On Yao Ming

With Yao’s induction into the Hall of Fame this past weekend, I looked back on a piece I wrote back in 2010 regarding the Houston big man.  The Mandarin scattered throughout appears because, in an experiment which failed miserably for reasons beyond my control, I had arranged to have the piece translated for wider accessibility.

I touched very briefly on Yao in Episode 104 of the Red94 Podcast, but realized after re-reading the 2010 piece that I had forgotten many interesting details involving his Rockets career.  Most notable among these was his utter dominance of former Rocket Dwight Howard in head to head match-ups.

basketballreference.com

basketballreference.com

In nine games against Howard, Yao averaged 23.6 points and 10.4 rebounds on 56% shooting, with 2.1 blocks, going 7-2.  Howard averaged 12.2 points and 9.8 rebounds on 45% shooting, with 1.7 blocks.

The significance wasn’t just that Howard was thought of at the time as the game’s premiere big man, but that, as I explained in the piece, the statistics dispelled the most common misconception regarding Yao.  Yao was derided by his critics as soft and incapable of withstanding physical play.  In actuality, anyone who actually followed him closely knew that he always played his best against the biggest players – it was the small ball lineups that gave him trouble.






in musings

Donatas Motiejunas’ rookie debut

I wrote last week on the Rockets’ waiting game regarding Donatas Motiejunas, explaining that they seemed to have all of the leverage in the current situation.  While in hindsight, successfully trading Motiejunas to Detroit would have been the more advantageous move, readers will remember that I was extremely upset following initial word of the transaction.

While doing some housekeeping in preparation for the new season, I’ve been digging through the archives from the past few seasons, and have stumbled across some gems.  I found a February 28, 2013 piece which was apparently written the night of Thomas Robinson and Motiejunas’ respective debuts.

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Forecasting the Houston defense

I’ve mused since the signings that I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the team repeating its success from 2015.  Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon represent the first pure shooters James Harden has played with in Houston, making an already potent offense even more dangerous.  But I’ve also said the team is nearly as likely to be a complete disaster.  As Ian Levy of Nylon Calculus noted recently, in a piece titled ‘Are the Houston Rockets headed for a terrible defensive season?‘, in adding Anderson and Gordon, the 21st ranked defense in the league is adding two players who, by box plus-minus, were estimated to be among the 40-worst defenders in the league.

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in musings

Placing K.J. McDaniels

In a piece titled ‘Finding the Next Kent Bazemore’, The Ringer recently zeroed in on Houston Rockets forward K.J. McDaniels, highlighting him as one of three hidden gems currently wasting away on an NBA bench:

The Rockets’ depth might force McDaniels to play the majority of another season in the D-League, but he needs the opportunity to work through mistakes and focus on his development. Wallace spent three seasons stashed on the Kings’ bench before the expansion Charlotte Bobcats let him find his footing. That’s what can happen for McDaniels in the D-League, and maybe someday in the NBA.

I touched on McDaniels back in May in my season recap series:

When he actually did play, K.J. McDaniels did seem to bring the dynamic I spoke of in that previous piece, giving the team flexibility, and at times allowing it to play James Harden at point guard.  Indeed, McDaniels had far and away the highest net rating on the entire team at +18.9, though that figure should be taken with at least a small grain of salt, given the sample size.  But for whatever reason, McDaniels rarely played, failing to crack the rotation, appearing in only 37 games and averaging 6.4 minutes per contest.  He shot 40% overall and 28% on 3’s, likely the cause for Bickerstaff’s reluctance, though those numbers are almost identical to Corey Brewer’s.

The Ringer piece agrees: McDaniels wasn’t just a highlight reel.  He was a positively impactful player in the small amount of minutes he got.  But for whatever reason–most likely his shooting deficiencies–he was never given a good faith opportunity to crack the rotation.  This while Corey Brewer was one of the worst regulars in the entire league.

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in musings

What is going on with Donatas Motiejunas?

The only item left now for the Rockets to cap off a pretty good offseason is securing a long term commitment to power forward Donatas Motiejunas.  I wrote at length earlier in the summer about the Rockets’ woes this season, and surmised that, from what the numbers were indicating, a big factor in the drop-off was the replacement in the lineup of Donatas Motiejunas with Terrence Jones and a host of other underwhelming characters.  The Rockets, of course, due to concerns over Motiejunas’ health, opted to deal the power forward to the Detroit Pistons for that team’s first round draft pick, an agreement which was rescinded when the Pistons too decided the proposition was too great of a risk.  So Motiejunas came back, showed some flashes, and then looked kind of injured again and not entirely like himself.  

But the rights to Jones were renounced, while a qualifying offer of $3,278,996 was extended to Motiejunas.  The Rockets want Motiejunas back, but, as they do with all of their players not named James Harden, they want to let the market dictate his price.  So, as of September 1, that’s where we stand.

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