Every Friday, I rank the active Rockets (who sees the floor) based on their performance from the previous week. Unfortunately, due to various scheduling conflicts, I had to take the past two weeks off. Hopefully too many tears weren’t shed by all you loyal, dedicated readers out there!
12) Troy Daniels
Two minutes of garbage time that provided a zero in every statistical category. Welcome to the Red94 Player Power Rankings, Mr. Daniels!
11) Isaiah Canaan
See above, minus the second sentence.
10) Omri Casspi
The arrival of Jordan Hamilton and a healthy Omer Asik has nudged Omri Casspi to the end of Houston’s bench. He’s barely in the rotation, and played just 16 minutes this week even though he shot the ball pretty well.
9) Donatas Motiejunas
Interesting week from Donatas Motiejunas, who tries really hard, but looks out of his element. He’s still too timid at the rim, rushing shots when nobody’s around. This week, the Rockets averaged 80.3 points per 100 possessions with Motiejunas on the floor. Those units only knew two ways to play: fast and atrocious.
Kevin McHale is pairing Motiejunas with Omer Asik quite a bit, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for the youngster to provide spacing and show his potential on the offensive end. Rebounding won’t be a priority, and he looks comfortable as a defender on the perimeter. He has quick feet and solid instincts. It’s time he combines them. That talent is waiting to burst. Read More
By saying a basketball player (or anything, for that matter) is underrated, nothing happens other than an indictment of someone else’s opinion. It’s a term that points out how dumb or ignorant the majority is, even though proving something so general is nearly impossible and hardly worth the time or energy.
Despite this article’s title, I won’t be writing about whether Dwight Howard is underrated or overrated. But after hearing a few NBA pundits, writers, and commentators speak their mind, and taking part in several first-hand conversations at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston last weekend, it became fairly obvious that either people aren’t watching Howard play basketball, find it difficult to praise him in a season where so many younger frontcourt talents are rising (Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, etc.), or don’t like him for reasons that have nothing to do with his performance on a basketball court.
Picking apart the words someone says on television or on a podcast makes me uncomfortable because often times those thoughts aren’t fully formed. They’re gut reflexes to questions being asked on the spot. Key statistics aren’t at the ready, hours of film study can’t be done in the five minutes someone has to cover a topic. Sometimes the entire discussion is framed around a specific narrative that would be crushed by the “right” answer.
This article, then, is my attempt to give credit where it’s due by highlighting a player whose reputation—both positive and negative—precedes everything he does on the court.
“Howard still has no post-moves.” “He isn’t as dominant defensively.” “He was one of the five best players in the league four years ago, but he isn’t as good now, so how can he still be a top five player?” Smart followers of the league know that first point is bogus, and that Howard’s still a game-changing defensive presence who plays hard 35 minutes a game. Is he one of the five best players in the league? That’s still an argument worth having. Read More
As it turns out, the people of Orlando don’t seem to like Dwight Howard very much. He may feel that time heals all wounds, but if that’s the case then Orlando Florida needs at least another year for that black eye to heal up. The boos erupted every time he touched the ball, and for a while his old team got the better of him. The Magic built up a 14 point lead in the second quarter and looked like they believed they could steal a win from another top playoff team.
Unfortunately for them, their prodigal son came back in the third quarter with a surprise of his own. Chandler Parsons, native of the Orlando metro area, put his foot on the gas and helped the Rockets turn that deficit into a lead which eventually ballooned out of Orlando’s control. It wasn’t a pretty game, and it wasn’t a win Houston can hang their hat on, but it was a win nonetheless. With a pile of brutal teams waiting for the next weeks and a half, the Rockets have to be happy to come away with any wins they can.
Posted in game coverage Tagged recap
Let’s get one thing straight – this was not the Heat of last year’s finals. This was the inconsistent Heat of 2014, coming off a back-to-back where their best player had exhausted himself in historic fashion the night before. But nevertheless, they are the current NBA champions and victories against them are rare. More impressive was that this was as comprehensive a three point victory as you’ll ever see. The Rockets never trailed all game, and whenever the two starting units were matched up against each other the Rockets seemed to have a clear edge. The raucous home crowd and the antics of Patrick Beverley spurred them on to one of the year’s better wins. LeBron had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but his long three over an outstretched Howard clanked off the rim and left the Rockets with the win.
Patrick Beverley was everywhere tonight. He made three 3 pointers in a row to start the game and never looked back. In one particularly memorable sequence, he blocked a lay-up, then stole the ball, then managed to draw a foul while diving out of bounds to save an errant pass from Parsons. In another, he picked up LeBron (!) on the perimeter, hounded him into a tough shot, then leaked out for an easy lay-in. His final line of 19 points (5-8 from three), 2 assists, 3 steals doesn’t immediately jump out of the page, but it was one of the best games he has played all year and his talismanic play lifted the rest of the team to new heights.
What was surprising about the majority of the game was that when the starters were matched up the Rockets came out well on top. The +/- tells the story – all of the Rockets starters were in double figures positive, and all the Heat starters were double figures in the negative except for Wade. They got contributions from every position – Dwight was scoring in the post against Bosh, Beverley was hot from the outside, and Terrence Jones cleaned up numerous situations around the rim. The Heat did try to keep the ball out of Harden’s hands, but he made them pay for it by registering 11 assists to go along with 21 points.
Superlatives - James Harden and John Wall were named NBA Western and Eastern Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Feb. 24, through Sunday, March 2. Harden’s week:
Harden led the Rockets to a 2-1 week behind averages of 27.0 points (tied for third in the conference), 7.7 assists (fifth in the conference) and 2.0 steals. He tallied 22 first-quarter points en route to a game-high 43 on Feb. 25, during a 129-103 win over the Kings. Harden closed the week by posting a 20-point, 12-assist, three-steal effort during a 118-110 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Also, Kevin McHale joined Eric Spolestra as the NBA Coaches of the Month for February.
McHale guided the Rockets to an 8-2 record in February, and the highest winning percentage (.800) in the Western Conference. The Rockets opened the month with six consecutive wins, and their average margin of victory in those games was 13.2 points. Houston, which averaged 111.9 points on the month, topped the century mark in each of its eight wins.
Not a bad haul for the hottest team in the league since New Year.
Tank the tanking - Nate Wolters, starting shooting guard for the Milwaukee Bucks. Henry Sims, starting center for the Philadelphia 76ers. Kent Bazemore, starting shooting guard for the LA Lakers. Now that you understand the shameless levels of tanking certain teams are currently subjecting on their fanbases, and taking into account former-GM Bryan Colangelo’s recent revelation that he tried to tank games, you can understand why Daryl Morey is open to exploring ways to change the NBA draft.
“We have to get rid of the marginal incentive to lose,” Morey said Friday at the annual Sloan Conference on sports analytics at MIT.
“It’s bad right now,” Morey said. “I think last year, at the end of the season, I counted like two-thirds of the teams weren’t trying to win.” Read More