So this of course didn’t end up playing out how everyone was hoping.  But the team added two guys who figure to strengthen their bench, Pablo Prigioni in particular.  Most of the excitement thus far has stemmed from the K.J. McDaniels acquisition, but it remains to be seen if he can crack a wing rotation which already includes the league MVP, Trevor Ariza, and Corey Brewer.  If he can, arguably the league’s best bench got even more athletic, with the potential to run second units out of the gym.  The related after-effect of these moves, or more appropriately, the non-move, is that the Josh Smith and Terrence Jones duo will remain intact for the stretch run and into the playoffs.  Upon Jones’ return, aside from James Harden, I felt that pairing was Houston’s biggest strength, with the length and speed to overwhelm opponents.  Those two players are staying together now, so the Rockets will maintain that edge.

The big story, of course, was the Rockets’ failure to acquire Goran Dragic.  Looking at the package the Heat surrendered, one would have to think that had Daryl Morey wanted, he could have had Gogi.  That New Orleans pick Houston holds alone is more valuable than the two second-rounders Miami gave up in the deal; or maybe the Suns are just that in love with Brandon Knight.  The latter is certainly possible and we probably won’t ever know.  But assuming Morey held back from playing all his cards, the turn of events offers an interesting glimpse into the philosophy of Houston’s head man.  Had it been me at the helm, as I wrote yesterday, I would have absolutely rolled the dice on a Dragic rental.  But this is Daryl f***ing Morey, man.  That’s not how he rolls.  In some ways, this incident, and the concomitant self-control (to put things positively) is perfectly microcosmic of everything for which Daryl Morey stands.  When everyone else sees panic, when everyone else senses a “moment”, he lays back, for better or worse.  Everyone thought this summer the Rockets were doomed to eternal despair if Chandler Parsons walked but Morey gave zero f***s.  And now, in the face of an acquisition that could have put his team on the cusp of championship contention, Morey just saw odds.  Odds that his team still probably wouldn’t have won, because the odds of any team winning are already so low, and odds that he’d be left with nothing in the summer after Dragic walked.  Had it been me, I would have said “screw it” and gone all in.  I want the title now.  But that’s Daryl Morey, man.  (Of course, in their quest to employ every point guard currently in the NBA, maybe the Suns just wanted Brandon Knight more than Terrence Jones and the Pelicans pick, rendering everything I just wrote in this paragraph irrelevant…but the narrative I presented was far more enlightening).

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Update below at 7:25PM

To begin, know that I’m composing this against my better judgment.  I am fully aware that all of my efforts could be rendered completely useless upon the arrival of just one mere tweet.  But alas, to lay prisoner to fear…ah screw it, you guys get the point; a Woj-bomb is due any moment now so I’m typing fast.

I thought about it all night, and then I thought about it most of the day, and the more I think about it, the more I become convinced that dealing assets for Goran Dragic, even significant combinations, would be the appropriate course of action for the Houston Rockets at the present moment.  It is true that the risk would be supreme as reports have indicated that Dragic would not commit long-term to the team upon an acquisition.  But I think in this case, the potential benefit outweighs the risk.

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Rockets Roundup: 02/18/2015

A quick and digestible look at the most top-of-mind Rockets news of the past few days. 

Sports IllustratedJames Harden, the NBA’s unlikely MVP.

“The private plane that transported James Harden into Texas on the morning of Oct. 28, 2012, was silent except for the muffled beats leaking from his chunky headphones… He had just spent the summer on the U.S. Olympic team, with Thunder running mates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, fantasizing about the championships they seemed destined to capture. What do I do now? Harden asked himself. He was going from sixth man on a budding dynasty to leading man on a bubble team…”

Nylon Calculus. The Rockets without Dwight Howard.

“James Harden put on a one man show against the Phoenix Suns last Tuesday with 40 points, 9 assists, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, and a block. He did all while his would-be partner-in-crime Dwight Howard looked on in an, as noted by friend of the site Charles Barkley, an equally impressive suit. Other than lacking some of the post moves of traditional bigs, Howard has seemed the perfect complement to Harden in a Moreyball system that keeps Harden slashing to the basket or behind the three-point line and Howard rolling out of pick-and-rolls like a man possessed.”

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The Red94 Podcast: Can the Rockets get Dragic?

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Is Goran Dragic worth the max?

I’ve had a few tweets directed towards me, and seen some others retweeted by people I follow, underscoring the disparity in Goran Dragic’s career averages.  Essentially, he played out of his mind last season, and has regressed to his career median again this year.  I’m not exactly sure what’s being insinuated here.  This isn’t exactly some novel discovery here.  I thought it was pretty common knowledge that he had a career year last season and has tailed off in 2015 in having to play off the ball alongside two other point guards.  What’s everyone’s point?

The question of value is a recurrent theme in sports, especially in the NBA where an artificial cap pervades.  In a vacuum, Dragic isn’t worth the contract it will likely take this summer to keep him in Houston, if the Rockets are able to swing a trade.  In a vacuum, maybe Chris Bosh wasn’t worth it either.  Very few players are absolutely worth their max figures, in vacuo of external considerations.  James Harden fits that bill; Dwight, even despite his injury problems, probably still is as well, for what he brings defensively alone.

Dragic means more to Houston, in theory, because he would represent what they would believe to be their missing piece.  They would be willing to pay more than he is actually worth because they would believe he would complete them.  Moreover, compounding this point are the time constraints and financial realities of the salary cap.  Houston can’t wait around for someone who might truly be worth the max to become available, because they are operating on Dwight Howard’s diminishing timeline.  Further, and even more importantly, the longer the Rockets wait, the longer they remain in the holding pattern they’ve been in for years whereby they have had to sacrifice continuity for the sake of flexibility.  For instance, let’s say there’s only ten other guys in the league who you feel are truly worth a max contract.  If you think you’re not going to move until one of those guys becomes available, you can’t resign any of your role players in the interim, the way the Rockets had to let Chandler Parsons walk this summer.  If Houston gets Dragic, it can work to keep Corey Brewer and Josh Smith as well.

So the question isn’t whether Goran Dragic is worth the max.  In a vacuum, he’s not.  The question is whether he can be the final piece of a championship core that already includes James Harden and Dwight Howard.  Resoundingly, I think that answer is yes, especially when weighing the odds and difficulty of acquiring anyone else.

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