I’ve been writing the last week on Donatas Motiejunas and my belief of his need for consistent playing time. A reader, Johnny Rocket, makes a compelling counter-argument:
I disagree with Rahat’s premise that playing time is the same thing as player development. The first thing that NBA players have to learn is that if you don’t do things the right way, you don’t play. It is absolutely vital–especially on teams that have ambitions of becoming contenders–that the best players play without exception. Jones didn’t play last year because he wasn’t as good as the other options (including Greg Smith). But that experience helped Jones, as he freely admits.
With all the injuries to all the big men, D-Mo has had plenty of time to establish himself as a viable option. He’s failed to do so, so why reward that failure with more playing time? It would be devastating for morale, as the players would see it as a white flag of surrender.
from the editor
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.