The Rockets Daily – March 26, 2014

The crew of Hickory-High got together for a roundtable discussion on which matchups were the best/worst case scenario for some of the Western Conference contenders.  The Rockets had near-unanimous agreement on their scenarios.

Kraetsch: Best case is Blazers as neither team will care that they are giving up tons of points and Houston will thrive against a team not interested in stopping them from scoring. Worst case is easily the Clippers who have won all three matchups and are not only a team that will tear up a lacking Houston defense.

One writer opined that Golden State would be the ideal scenario for Houston in Round 1, while another decided the Warriors would be a dreadful matchup for Houston.

Personally, I like the standings the way they are.  Portland does what Houston does, but across the board they just can’t matchup with the Rockets.  The Portland backcourt has no one as talented as James Harden, their frontcourt cannot contain Dwight Howard and no one on the Blazers bench is as impactful as Omer Asik.  As for Golden State, the Rockets would still be favored over the Warriors (although, Jalen Rose would disagree) but Steph Curry’s shooting and Andre Iguodala’s defense is enough to make anyone nervous.  No offense to Portland, but Damian Lillard isn’t there yet and Wes Matthews and Nic Batum have never drawn comparisons to Scottie Pippen.

Isn’t he just the best? -

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Some interesting thoughts have been popping up in the forum and on Twitter in reference to our dialogue on these pages regarding Carmelo Anthony.  First, the most common reasoning I’ve seen espoused in opposition to an Anthony pursuit involves the “no midrange” philosophy with the thinking being that because Anthony shoots too many midrange shots, he’s inefficient and thus, not a good fit on this team.  It’s important to address this.

For some time now, I have been of a minority opinion regarding the philosophy in that its not that I don’t see its merits but rather, I don’t wholeheartedly buy in.  My theory, which unfortunately I do not have the math skills to be able to quantify, is that the soundest way to build a system–and thus, at a micro level, a player–is by focus upon rimshots and 3′s, with mere avoidance of midrange shots rather than complete and total abandonment of the area.  The philosophy is a great way to lift a 37 win team to 45 wins or an All-Star to superstar status; but I don’t think, if using it, a 56 win team can win a title, nor do I think an All-Star can lift his play to ‘all-time great’ status.

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The Charlotte Bobcats are one of the teams in the league with the most left to play for – to give their first visit to the playoffs in four years a chance of going well, they need to avoid the Pacers and the Heat in the first round and are pushing hard to catch up with Washington for the sixth seed. Earlier in the season such an opponent might have been a cause for concern, but the battle-hardening rigour of the NBA season has given the Rockets the necessary familiarity with winning to keep control of the game and come up with the comfortable win. They were put through their paces in a game that was never truly blown open, but they had their noses in front most of the way through and eventually opened up a gap at the end of the third quarter that they would not relinquish.

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The Rockets and the bullies

Everyone says that brain beats brawn. The saying is “mind over matter,” Psychic type beats Fighting type, and any other platitudes and aphorisms offer succor to the underweight but overbrained kids of the world. That same theory supposedly applies to the NBA, a place where Moneyball is sometimes Moreyball and three pointers are always good. But what about in practice? When push comes to shove, push comes to shove on the court, and another truism takes precedence for the Houston Rockets.

Might makes right.

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Forum moderator John Gold had an interesting take last week in response to my thoughts on a proposed Carmelo Anthony deal to the Rockets.  He says that while the conventional wisdom dictates that the team would most likely include budding power forward Terrence Jones in an Anthony deal (along with Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin), the Rockets would be wise to include critically acclaimed supermodel Chandler Parsons in lieu of Jones.

While I disagree with Gold’s take that Jones’ upside is higher than Parsons’, I would have to agree with his overall thesis regarding Parsons’ worth, a belief I’ve been forming since late last season.

First, on Jones: I’m not as high on him as most seem to be.  To wit, he’s been marvelous in filling the role he’s been asked to fill.  But as I’ve said numerous times, I don’t trust him in a playoff series against the big boys, and when I look at him, I don’t see the budding All-Star everyone else sees.  He doesn’t have the elite indicators you’d look for in a young player to prognosticate high level growth.  He’s average athletically (what makes him look so above-average in this department, at times, is above average length.  Watch him fail to get anything around the rim against the likes of Ibaka and you’ll realize his weaknesses), has dreadful form on his jumpshot, and makes all of his moves as the result of muscle memory motion.* (More on this below.)  In fact, his best chance at taking his game to another level is re-working the mechanics on his jumpshot so that he can be dependable from anywhere a la Carl Landry.  Unfortunately, it’s very rare for an NBA player to put in that kind of effort.  (Players work on their shots, sure, but it’s a rare thing to change form. )  What has made Jones such a revelation this season is his ability to fill in the gaps: he runs the floor hard, cuts hard, and has good hands; he’s the perfect role player to fill the open spaces created by the massive presence of Dwight Howard.  When those things are taken away, because he has little in a vacuum, he struggles against the big boys.

*Next time you’re playing pick-up, unless its at a ridiculously high level, notice that 99% of the guys do some of the same moves every time, regardless of the situation.  Everyone has a pet move they do, and they’ve done it so many times it’s become second nature.  The problem is when you do that some motion every single time.  It indicates that that player is not really thinking but just acting involuntarily.  That’s the case with Terrence Jones and that crossover.  When he’s on the perimeter, he’s going to just bust out that same crossover dribble, regardless of the second line of defense.  (A fascinating point Steve Nash made in the recent Bill Simmons podcast was that he felt Amare didn’t really make the big leap until he started reading the second line of defense later in his career, because he had never learned how to play the game properly growing up.  Jones can learn too but Amare is one of the hardest working athletes in the NBA and was also in the top 1% athletically…)  Now watch James Harden, or any point guard.  They make moves with their mind, not their muscle memory.  They do different things based on different situations.  I digress: this post was supposed to be about Chandler Parsons.

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