Just one game this week, and it isn’t even until Wednesday when Houston hosts the Miami Heat at Toyota Center.  After the emotional rollercoaster of having their 13-game winning streak snapped the other night, I think the Heat come out flat and play true to their 24-31 record.  Prediction: Rockets by 70.


After a perfect week, Houston has widened its lead over the 4-seed Jazz, now comfortably entrenched in third.  The Rockets are now back on pace to win 58 games.  Unless Kawhi Leonard goes down for any extended period of time, I don’t see Houston passing San Antonio.  And I don’t even know what to make of the Jazz, Clippers, and Grizzlies.  With as poorly as Houston was playing before this week, I would’ve thought one of those teams would have made up ground.  But the Rockets now seem to be getting back to their early-season selves, and this extended break will only help.

And consider this: sitting at 40-17, Houston will have a chance on Wednesday to match Vegas’ 41 win odds, just before heading into the break.  Alright then.

in from the editor

Hakeem on this year’s Rockets?

My favorite darkhorse is Houston. Can you even imagine Hakeem Olajuwon running the pick-and-roll with James Harden in Mike D’Antoni’s offense? Hakeem dominated the ’80s, but a wide-open game would make him even more unfair, and that’s before you factor in Harden. That pick-and-roll alone, and that tandem, would be so unstoppable that it puts the Rockets in the conference finals almost by default. Apologies to Karl Malone on the Jazz, Bob McAdoo on the Clippers, and even Duncan and Kawhi. Nobody is touching Hakeem and Harden.

This was a fun thought experiment by Andrew Sharp in adding the best player in franchise history to each current NBA team.  Aside from adding Wilt to the Warriors, Sharp seems to think Hakeem and Harden would be the team to beat in this alternate universe.  But how exactly would it work?  The defense of course  would vault into the top 10 as Olajuwon would expand upon Clint Capela’s shot blocking without suffering from the same problems plaguing Houston’s current crop of bigs.  I don’t really need to elaborate much upon the potential impact on this team defensively of possibly the greatest big man defender in league history.

But would James willingly defer to Olajuwon in the post during critical moments?  We know from Hakeem’s statements these past few years in mentoring Dwight Howard how he feels about the importance of post play.  I do not think he would willingly defer to Harden.  And thus, I’m not sure either player would blossom into what each eventually became or has become.  This duo would face the same theoretical conundrum which would have been faced by the theoretical Jordan-Drexler-Olajuwon trio had Houston and Portland agreed to terms on the now-fantasized Portland-Houston ’85 draft night swap of Ralph Sampson to the Blazers.  Hell, maybe they would have made it work.  Hakeem’s post-game was OF COURSE respect-worthy, something you couldn’t say about Dwight Howard, and Harden blows away any guard Olajuwon ever played with.  Sometimes game recognize game.

in musings

I wrote this morning about the draft picks owned by the Rockets this summer, in response to which the reader above pointed out the draft-and-stash option in the event that Houston retains all three selections.  I agree that barring a trade, such a route will be the likely course of action.

Any major deal would almost certainly include Corey Brewer, not only because he is largely dispensable in relation to his teammates, but primarily due to his price tag.  On the books for $7,612,172 this season, Brewer is the trade chip that will allow the Rockets to bring back major salary for salary matching purposes.  A potential obstacle could be, however, the $7,579,366 still owed to Brewer next season.  For instance, if the Magic found Houston’s young assets enticing enough to part with Serge Ibaka, would they balk at having Brewer on the books for another year?  The thinking there might be that even if losing Ibaka in the summer, having a clean cap sheet could be preferable to the Magic, even if getting back other assets.

Tyler Ennis’ entire existence on this roster is predicated upon the $1,733,880 he is owed this season.  Were it not for that figure, he already would have been cut in favor of a more deserving young man.

And then there are Montrezl Harrell and K.J. McDaniels, the actual sweeteners to a potential deal, draft picks notwithstanding.  Harrell is on the books this year at $1,045,000 and $1,090,000 next season; McDaniels is due $3,333,333 this year, and $3,476,874 next year, but with a team option.  Harrell is real value, even if a product of this system, leading the league in points per possession, as I highlighted earlier in the week.  He can help a team immediately, and on the cheap, to the point where I would be reluctant to give him up except for an impact player.  McDaniels is a different case.  He has floundered now under two Houston coaches after being completely given up on by a franchise that wasn’t even trying to win.  How is he perceived by NBA GM’s?  If even Mike D’Antoni, the greatest innovator in the league could not untap his potential, will anyone else be willing to try?  At the least though, McDaniels does not carry negative value.

Sam Dekker and Clint Capela are untouchable unless if presented with the type of deal that will not be available.

in musings

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