plus-1.3 points per 100 possessions).
McHale got only a passing mention for Coach of the Year. The Executive of the Year race is where things get interesting…
Make Up Call – Tom Haberstroh makes a very convincing argument that even though Morey is the frontrunner for Executive of the Year, Pat Riley deserves it after somehow missing out last year. Haberstroh uses Morey’s own words:
Overall, Morey made 10 trades over the last year that have reshaped the Rockets and turned them into a playoff team. It was lots of perseverance and incremental progress that finally paid off. Morey has certainly earned praise and recently got a contract extension from team owner Les Alexander.
Nonetheless, Morey himself is deflecting toward the juggernaut Riley has assembled.
“Pat Riley should win every year for getting LeBron James,” Morey said. “They shouldn’t even hold the vote anymore.”
Old Man’s Game, Young Man’s Body – Kevin Hetrick’s project on draft measurements as predictors of success continues to be great over at Hardwood Paroxysm. What shocked me in reading it today was that despite James Harden being constantly applauded for his craftiness and “old man game,” he is still an athletic freak at his position:
You know who rules though? James Harden, but of course, he resides in an elite underclassmen crew of high-leaping long-wingspan players (31” no-step vert, 35” max vert, 6’ – 11” wingspan) . Who joined that group in 2011 and 2012? Only Jeremy Lamb; he didn’t play much, but with a 14+ PER at age 20, and apparently Sam Presti’s-faith, let’s keep an eye on those measurements in 2013.
Tough Cookies – The official site gets into how the Rockets new-look frontcourt matches up with the Grizzlies bruisers down low. It points out that Greg Smith got into the starting line-up after the last game againts the Grizz, in which Houston got pummeled:
Since that contest, Houston has featured a lineup with Greg Smith at the power forward position and the club has gone 5-1 in the six games that have followed that switch. During that stretch, the Rockets have posted some impressive numbers themselves, scoring at a top-five rate while defending like a top-10 team. Perhaps most impressively, they are dominating the offensive glass, corralling more than 30 percent of their misses – a rate that would place them among the top-5 offensive rebounding teams in the NBA. To be sure, those numbers are the epitome of limited, dirty data given the small sample size and the fact they’ve largely come against less than stellar competition. Still, Smith’s expanded role has certainly helped Houston, and his play in the aforementioned Memphis game showed hints that it might do exactly that when he grabbed five offensive rebounds and was a team-high +7 during his 25 minutes of action. He also racked up five fouls that evening and his occasional penchant for picking up fouls in rapid succession may go further than anything in determining his effectiveness when facing elite competition in the near future.
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