Back in March, when I started this series, it seemed unfathomable that neither player would be employed by the Houston Rockets come July. That is now where we stand. Both Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic, each deemed future All-Stars and considered franchise cornerstones at some point, have moved on. What seemed a decision between these two ended in Linsanity.
Along with Aaron Brooks, the Rockets tenures of both of last season’s starters showed the team’s ability to identify talent at the point guard position. That bodes well for the Jeremy Lin signing.
Lowry was a seldom-used backup with Memphis whose time-adjusted stats ranked near the top of the league in several categories. Dragic, on the other hand, was a star turned bust, whose struggles and unfulfilled potential went well documented. It was different ways for Rockets scouting to identify potential where it wasn’t readily apparent.
What to make of each player’s respective stint and acquisition? Lowry stands as perhaps Morey’s crowning achievement, reeled in for Rafer Alston’s corpse (a return value less than some carbonated beverages). The 25-year-old seemed on a sure path to All-Stardom and might have made the team this year had his own team won more games. No one played harder than Lowry and from the start, no one more seemed like a natural leader. Word of the discord with Kevin McHale came as shocking.
Lowry’s rise really shouldn’t have been a surprise. He ranked nearly elite in some stats for the time he played (see: Asik, Omer) and he shot well on long distance 2’s; it was Rockets brass that figured that same accuracy could be replicated from a few feet further back.
Dragic was a different case. After an explosion in San Antonio, he never quite took the next step with Phoenix, struggling mightily. Even with Houston, early on, he seemed out of control at times and not really a point guard. It turns out, he just needed complete control before he could settle down.
Between the two, I think Dragic will end up the better player. While Lowry is steady, Dragic is a weapon, confident in his moves and creative with his handles. He must be accounted for, like a Ginobili; Lowry is really just a general, though there is no problem with that.
With Lowry, the decision to trade really was a no-brainer, especially with Lin having been signed for the spot. Interestingly, the probability of the player chosen with the pick received from the Raptors ever being as good as Kyle Lowry is extremely low. But the value of the pick is high. So goes the NBA trade market – uncertainty sells. (This is why I argued for years that the team tank. The red herring was constantly presented that the odds of a high pick were too low. My argument was that a lottery pick was needed as trade currency, not necessarily to be used by the team itself.)
Dragic still seems a head-scratcher. Signed by Phoenix for essentially the same amount as Lin, was the fourth year really good enough reason to be a deal-breaker? In retrospect, having secured the younger Lin, everything worked out, but at the time, Lin was in serious doubt and maybe even a longshot: was it really worth losing maybe the team’s best player? The claim is that securing mid-tier players to long-term deals is recipe for mediocrity, but then what of the also 26-year-old Asik? Do the Rockets just think Asik is elite? Is there really that significant of a difference between a 4-year-deal and a 3-year-deal, so much that that one extra year would be considered overly burdensome and handicapping? I’m still really not sure I fully understand that decision, but luckily it worked out.
Now we turn the page, the decision having been made. Dragic will fill into the shoes of Steve Nash on a team destined for the 9th seed, structured by a management that seems to have no idea what it is doing. Lowry steps in on the Raptors as maybe its best player, a team on the rise that could make the playoffs and push back the receipt on the lottery pick assignment currently pending. The Rockets hope otherwise.