Carlos Delfino joined the 2012-2013 Houston Rockets as the quintessential Morey acquisition. Daryl Morey, general manager and analytics hero, loves to find overlooked bargain, mis-estimated players, and market inequalities. Morey saw Delfino, appraised his worth, then signed him to team-friendly contract. How did that work out? Delfino was a useful player for the Rockets, was worth his contract, and is likely to be let go for the long-term good of the team. Just as expected.
We can start at the ending this season, with Carlos Delfino’s season coming to a close after a stunning dunk over Kevin Durant which aggravated Delfino’s already-injured foot. He was playing on a foot that he knew was injured, and then had to stop when it turned out to be broken. His entire season was marked by attempts to play beyond his capability for a team that just needed him to play within himself. It’s impressive that he was so full of determination and passion for the Rockets, but sometimes good enough really is good enough.
Good enough is exactly what Delfino’s stats say: 15.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.5 turnovers and 1.4 steals per 36 minutes to go with 40.5% shooting from the field and 37.5% shooting from downtown. As a three point specialist, he launched nearly 70% of his attempts from behind the arc, which is exactly what the Rockets wanted to see. His 40.5% overall is poor, but 37.5% from deep is a solid mark for a marksman on his contract. He added a few peripherals, but nothing notable given his decent height (6’6”) and minutes played at the power forward position. He gave a solid performance for his pay grade.
That pay grade came at a very palatable $3 million per year for two years, with no money guaranteed on the second year. This contract allowed Houston to sign a veteran presence and decent contributor at cut-rate prices without even risking any cap space in the second year. His expiring contract could have proved useful trade fodder if a deal had presented itself, but as it is, he did the job he needed to in the time he was needed. With Dwight Howard rumors abounding, it should surprise no one if (and when) Houston announces that they won’t pick up his contract. The Rockets need cap space; that’s why they signed him to that contract.
His contract, then, gives us a metric by which to look at Delfino. He gave a performance which looks solid, if not spectacular on paper. What does he look like in games, then? The single word answer is “inconsistent.” As with three pointers in general, he was prone to hot streaks and cold spells. His 7-9 shooting nights were a sight to behold, but his 2-9 nights balanced that out. He shot relentlessly, which can be a fault in a starter, but was the desired attitude in a bench shooter. The only real issues arose when he would try to create off the dribble or expand his usefulness. He was a capable passer and a passable rebounder, but as slasher or distributor he left something to be desired. He may only have turned it over 1.4 times per 36 minutes, but every turnover seemed to come with too many dribbles on his part.
Delfino seemed to not only accept his role, but to want to do even more for the team. His veteran savvy and acceptable (if not exactly good) defense kept him on the floor. Even when Francisco Garcia came to compete for minutes, head coach Kevin McHale continued to believe in Delfino’s ability to play. He may not have always made the right choice, but he was never prone to panic or frustration. He played the game Houston wanted from him. With a quiet exit from the team likely, the only way Delfino could find himself in Rockets red next year would be a re-negotiated deal after Houston signs whoever they sign this summer. With Francisco Garcia occupying the same role but with slightly better stats and defense, Delfino’s chances of return can only shrink.
In total, Delfino was good enough. He was worth the money, and played his role. He didn’t excel in anything, but he wasn’t expected to. He had some good games and some bad games. He sometimes tried to do too much, and that’s better than doing too little. He contributed to a good team, but not well enough to stop another player from taking over that role. It was good that he didn’t disappoint, but that’s not a good grade. That’s just a good enough grade.