He might have started his Rockets season as an afterthought in a trade, but Francisco Garcia ended the season as something of a hero. His prudent shooting and capable defense were surprise boons to a team struggling to stay in the playoffs. His experience and composure proved to be invaluable in the postseason most never expected Houston to earn. He may not even be on the roster next season, but Garcia proved his value to the Rockets.
Discussion of Garcia must include discussion of Carlos Delfino, the other veteran Rockets swingman on the bench. When Garcia was acquired from the Sacramento Kings in a shocker of a trade, rookie forward Thomas Robinson was the focus of discussion. Carlos Delfino, however, felt the effects down the line, as Francisco Garcia eventually established himself as a viable alternative at the wing. Delfino made his living from the three point arc, in line with the Rockets’ game plan. Garcia, as a near carbon-copy of Delfino’s offensive game, simply gave the Rockets another level of depth from deep.
While in Houston, Francisco Garcia shot 7.8 of his 10.7 field goal attempts per 36 minutes from three point land, good for a total of 12.5 points. His 41.4% shooting overall wasn’t much to sing about, but his 37.5% from deep is plenty acceptable. His peripherals were solid if not flashy per 36 minutes: 2.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 turnovers and 1.5 steals. If this all sounds exactly like like Delfino’s numbers, that’s because they are. The only notable difference is that Delfino shot a little more to make 15 points per 36 minutes and rebounded at the higher rate of 4.3 per 36 minutes. It’s remarkable how much these players overlapped in skill.
The first of two major differences, then, comes on the opposite side of the ball. Garcia surprised everyone with his remarkably adept defense of Kevin Durant in the playoffs, giving head coach Kevin McHale opportunity to rest Chandler Parsons and move him around on defense. While not traditionally known for his defense while in Sacramento, Garcia excelled in a system with Omer Asik in the paint. Garcia showed why coaches love veterans; he stayed in his role and was willing to play the defense his coach wanted. Why, then, might his days in Houston be done?
The second difference is the kicker. Francisco Garcia’s $6.1 million this season and $6.4 million team option next season mean that he’s unlikely to wear red next season. It’s possible that he might negotiate a smaller contract with Houston, but the Rockets have already expressed reluctance to pick up his option. General manager Daryl Morey not only prizes long-term flexibility, but needs to clear room to chase free agents in the short term.
What does this all mean, then? As an NBA player, Garcia is adequate. He may be making an above-league-average six million per year on his current contract, but that money had no effect on Houston’s short or long term cap situation. Garcia was expected to do little more than contribute a few bench minutes and possibly add some veteran leadership. Instead, the Rockets found a player who defended one of the best scorers in the league, and is reportedly an invaluable locker room presence. He may not have been a big part of the Rockets, but he’s a part that would fit well going forward.