Every Friday, I rank every active Rocket (who sees the floor) based on his performance from the previous week. If you missed the most recent installment, here you go.
12) Isaiah Canaan (Last week: 10)
The rookie logged a little over 90 seconds of action this week. Aaaaand just about nothing transpired.
11) Donatas Motiejunas (Last week: 9)
That D-Mo D-League stint I pined for in this space finally happened. Now there’s a very legitimate chance he’s traded sooner than later. What value does Motiejunas have on the market? He’s young, cheap, and offensively skilled. This deserves a deeper look.
10) Ronnie Brewer (Last week: 12)
This picture is why Ronnie Brewer can’t play big minutes in the NBA anymore. For some reason (I realize Chandler Parsons was hurt) Kevin McHale started him against the Lakers on Wednesday.
Brewer logged 23 minutes that night, and in those 23 minutes well over a dozen snapshots like the one above could’ve been taken. In the picture, Terrence Jones has the ball beneath the rim, while Brewer’s man, Nick Young, doubles down to assist Pau Gasol in preventing Jones from doing anything productive. Brewer is a boa constrictor to Houston’s spacing. No Laker paid any attention to him whenever Houston had the ball, and it should come as no surprise that he scored zero points.
9) Greg Smith (Last week: N/A)
Greg Smith grabbed one rebound and drew one foul in 10 minutes of action last week. That’s it. But he still gets the nod over Brewer because defenses don’t treat him like Nicholas Brody treated his only son.
8) Aaron Brooks (Last week: 7)
Aaron Brooks has been such an experience this season. From looking washed up, to competent, to vintage, back to washed up, to competent, etc. It’s gotten to the point where I expect every one of his threes to go in, and every one of his drives to end in a turnover.
Speaking of turnovers, Brooks averaged two per game this week. Not really acceptable when his assist average was one. He shot under 30% from the floor but 40%, exactly, from behind the three-point line.
7) Omri Casspi (Last week: 6)
His play is declining in quality as the season goes on, and this week the numbers were brutal, as was his playing time. I wrote more in-depth on Casspi yesterday, so check that out if you haven’t already.
6) Chandler Parsons (Last week: 2)
He sat out the Lakers game with myriad aches and pains, but earlier in the week Parsons was a monster against the New York Knicks. He played 44 minutes (a good chunk guarding Carmelo Anthony), scored 17 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds. I more than enjoyed the suit he wore on the bench Wednesday night.
5) Francisco Garcia (Last week: 8)
Garcia made two shots last week, and both came from behind the three-point line. It was a little strange to see Ronnie Brewer in the starting lineup over him on Wednesday.
4) Jeremy Lin (Last week: 5)
Lin isn’t in a shooting “slump,” per se, but it feels like he isn’t as willing to launch one now as he was earlier in the season. When you can attack the rim like Lin does, stroking it like Reggie Miller isn’t as consequential. Still in the starting lineup while Patrick Beverley nurses his hand, Lin pushed the pace this week. A lot of the time that led to him attempting a shot really close to the basket.
Here’s his shot distribution shot from last week.
It’s only two games. But this isn’t a two-game trend. Lin is obsessed with getting to the rim now more than ever before, even on two-on-one fastbreak situations.
3) Terrence Jones (Last week: 4)
It’s getting to the point where Jones may be Houston’s second best two-way player, behind Howard. He averaged a 10.5 points, 11.0 rebound double-double this week. The jumper was a little bit of a struggle, but more of Jones’ offense is created on his own around the basket. He can leap higher than just about everyone on the court, and he’s getting better using that skill on the glass.
2) Dwight Howard (Last week: 1)
Dwight Howard’s free-throw shooting reared it’s ugly head against the D-Fenders, when Mike D’Antoni opted to do that Hack-a-Howard thing down the stretch of a game L.A. barely had a shot at winning. Still, can’t hurt trying, I guess.
Howard shot 43.3% from the free-throw line last week, averaging a generous 15.0 attempts per game.
Against the Lakers he kept drifting off his man (Gasol) to try and swat shots from the weak side. An un-blocked out Gasol ended up with the rebound more than a couple times. It’s a little bit of a trust issue, and will be so until the Rockets employ a power forward who can hold his own in the post.
1) James Harden (Last week: 2)
During the first half of Wednesday night’s thrashing of Los Angeles, James Harden once again had serious trouble staying with his man off the ball. That man was mostly Jodie Meeks, who, when not on the bench with foul trouble, found himself wide open along the baseline in several instances.
But honestly, I’m burying the lede, because when you’re dropping 75 points in two games sometimes defense doesn’t even matter. Harden eviscerated the Lakers to the tune of 17 third quarter points on Wednesday. He got into the paint at will, knocked down a couple threes and shooting over 60% from the floor.
His 38 points tied a season high and was one more than the 37 he scalded on the Knicks last Friday, another contest he basically took over late.
Michael Pina has bylines at Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Bleacher Report, Sports On Earth, and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.