I wrote this morning about the draft picks owned by the Rockets this summer, in response to which the reader above pointed out the draft-and-stash option in the event that Houston retains all three selections.  I agree that barring a trade, such a route will be the likely course of action.

Any major deal would almost certainly include Corey Brewer, not only because he is largely dispensable in relation to his teammates, but primarily due to his price tag.  On the books for $7,612,172 this season, Brewer is the trade chip that will allow the Rockets to bring back major salary for salary matching purposes.  A potential obstacle could be, however, the $7,579,366 still owed to Brewer next season.  For instance, if the Magic found Houston’s young assets enticing enough to part with Serge Ibaka, would they balk at having Brewer on the books for another year?  The thinking there might be that even if losing Ibaka in the summer, having a clean cap sheet could be preferable to the Magic, even if getting back other assets.

Tyler Ennis’ entire existence on this roster is predicated upon the $1,733,880 he is owed this season.  Were it not for that figure, he already would have been cut in favor of a more deserving young man.

And then there are Montrezl Harrell and K.J. McDaniels, the actual sweeteners to a potential deal, draft picks notwithstanding.  Harrell is on the books this year at $1,045,000 and $1,090,000 next season; McDaniels is due $3,333,333 this year, and $3,476,874 next year, but with a team option.  Harrell is real value, even if a product of this system, leading the league in points per possession, as I highlighted earlier in the week.  He can help a team immediately, and on the cheap, to the point where I would be reluctant to give him up except for an impact player.  McDaniels is a different case.  He has floundered now under two Houston coaches after being completely given up on by a franchise that wasn’t even trying to win.  How is he perceived by NBA GM’s?  If even Mike D’Antoni, the greatest innovator in the league could not untap his potential, will anyone else be willing to try?  At the least though, McDaniels does not carry negative value.

Sam Dekker and Clint Capela are untouchable unless if presented with the type of deal that will not be available.

in musings

The Rockets currently own their own first round draft pick, Denver’s second round pick, Portland’s second round pick, and owe the Knicks their own second round pick.  Thus, based on the current standings, were the draft to be held today, the Rockets would be picking 27th, 43rd (via Portland), and 44th (via Denver).

I think it’s a safe bet that Daryl Morey will deal at least one of those three picks at the deadline.  I cannot see Houston wanting to carry three rookies heading into next year in a season which will, if all else holds steady, carry huge expectations.  They possibly might even prefer to deal the first rounder and keep the two second rounders due to salary cap implications.  That would depend on Morey’s opinion on the depth of this draft.  Regardless, the existence of the two second round picks would surely make Morey more agreeable to deal the first round pick.

As an aside: its rather odd that the actuality of NBA trades has not yet caught up to the basketball commentariat’s assessment of how things work.  The conventional wisdom today is that first round picks are overvalued, yet every trade leak reflects demands of “a first rounder”.  Similarly, post hoc analysis almost always involves the rationale that if a first round draft pick was procured, the net gain was a positive.  Odd.

in musings

On Serge Ibaka

And to clarify there, as I did in a follow-up tweet, Ennis is not the third prospect.  The prospects would be Harrell, McDaniels, and the draft pick.

Ibaka this year is shooting .385 on 3’s, hitting 1.5 per 3.9 attempts per game.  That’s up from last year’s 32%, but not too strong a deviation from the previous season’s .376.  What’s important to note is that while he is not elite e.g. Ryan Anderson (who is hitting an insane 2.8 3’s per game at 41%), Ibaka is at the least a credible threat from long-range, as we saw last night.  And that credibility is important, for an offense which bases itself upon floor spacing.

As has been well-documented, Ibaka has slipped drastically in other areas.  His total rebounding percentage is down to 12.4, down from a peak of 17.2 during his age 20 season in 2009-2010.  That rebounding percentage has steadily been trending downward.  Offensive rebounding percentage is down to a career low of 6.1, less than half of a career high percentage of 13.2 during his age 22 season in 2011-2012. However, defensive rebounding percentage is up to 19.1, up from 16.2 last season, and approaching his career high of 21.9 during his age 20 season of 2009-2010.

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in musings

Hakeem Olajuwon against the Magic

It’s only fitting that the Rockets honor Hakeem Olajuwon tonight against the Orlando Magic, the opponent against whom he led Houston to its second of back to back titles in the mid 90’s.  Most of you reading this right now had not yet procured cognizance of the self by 1995 (i.e. you were in diapers holding a bottle) or were not even yet born.  I was nine, and it was glorious.

To begin, it is often stated that Olajuwon dominated Shaquille O’Neal, when describing Olajuwon’s performance during that series.  While he outplayed O’Neal, this depiction is largely revisionist, somewhat abetted by O’Neal’s deference over the years in recounting the events of that fateful week.  Olajuwon averaged 32.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.0 blocks on 48% shooting for the four games.  Certainly, a Dream performance, but not outright dominance in comparison to O’Neal’s 28.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 2.5 blocks, on 59% shooting.  While he says it–perhaps because Olajuwon is the only man to have even played him to at least a draw during his prime–O’Neal was not humiliated.  David Robinson was humiliated.

An additional point: Since the 90’s, I do not think there has been another player whose popularity matched that of Anfernee Hardaway, aside from players whose popularity was derived as a factor of sheer greatness (i.e. Stephen Curry during his MVP seasons).  Another point: I don’t think Penny would be that popular in today’s game.  Go back and watch old clips to refresh your memory.  Unless we’re saying his modern-day version would have developed them, he doesn’t have the sort of ball-handling that characterizes today’s premiere point guards such as Kyrie Irving.  But the shoes, oh those glorious shoes that my immigrant parents would never let me buy…

in musings

I posed this question yesterday while watching Cavs/Wizards, with the backdrop being the Wizards’ recent surge towards realization of their immense potential.  The case for our guys is dampened by Gordon’s recent struggles and the team’s struggles as a whole.  But that’s really looking at things in an in-the-moment analysis sort of way.  The Rockets had their month, and the Wizards are having theirs.

Even despite John Wall’s ascendency towards true superstardom this season, Harden would still be considered, I think unanimously, the best of the four players.  There’s a legitimate case to be made that James Harden is the best overall offensive player in the NBA.

The debate really boils down to Beal vs. Gordon, and whether the gap between the two is enough to offset the gap between Harden and Wall, (or whether there is even much of a gap at all).


Beal’s stats certainly are better.  But I can’t shake the feeling that a lot of his “star”, at least in comparison to Gordon, is a factor of his age.  Beal is still just 23, whereas Gordon is 28.  The league is still waiting for Beal to fulfill his promise, whereas Gordon largely had been forgotten.  And Gordon was coming off 20+ points per game seasons at age 23 as well.

I’m biased of course, but I’d undoubtedly take our guys, in this sport where individual greatness holds supreme.  Harden can take a game over in ways few others can, and Gordon is just fine spotting up off of him.

in musings

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