Milwaukee Bucks @ Houston Rockets on 1/18/14 and Mid Season Player Grades

How do the Rockets get over that last half against the Thunder?  By playing the worst team in the league at home.  The Bucks have only won 7 games this year and they should provide the opportunity to right the Rocket ship after their worst half in recent memory.  That loss will sting for a while and the fact that it was on national television only makes it worse for the Rocket’s identity crisis. Though, it could be a lot worse…your team could be the Bucks.  They’ve lost 7 straight and only won once in the last 10 games.  Looks like the Bucks will have the most balls in the hopper for the first pick next year.

Player grades at the midway point: (disclaimer – these grades are also based on their expectations.)

James Harden: B+
Injuries have hurt his dominance. His defensive hustle is getting better but it’s been a big point of contention all year.  Three point percentage is a low .335, but his point production is steady.  His will to win still looks premature, but at 24 he has time.  For the Rockets to kill it, he has got to be our killer.

Dwight Howard: A-
A rock solid 17.9 and 12.5 on the stats.  He’s played in every game, has been happy and low key.  He still has no touch further than 5 feet away from the basket.  He can’t shoulder the Rockets in crunch time and his free throw percentage is part of the problem.  His defense is solid and so is his rebounding.  He’s out played some nights by the top big men in the league, but overall he’s earning his money.

Chandler Parsons: A-
He’s still improving in his third year, with a field goal percentage above 50%, and his 3 pointers are starting to fall a little better.  His defense needs to improve as he’s asked to cover the likes of Durant.  He runs the court and hustles superbly.  It would be nice to see him take some of the load off of Harden in crunch time.  At 25 he still has maturing and growth ahead and that bodes well for the Rockets.

Jeremy Lin: B
There were times early in the season when Lin was running the second team, and he looked like 6th man of the year.  He’s slipped some and had some injury problems missing 10 games.  Sometimes he seems to unfairly be McHale’s scapegoat.  His defense needs work, but his hustle and the way he pushes the ball upcourt are to be applauded.  His 3 point percentage is down with Harden’s at .333.  I hope Lin stays through the end of his contract.

Patrick Beverley: C+
He’s missed so many games.  He’s our defensive specialist on a team that struggles with D so his impact is greater on the Rockets than it would be on a good defensive team.  He leads the team with 1.3 steals per game.  He often seems to be a place holder.  One of the best things about Beverley starting is that Lin moves down to lead the second team.

Terrence Jones: A
He sure answered the question about who is going to be the PF with his strong play.  This kid has loads of potential.  He’s starting to want the ball, he can rebound and run the court.  He needs to work on his defense and protecting the rim.  But, from where he was at the beginning of the season until now has been a revelation.

Omri Casspi: C+
He started the season fairly strong and his defensive stats look good, but he has disappeared as of late.  His awkward 3 point shot goes in at .361.  Sometimes he runs the court well, but his standing is slipping.  He’s been in the rotation the whole year but unless he can have more of an impact, he’ll be marginal and possible trade bait.

Francisco Garcia: C
It’s funny how Casspi and Garcia seem to go together.  Garcia did well on defense against Durant last year in the playoffs, but he hasn’t shown much of that this year.  His intermittent ability to score and impact the game are the reason he get’s a C-.  To raise his grade, he needs to hit from outside more consistently.

Aaron Brooks: B
He’s played some valuable minutes and scored some needed buckets.  He’s solid, quick and when he’s hot, he sparks runs.  Without him we’ve got Canaan and Brewer on the floor, so his presence and experience lends stability and consistency.  He’s got the best 3 point percentage on the team at .407.

Donatas Motiejunas: C+
Remember this kid is 23 and hasn’t had much playing time.  If he can get on the court more his grade will go up by the end of the year.  He’s often a defensive liability on the floor and you can just see McHale cringing when he watches him play.  But on offense he can stroke the 3 and create shots.  If he can score, he will get time.  His hustle of late has been impressive as he fights for minutes.

Omer Asik: F
Wow!  Last season Omer was like the Rockets in the first half against the Thunder: Awesome! And this year he’s like the second half of the game against the Thunder: Embarrassing.  With no timetable for his return, it’s likely his impact on this year’s team will be negligible.  Who knows how this one pans out.

Ronnie Brewer: D
He’s holding a spot and trying not to make mistakes.  Absolutely zero scoring and marginal defensive help.  His future on the Rockets does not look bright.  With so many guard injuries, he’s gotten some time on the court, but I’d rather see Canaan learning on the job.

Greg Smith: C-
Injuries, injuries, injuries…he just can’t get enough playing time to get a rhythm.  When he’s on the court, his PER is a solid 14.3. Although Asik is out, he can’t stay healthy enough to impact the game.

Isaiah Canaan: No Grade
It’s still too early and the book is still open on him.  It’s nice to see him get some minutes. I imagine he’ll go back to the D League when Beverley returns, but I’d rather see him stay and try to earn time over Brewer.

I know many of you will disagree, let’s discuss it in the forums.

View this discussion from the forum.

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Total comments: 4
  • SamC says 2 months ago

    Jones is coming along nicely. All he needs now is a consistent jumper and we may have our third star. And I'm extremely pleased with the effort Harden is putting on the defensive end.

  • Buckko says 3 months ago Dwight was the key to jones' star night but not to take away from Jones he's going to be truly something else. On some side notes. Great D harden. Greek Freak could easily become the best player in that draft in a couple years. The bucks have a HUGE team with many athletic big bodies. They have a good core of young players in knight Henson and the freak. Now they need Dante exum from the draft to lead that team and for the front office not screw them with bad contracts like mayo and sanders.
  • Red94 says 3 months ago New post: Houston Rockets 114, Milwaukee Bucks 104 - We've Got A Basketball Jones!
    By: Rob Dover

    After the horror show of a second half against the Thunder, the Rockets needed something to get the bad taste out of their mouth. Fortunately, the league-worst Bucks were there to provide just that. The Rockets were never able to turn the game into a blow-out, but even with the Bucks making timely three pointers all through the second half there was a 10 point cushion for most of the game as Houston coasted to an easy victory. It's difficult to draw many concrete conclusions from a game where the opposition is so poor, but there were still one or two interesting things to note.

    • Terrence Jones (or as Matt Bullard is trying to push, 'Basketball Jones') had a dominant game tonight. The Rockets were able to induce a lot of switches from the Bucks' defence that left a smaller defender switched out onto Jones. It's not often you see plays called for Jones, but tonight he was given the space to post up his mismatch and go to work. It was a very productive line of attack for him, as well - whether it was Mayo, Butler or Antetokounmpo, he was able to draw free-throws every time he tried it. Add in his usual work off loose balls and on the boards and he was racking up the points - ending up tying his career high (25) by half time. He kept that going in the second half, including one play that's going to go in his permanent highlight reel - blocking a shot on one end, taking the ball the length of the floor (including a spin move) to lay it in. The final line - 36 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks.
    • I've felt that Harden has been putting in a little more effort on the defensive end in recent weeks, and this was probably the most aggressive and consistent showing from him at that end of the court I've seen from him in a Rockets uniform. Maybe he has a beef with Brandon Knight, maybe he felt he could coast offensively and put in more defensive effort against an inferior team, maybe he was instructed/challenged by the coaching staff, but whatever the reason, he was pressing Knight hard whenever he was bringing the ball up the court and forced several steals with quick hands. There was even a point towards the end of the first half where he and Motiejunas almost executed a successful half-court trap. The Rockets have not been great at forcing turnovers so far this season and it has stymied their transition game, but if this is the sort of thing Harden is willing to do consistently it would go some way to turning that around. I noticed in his post-game interview Jones was quick to mention Harden's defence, so it's clear the rest of the team is paying attention.
    • Ever since the game against Boston, the Rockets have been in alley-oop mode. I think this is one of the most promising developments of the season so far, because it's such a dramatic improvement over their ability in this area since the start of the year. It's great to see such concrete development from the team - obviously they must have been working on it in practice for a while. Like any shiny new toy there's a temptation to play with it too much, and occasionally you see the Rockets try to force it when it's not on, but the instinct for the right balance will come with time. It's great to have another weapon in the half court set, that's for sure.
    • Garcia was sitting out tonight with knee tendonitis. I had been expecting this to happen at some point - his level of play has really dropped off recently in a manner that seemed consistent with someone trying to play through pain. Hopefully taking a few games out will help him get back to the form he was in to start the year. McHale has obviously decided that the Ronnie Brewer experiment was a failure (which seems like the correct decision) and therefore had no choice but to move Casspi up a position to play at SF. It's good to see Omri getting some more playing time again. He definitely deserves to be in the rotation, but recently he has only been getting spot minutes as McHale has opted to give Motiejunas the majority of the backup PF minutes. They've brought Covington up from the D-League so it may not be a long term change, but I think it could be if the coaching staff wanted to. It comes down to whether the coaching staff feel Casspi can keep in front of opposing wings, because offensively he garners enough respect for his outside shot to avoid the spacing cramps the team experiences with a non-shooter at the position.
  • feelingsupersonic says 3 months ago Good stuff Eric, thanks for the grades. I more or less agree though I don't see Parsons deserving more than a B since he was unimpressive in any way to start the season and he was crucial to a stronger start. Only Jones and Howard deserve A's, Dwight has answered the doubters with regards to attitude and health (our healthiest player!). Thanks for giving Omer what he deserves.