Does anyone remember when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey kept drafting power forwards? You probably do, because it continued all the way to the 2012 draft, in which Houston drafted Furkan Aldemir, a player you’ve probably forgotten about. Morey likes power forwards so much that of the 19 draft picks the Rockets have made in his tenure, 10 were power forwards. Plenty has been said about Morey’s strange penchant for the four spot, one tendency that seems hard to explain in the midst of his laundry list of trade victories and asset arbitrage. Do we finally have the distance to see what was going on the whole time, now? It’s been seven years of drafts since Morey took over, and the big picture is finally in view.
What’s changed that makes this penchant for fours finally find traction? Somehow, it’s the 2014 All-Star game. It takes years for trends to become readily evident in the NBA, and a couple of these trends are finally showing their faces. If we look at the returns on votes, especially in the Western Conference, the fans’ votes suggest something strange. Only power forwards and point guards seem to matter very much. Half of the frontcourt in the west is taken up by power forwards. Point guards, equally importantly, occupy seven of the ten frontcourt spots. Well, that’s strange. Let’s look at the likely candidates for the All-Star game out west.
I wrote back on the 10th that Motiejunas needed to be given more playing time. Most of you, including some of my staff, disagreed with that sentiment. (Though interestingly, the responses from Twitter were in vehement agreement.) I still feel strongly about that stance, so I’ll address some of the replies.
First, let me reiterate my thesis. There are only three reasons why the status quo should ensue (ie: Motiejunas should not get burn.)
1. If you think that playing him would have a disastrous effect on the team. I’ve conceded already that Casspi is the far better fit and the numbers back that up. (Ironically, this post comes after one of Casspi’s best games of the year.) But what I’m talking about here is if you think playing Motiejunas would see Asik-Howard levels of detriment, to the point where the team loses multiple games because of his court time.
2. If you think, or think the coaches have concluded, that Motiejunas just straight up sucks and will never get it. Justin Wehr has presented this case nicely, though I do not agree. While I don’t agree, it’s a valid line of argumentation. More on this later.
3. If you think “every game matters.” This is probably the weakest point of my own argument as the Chris Paul injury changes everything. I don’t think the Rockets are one of the four best teams in the conference. But with Paul out for an extended period, the Rockets have an outside chance at the 4-seed.
It was a soggy night in Washington, and in a rare occurence the bad weather outside affected the basketball inside as the game was interrupted on two separate occasions thanks to a leak in the Verizon Center roof. If you stuck around past the rain delays, you would have seen the Rockets allow a huge lead to evaporate as they lost control of a game they were completely dominating for three quarters. They slide from 25 points up at one point to fall behind by 5 midway through the fourth, but were able to recover to escape with the win. For three quarters this was the most complete performance the Rockets have put on since Christmas Day, but the events of the final frame turned it into a nail-biter the Rockets were lucky to escape from with a win.