During the recent game against the Chicago Bulls, Aaron Brooks came off the bench for a few minutes. Jeff Van Gundy remarked, “If Aaron Brooks were on the Bulls he would be their best offensive player. He’s the third string point guard on the Rockets. That’s how deep this team is.”
JVG is right. The Houston Rockets are incredibly deep. Coming off the bench regularly are a scorer (Lin), two 3-and-D wings (Garcia, Casspi), a big (Asik… yeah, I know), and a grinder (Smith). Seeing spot duty or injury fill-in duty are a microwave man (Brooks) and a stretch 4 (D-Mo). Those are very useful roles to be filled by young, talented players. Just ask the Pacers or the Bulls (when Rose was whole) how valuable a productive bench can be.
Here’s how the Houston Rockets bench ranks league-wide, according to NBA.com:
- 3rd in points per possession
- 4th in TS%
- 5th in net points per possession
- 8th in +/- per game
But here’s the most important stat about the Houston Rockets bench:
The Indiana Pacers are good at basketball. They’re one of two teams in the Eastern Conference who appear to have a shot at winning it all, the others being the defending champion Miami Heat. Hot off a thrilling barnburner between these two teams, the Pacers now have to host the Houston Rockets, an upstart young contender in the making. The good news is that the Rockets put paid to the Pacers twice in the preseason, and looked comfortable doing it. The bad news is that the Pacers aren’t just good at basketball; they’re as good as it gets in the league this year.
As with last season, this matchup promises to be a battle between extremes. The Rockets feature a top offense, and the team is calibrated to create open looks inside and at the three point line. No team is as set up to oppose that onslaught as the Indiana Pacers, the ultimate defense-first team in the NBA today. Whichever team can define the pace and the tone for this game will come away with a signature win against a quality opponent. Whoever loses will have a lot to learn from in their fight to contend.
I had been predicting that despite the deadline, there would be no Omer Asik deal. The big guns (Marc Stein, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski) are now confirming that Houston has called off trade talks and intends to hang onto Omer Asik until at least the trade deadline. I already explained this morning why it seemed out of character for Daryl Morey to take back the garbage platter being offered by the Boston Celtics. Aside from what I already said, what was the rush? The premise behind making a deal by the 19th was so that the new players acquired could be flipped again by the real deadline. But Bass and Lee are, by most accounts, unflippable. So unless you’re thrilled with Bass and Lee (and there’s no reason to be), there really wasn’t any reason to jump on this trade. It’s better to just wait things out.
Now, there is the sentiment that whatever we would have gotten in return is better than an inactive Asik. I disagree. That argument would be based upon the premise that Asik will remain inactive. I don’t think that will be the case. While he’s no doubt upset, he’s not going to cling to this fake injury forever. He’ll get his act together and suit up and go back to giving us 15 minutes of elite defense (and 48 minutes of rim protection). That contribution is far better for this team than the impact Lee and Bass would have made, taking into account the financial consequences of adding Lee.
Will Asik’s value lower as the deadline approaches? Sure, it probably will. But its not exactly as if you’re missing out on some great prize in Bass and Lee. If that’s the market value right now for Asik, I’d go as far as to say I’d rather just hang onto Omer until his contract expires a year and a half from now.
If there is one truth in the world, it is that Daryl Morey will not make a trade unless he is absolutely thrilled with it. There is no “position of desperation.” He just won’t deal if he doesn’t like it.