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.

About the author: Eric Nielsen is the owner of Lotushouse Records, an English major from SDSU, a basketball player and life-long passionate Rockets fan. He’s been following the team since the days of Moses Malone, Rudy T. and Calvin Murphy.

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