On Kevin Durant’s free agency

An interesting nugget in Zach Lowe’s latest this week at Grantland:

The Warriors have an intense interest in how this all works out. If the cap jumps unchecked into the $90 million range in 2016-17, the Dubs, even with Thompson’s pricey new deal, could re-sign one of the Draymond Green/Harrison Barnes duo and still have enough cap space to fit a max contract for Kevin Durant or some other player.

The Rockets, of course, would also be one of the teams finding themselves in, or close to being in, such a cap situation if the figure jumps at the unprecedented rate.  There’s a thinking–I read somewhere–that it may come down to just Wizards and Thunder.  But Houston, Marc Stein first reported, fully intends to pursue Durant, and if he becomes available, I’d like their chances as much as anyone.  Much of this depends on what happens with the Thunder these next two seasons, and this season’s circumstances aren’t helping matters any.  If Oklahoma City parts ways with Reggie Jackson this summer, as some believe could be the case, you’d have to wonder if Durant would see that as the final straw.

Either way, I have to ask: why is it a pipe dream?  The Rockets will position themselves financially to be able to make a run, and you have to figure they’ll still be in contention (especially if this season’s start is any indication of what’s yet to come).  Is it highly unlikely to happen?  Yes, of course.  But pipedream?  Not at all.  Not unless you think guys don’t dream/talk about playing together on the same team one day as their best friend.  As long as James Harden is playing at a high level, in those Chinese national team uniforms, you had better believe the Rockets will at least be a part of that discussion.

in musings
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It would be easy to write this win off as yet another against an underwhelming opponent.  After all, these weren’t the same San Antonio Spurs you watched on TV last June with both of the team’s starting big men, and Manu Ginobili, held inactive.  But such dismissal would be overlooking of a critical point, perhaps not impressive to the larger NBA, but significant to those who have observed the Rockets over the years: last season, this would have been a close game, as would have some of the team’s other victories.  They would have come out and sleepwalked through the first quarter, playing down to the competition.  Upon mini Spurs runs, Houston would have tried to outscore the opponent, rather than ramping up the intensity on defense as they did throughout last night.  Yes, the Houston Rockets may still have not proven to the world that they are among the league’s core elite teams.  But this complete transformation is real.

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in game coverage
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A quick note on Kyrie Irving and selfishness

I’m going to break the rule I laid down for myself about 12 hours ago. Apparently Lebron James and Kyrie Irving had something that fell between “healthy conversation” and “spat” after the Cavaliers lost last night, mainly related to Irving’s ballhog playing style (23 shots, 0 assists). Since the topic was selfishness, I couldn’t help myself but look at some early small sample size data.

You may recall that I was really interested in this issue last year. I developed some selfishness measures  and even created a ball stopping index. Admittedly the latter results were skewed to make point guards look bad since they naturally touch the ball a lot, but even so Irving was the #1 ball stopper in the league. This year?

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in musings
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Should the Rockets be looking to trade?

A reader writes:

I like this roster.  I like this team.  I would prefer we keep it as is unless some team puts a stud PG/PF on a fire sale and gives them away for, essentially, nothing.  There has been lots of concern over our depth (somewhat unwarranted)–what would we have left if we trade it for an upgrade to a starter?  Capela and NJ?  Yikes!

I think if a trade happens this season it will be minor and will likely be to reinforce the bench.

Of course, one never wants to rush to trade, just to trade.  And it is still very early.  But at least initially, I would have to strongly, strongly disagree for two primary reasons:

  1. The league is more wide open this season than I can remember in some time, and we don’t know when such a window will again present itself.  Injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will bury the Thunder to a bottom seed.  The Pacers don’t figure to be a factor.  Derrick Rose is still rounding into form, and it will take the Cavs some time to gel.  At least one of these situations will not be the case next season.  Now one could easily argue that there are unique circumstances every year.  Sure.  But I don’t quite remember a time when so many heavyweights were crippled.  And Houston always has matched up well with the Spurs.
  2. The Pelicans pick: You have to trade it this season.  I don’t think bringing in a rookie next season onto a team with title aspirations represents very good return.  You could point to Big Papa as a counter-argument, but I’d mention that he’s a seasoned veteran from his play overseas.

You never want to tinker with a winning formula.  But I also would not want to enter the postseason feeling like I did not load up on all the ammunition I could get my hands on.

in musings
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Rockets Heat Basketball

The beginning of the season is a little awkward for dataheads. On one hand, data exists in very small quantities and every bone in my body knows I should not analyze it just one week into the season. On the other hand, I’m bored and want to post something. I’m going to compromise and write about what I’m going to analyze once enough data is available. My number one focus this year, at least right now, is the Houston Rockets’ bench usage.

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in essays
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