Two nights ago, on the road and with their starting backcourt unavailable for duty, the Rockets defeated Oklahoma City—the team that most consider to be the Western Conference’s likely NBA Finals representative.

Inspecting it on a micro level, in the context of a single game, the win means very little. It’s one notch in the standings for a team that as of this moment probably has less than a 50% chance at making the postseason. But on the macro level, this win tells Daryl Morey (and, equally important, other general managers across the league) a bit about who this basketball team is right now. (For example: guys like Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, and Chandler Parsons are capable of competing in big minutes, in big spots, against big-time competition. Not to say they were terrible before, but this game was a different substance.)

Taking into account Houston’s recent past, their innovative and adventurous GM, whispers from national NBA reporters, and the general wide open field standing in their way, it’s more than likely that this team strikes a deal before the arrival of today’s trade deadline. And looking at the roster, it’d appear the Rockets are in a wonderful position to do so. Their depth is truly outstanding; even the players they don’t play could be viewed by a rival executive as having upside if brought to a new environment. All it takes is one believer. Daryl Morey has plenty of options. Let’s investigate why. [read more…]






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The Howard Chase

After a wild day that saw speculation that Dwight Howard would waive his early termination option, reports have surfaced that multiple league executives believe that the Magic will now look to deal the center before tomorrow’s deadline.

The Rockets must now push all of their chips to the table.  If Howard walks in the summer, leaving $28million on the table, so be it.  But they must now swing for the fences.  This is what they’ve accumulated these assets for in the first place.

The team can offer Orlando some combination including Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Marcus Morris, Patrick Patterson, Donatas Motiejunas, Sergio Llull, and the New York Knicks’ draft pick, while still leaving enough of their veteran core intact to make a run this season.  If Howard left, they could finally rebuild and dislodge from mediocrity.  This is a bold move the Rockets must now make.

UPDATE:

Adrian Wojnarowski just reported that the Magic are working to trade Howard; while I’d imagine other teams are in the picture, the Nets and Rockets were the only two specifically named, both in this report and in others I’ve seen.

It looks like this may come down to a classic bidding war with the Nets able to offer Brooke Lopez, Marshoon Brooks, and draft picks, while the Rockets hold, as a reader put it in the comments, “the cornucopia of young talent” I mentioned above.

Three things that I think the Rockets have in their favor:

1. Potential spite: I could see the Magic taking a marginally lesser deal (caveat: only if its marginally lesser) just to not acquiesce into giftwrapping Howard to his preferred destination.

2. I could see the Magic not wanting to keep Howard within the conference and facilitating the creation of a star duo whom they would have to face for years.

3. I could see the Nets not wanting to put all their chips on the table, knowing they could also have a shot at Howard in the summer.  The Rockets, on the other hand, would be more willing to go all in as they know this is their only shot – he wouldn’t pick them in outright free agency.

This is getting crazy.






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According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the Orlando Magic have had their fill of Dwight Howard’s media machinations and are demanding some sort of commitment to the team— lest he wants to be traded before Thursday’s trade deadline. While this will likely bring in a frenzied swarm of suitors for the defensive powerhouse (and anger the front office of Golden State that seemed to happen upon Andrew Bogut as a sort of second-place prize for the seemingly constantly tradeable Monta Ellis), Houston has had an in with the Magic brass given the Rockets’ possession of a long-term asset that Orlando actually likes in Kyle Lowry, who doesn’t come with the injury problems of Stephon Curry or Andrew Bynum, the salary implications of Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler or Luol Deng or the “not being that good” problems of Brook Lopez. Could Houston actually have a shot at renting the league’s best big thanks to an annoying speech by Superman II?

The timing of this ultimatum seems particularly averse to a Rockets move thanks to a bacterial infection that has Lowry chilling in a hospital bed watching NCAA games at the moment rather than eking out victories in Oklahoma City, but he’ll be back in action in less than  a couple of weeks, making his trade value relatively unchanged. Still Lowry’s seen a big drop in all of his numbers since the beginning of the season, when the baby-faced bulldog routinely posted almost-triple-doubles and stood among the league leaders in PER. Those falls have shown up in places other than Lowry’s always shaky jumpshot, as well (February actually showcased Lowry posting up fantastic  percentages from the field, 47% overall and 43% from the arc); instead, Lowry’s passing has been suspect, declining from the league leader in assists in mid-January to a measly 4.8 per game in the Rockets’ latest losing streak.

If a Dwight Howard rental legitimately becomes an option for Houston, even with a lousy Hedo Turkoglu kicker, disregard that entire last paragraph. All this talk of trading for a star and collecting assets would have its truest validation if Howard spent even half a season in Rockets red.

 






in musings

So we’ve seen the report that alleges that Carmelo Anthony wants out of New York.  We know that Daryl Morey tried desperately last year to get him and was even willing to rent him without an extension.  Denver got better upon Melo’s departure; since his arrival, the Knicks have been worse.

Morey believed that Melo was a worthy star last season.  The conventional wisdom, based upon results, now, is that Melo is not a star.  But I’m not sure Morey would buy into that wisdom when Melo is essentially the exact same player.  He wouldn’t assess an item just based on results; he’d think that environment and surrounding circumstances played a significant determining role.  Morey wouldn’t do a complete 180 in his assessment on Melo just based on the Knicks’ struggles; he wouldn’t buy into the notion that the Knicks’ record validated the claims of Melo’s flaws.  If Morey were to change his assessment of a player, it would be due to some change intrinsic to the player himself.

This would be a classic ‘buy-low’ situation.  Perhaps Daryl feels that he could surround Melo with the right players, with the right coach, and turn things back on track.

Melo is also part of the ‘in-crowd’ and that in itself might hold sufficient value – maybe another star could finally be lured via free agency with Melo already in tow.

Of course, I’m playing devil’s advocate and I hope it doesn’t happen.  Carmelo Anthony is possibly my least favorite player in all of basketball.  It would be difficult to cheer for him.  But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Morey pull the trigger.






in musings

via Ken Berger:

Houston’s efforts to acquire Bogut would be a less complicated, two-deal deal with Milwaukee in which many scenarios have been discussed. Among them, Milwaukee would get Samuel Dalembert, Courtney Lee and draft picks, sources said. The Rockets also presumably would have to take back Stephen Jackson, who has clashed with Bucks coach Scott Skiles and is owed $10 million next season, or the Bucks would need to find another home for him.

As I tweeted earlier, Bogut’s defensive numbers are sparkling.  Last season, against Andrew, opposing players scored on only 29% of their isolation attempts; against Dwight Howard they scored on 39% of their attempts.  In those scenarios, they shot 33% from the floor against Bogut; against Dwight they shot 39%.

When healthy, he’s a top-3 center in this league and inarguably the second best defensive center.  He’s a young, true franchise cornerstone.  The problem is that he’s rarely been healthy.

If for a deal built around Kevin Martin, this would be a no-brainer.  But losing Lee and potentially the New York Knicks pick (now #9) hurts.  Still, I think I would do it.  Skilled 7 footers are the one thing you can’t really seek out and get on the cheap – you just have to luck into them.  Would the #8 or whatever the Knicks pick ended up being be a better player than Bogut?  It’s unlikely.






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