I joined Nate Duncan on his Dunc’d On podcast in an interview published Sunday night. The call was recorded earlier in the month, hence the long discussion over the potential contributions of now former Rocket Michael Beasley.
We discussed a variety of topics, from the offseason additions of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, to the team’s potential strengths and weaknesses. I ultimately predicted a 51 win season, but put the Rockets’ ceiling at 55 wins, reiterating a point I’ve been making for weeks: this current roster is as, if not more talented than the 2015 team. And all of the chemistry issues figure to be gone. Why can’t the Rockets repeat the success they enjoyed that year?
Nate and I both expect the team’s offense to be amongst the very best in the league, but naturally were in agreement that the defense will be the biggest barrier to a rise in the standings. I should correct myself, however, over a point I made in support of my premise. I stated that it was questionable whether Patrick Beverley was any longer a good defender. On the contrary, as I recently outlined, Beverley was 5th best last year among all point guards in DRPM. It was the prior season when he finished in the bottom 20’s.
The cause for concern is Trevor Ariza who slipped all the way down to 45th among small forwards, below even Chandler Parsons and Chase Budinger, and just ahead of Carmelo Anthony. In 2015, Ariza finished 7th. Unless Clint Capela turns out to be Dwight Howard circa 2010, Beverley alone can’t carry the poor defenders in this lineup.
You can tell from listening that I’m really excited about this season. I know the Rockets probably won’t contend, but they’ll definitely be an intriguing team to watch and follow. As I repeated many times, just simply removing the negativity of the past few years from the equation will be a step in the right direction.
I have no shame in admitting that Michael Beasley was probably my favorite player on the Houston Rockets last season. At times, he looked like the team’s second best player. I tweeted sometime late in the year, when the “tank or playoffs?” debate was raging, that I wanted the Rockets to make the postseason for no other reason than to ensure four more games of watching Beasley. I was only partially kidding. Yes, I had given up on the year, but there were times when I’d flip away to a different channel unless Beasley was playing. I found him that entertaining.
On Thursday, Houston traded Beasley to the Milwaukee Bucks for guard Tyler Ennis in a deal that made perfect sense, despite the fact that I and everyone else I know hated it. Beasley was the only other player on the team, besides Harden, who could create his own shot. I noticed, along with many of you, that he seemed to be, strangely, the only player to whom Harden at times, would willingly defer. With his mid-range shooting, ball handling, and ability to punish smaller defenders on the block, the Beasley-Harden pick and roll was a glimpse of hope the team seemed to stumble upon accidentally, and didn’t utilize nearly enough (because, of course…). Before the Ryan Anderson signing, many of us hoped that combination might be a weapon heading into next season that a better tactician might have been able to utilize.
A video from bballbreakdown.com made the rounds earlier in the week, even garnering a retweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. It professed to elucidate the viewer as to why Patrick Beverley is a “lockdown defender.”
The narrator zeroes in visually on Beverley’s tactics, underscoring a low and wide stance which he explains is a break from established fundamentals. The narrator surmises that its this unorthodox approach which is the catalyst for Beverley’s productivity.
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Red94 is a blog about the NBA's Houston Rockets. It was created in 2009 by Rahat Huq and inducted into ESPN.com's TrueHoop Network that same year. Follow @redninetyfour on Twitter for all new post updates.