Player Power Rankings: Week 16

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.

11) Aaron Brooks (Last week: N/A)

There’s a comfort in knowing Aaron Brooks is your third point guard. Is he the best backup to the backup point guard in the league? Is that even a compliment?

Brooks knows how to score, can stretch the floor, and is capable of a surprising jolt of athleticism from time to time, whether that be some insane offensive rebound, an unexpected block from the weak side, or staying in front of John Wall. (It feels like he’s really old, but Brooks just turned 29 in January.)

He played 11 minutes this week, all coming against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. Even though Patrick Beverley is clearly the better player on both ends of the floor, seeing Brooks replace him isn’t the worst thing in the world.

10) Omri Casspi (Last week: 8)

It’s true. Omri Casspi failed to score a basket this week despite 20 minutes of action. If/when Houston strikes before the trade deadline, expect at least one trade they participate in to bring back a dependable bench player on a short-term deal. Casspi has moments of awesomeness, but it’s unclear where he’s consistent enough to be in Houston’s rotation during the playoffs. (If the postseason started tomorrow, Donatas Motiejunas would probably get a chunk of Casspi’s minutes.)

9) Omer Asik (Last week: N/A)

ASIK BACK! Sort of. We saw tiny blips of Asik’s old self this week, but he (understandably) looked exhausted after the first three or four trips up the court. Against the Timberwolves he was tasked with covering Kevin Love for one stretch, and instead of sticking around the rim, Asik had to worry about covering the perimeter (not his forte). Love burned him. A dunk happened, though!

8) Francisco Garcia (Last week: N/A)

With 8.5 seconds remaining in the first half against Washington, John Wall tried to inbound the ball from his own baseline. He couldn’t. Why? Francisco Garcia was hopping up and down in front of his face, waving his arms and being a general nuisance. There are other reasons why that five-second violation occurred, but noting them would distract you from Garcia’s only accomplishment of the week.

7) Terrence Jones (Last week: 2)

Tough week for Terrence Jones. He couldn’t guard Kevin Love (who can?) without fouling, and committed a few costly turnovers towards the end against Washington. Jones didn’t have his typical impact on the glass, either, and on offense wasn’t good for more than an occasional high-flying alley-oop. Have we reached the point where Jones should refrain from any more three-point attempts?

6) Donatas Motiejunas (Last week: 7)

Donatas Motiejunas was better than Terrence Jones this week. For Houston, that’s better news than heading into the All-Star break on a seven-game win streak. Not that Jones struggling is a good thing, but for them to have two super cheap, young guys contribute and show week-to-week improvement is fantastic. Motiejunas was aggressive off the dribble (somehow he caught Jan Vesely in a torture rack out at the elbow), made quality defensive rotations, and, generally speaking, looked like a player who deserves legitimate minutes.

There was one play against Minnesota when Motiejunas sprinted up the floor, caught a pass over his shoulder while going full speed beneath the basket, and still managed to lay it in. This was marvelous. Also, Bill Worrell said “3-Mo for D-Mo” when Motiejunas made a wipe open three, and it made me laugh. Who isn’t enjoying this season of Rockets basketball?

5) Jeremy Lin (Last week: 4)

Lin’s defense was nothing short of great this week. He was up on his man time and time again—whether it be J.J. Barea, Ricky Rubio, Brandon Knight, whoever—thwarting drives to the hoop and sticking tight off the ball. This was good to see.

On the other end, Lin wasn’t bad. He nearly shot 50% from the floor and 40% from the three-point line, but Houston scored 8.1 more points per 100 possessions with him on the bench.

4) Patrick Beverley (Last week: 6)

Beverley made seven threes out of his 13 attempts this week, most of them wide open. How many times did he turn it over? Zero. That’s a good number, right?

For the second week in a row, Houston has played out of their minds when Beverley is on the court. He missed Wednesday night’s game against the Wizards, but was fantastic in the other two, driving to the basket, creating shots for himself and others. The Rockets were 20.5 points per 100 possessions better than the Bucks and Timberwolves with Beverley on the floor this week. That number is monstrous, and firmly attests to Beverley’s maniacal brand of complimentary basketball.

3) Chandler Parsons (Last week: 3)

Okay, so Parsons was awesome this week with the ball in his hands. It appears he’s finally mastered the lob to Dwight Howard, and in all three games connected on several from different spots on the floor. Parsons was aggressive in traffic and shot 51.4%, too. I say this every week, but whatever, here goes again: he’s SO GOOD ON OFFENSE. Okay, now onto a couple defensive mishaps.

 

That first screen shot came moments after Jeremy Lin made a three on the other end. It’s not doctored, and I don’t even know how to use photoshop. Why Parsons (or any of his teammates) didn’t get back on defense on a routine play is beyond me.

The second screen shot came after Parsons poked the ball away from Nene and, thinking he had a steal, rushed out to the other end for a fast break opportunity. Instead the Wizards recovered the loose ball almost instantly, and Nene found a wide open Bradley Beal on the wing. Houston’s defense is ranked in the top-10, but both these plays are symptomatic of a lingering issue that will probably prevent any true success in the playoffs.

2) James Harden (Last week: 5)

My weekly criticism of Harden’s defense will commence shortly, but first: Does it really need to be said that Harden’s positive impact on offense GREATLY outweighs his negative impact on the other end? I wrote something similar last week, but sometimes it feels like Harden and Dwight Howard are the two best players in the league who have their weaknesses talked about more than their strengths. I’m guilty of doing this, as you’ll read later, but whenever I write something critical I just sort of assume people understand how great these guys are on a consistent basis, and how awful their team would be if they didn’t play.

A freaking Euro-step with four seconds left to win the game? Are you kidding? Who does that? The timing and body control was breathtaking. The calmness of it all. Harden turned it over a bunch this week, but he also averaged 25.3 points per game and was automatic at the free-throw line. His strength on drives to the basket is incredible, as is his ability to stop on a dime (does anyone know the meaning behind that saying?) and float a lob pass to Howard or Terrence Jones. (He tried to toss one to Asik, but there was little chance he was jumping up for it.)

Anyway, Harden is really awesome and the Rockets wouldn’t be in the playoff hunt without him, atrocious defense and all.

Speaking of atrocious defense…

…Trevor Ariza made 10 three-pointers during Wednesday’s game, most coming with Harden as his defender. This was one.

1) Dwight Howard (Last week: 1) 

Howard was great this week. He made his free-throws (67.9%!), hoarded rebounds against two solid rebounding teams (and the Bucks without Larry Sanders, who played five minutes before breaking a bone in his face), and ate Vesely and Gorgui Dieng whole. But this week, Howard’s most impressive plays were passes. His assists weren’t simple kick-outs, either. When double teams came he repeatedly found an open shooter spotting up on the weak side. These passes crippled the Milwaukee Bucks, and usually ended up as three more points for the Rockets.

When Howard sat Houston’s offense was beyond atrocious. Only 30 minutes, but still, 75.7 points per 100 possessions? That’s “three Bud Lights deep before the opening tip in my rec game” bad.

Michael Pina has written for Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Bleacher Report, Sports On Earth, and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.

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Total comments: 27
  • Sir Thursday says 2 months ago

    I had no clue we were that boring. We can get stagnant on offense, but doesn't everyone. Can't help the hack a howard, and Harden attempts approx. 9 fts a game which is maybe 5 mins of the time. Plus he is always good for at least one of those crazy and 1s driving down the left side of the lane. Beverely is exciting to watch on D. D-mo can have some exciting moments twisting in the post. The last 10 games we have had about 6-8 alley oops a game. Jones is one of the more exciting young players in the league. How many other players have you seen get blocks on the perimeter, and throw it down on the other end? I love it! Casspi also has some really random awesome alley oops. Okay I am definitely biased, but we can't be the least exciting team in the league. I have watched some horrible games, especially in the Eastern conference.

    As to Golden State, they can be extremely exciting when they are hot. They also get cold at times, and can be almost as painful to watch as when we get cold. Everyone jack up shots and hope they go in. Their offense hasn't really been that great this year.

    I wouldn't say we are the most boring team in the league, but take a look down the list of Western Conference playoff teams with an objective eye and I would hazard that NBA sportswriters would probably prefer to watch most of them ahead of the Rockets. Maybe we could ask writers on twitter or something? (I sent a tweet to Zach Lowe, will see if it piques his interest).

    ST

  • dood says 2 months ago

    I'll give you that Steph Curry has put together a couple of the best statistical seasons by a shooting guard ever. Until he accomplishes more than stats and can do it over a longer period I think it overstates his significance to the game when you consider guys like Jordan, Drexler, McGrady, Bryant, Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Mitch Richmond (before he got hurt), Manu, Maravich, Vince Carter, Joe Dumars, Earl "The Pearl", Iverson, Wade, Gervin....and others.

    I agree that he is an exciting player and has the potential to leap frog a lot of those guys I listed above. Of course, injuries, fate, and circumstance will have a lot to say about that--same as it did for those guys.

    Yeah, as Ostrow said, I meant guards in the aspect of shooting, not guards that play the 2, which are two totally separate claims, my fault for the ambiguity. And stat lines alone don't do Curry any justice (I know this can be said about a lot of players, but especially so in this case).

  • txtdo1411 says 2 months ago

    I had no clue we were that boring. We can get stagnant on offense, but doesn't everyone. Can't help the hack a howard, and Harden attempts approx. 9 fts a game which is maybe 5 mins of the time. Plus he is always good for at least one of those crazy and 1s driving down the left side of the lane. Beverely is exciting to watch on D. D-mo can have some exciting moments twisting in the post. The last 10 games we have had about 6-8 alley oops a game. Jones is one of the more exciting young players in the league. How many other players have you seen get blocks on the perimeter, and throw it down on the other end? I love it! Casspi also has some really random awesome alley oops. Okay I am definitely biased, but we can't be the least exciting team in the league. I have watched some horrible games, especially in the Eastern conference.

    As to Golden State, they can be extremely exciting when they are hot. They also get cold at times, and can be almost as painful to watch as when we get cold. Everyone jack up shots and hope they go in. Their offense hasn't really been that great this year.

  • Buckko says 2 months ago Yes watching curry throw up miracle contested shots and watching the rest of their team brick is amazing to watch... That team screwed themselves with the iggy deal. Traded away their future, stunted Barnes, killed their cap with 48 million deal for a stat line of 10/4/3.
  • Ostrow says 2 months ago

    I think he meant shooting Guard, not Shooting Guard. Not positive though

  • thejohnnygold says 2 months ago

    I'll give you that Steph Curry has put together a couple of the best statistical seasons by a shooting guard ever. Until he accomplishes more than stats and can do it over a longer period I think it overstates his significance to the game when you consider guys like Jordan, Drexler, McGrady, Bryant, Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Mitch Richmond (before he got hurt), Manu, Maravich, Vince Carter, Joe Dumars, Earl "The Pearl", Iverson, Wade, Gervin....and others.

    I agree that he is an exciting player and has the potential to leap frog a lot of those guys I listed above. Of course, injuries, fate, and circumstance will have a lot to say about that--same as it did for those guys.

  • dood says 2 months ago

    Yes, GS gets more attention because they're 10x more exciting to watch than the Rockets; in fact, Steph Curry alone is more exciting to watch than the whole Rockets team combined. He's one of the (arguably) best shooting guards ever with a lethal shot off the dribble and has a permanent green light which combines for a very unique style of play. Contrast that with Harden and Howard who shoot way too many free throws (hack-a-howard + harden's tendency to draw fouls) and it's pretty obvious which team will be more exciting to watch.

    That being said, the Rockets are a significantly better team (IMO) and I don't really have much confidence on teams that rely too much on outside shooting come playoff time (whereas we can feed the beast). Also, Steph Curry seems pretty inconsistent, he has a lot of hot and cold games (so fun to watch when he's hot though..).

  • feelingsupersonic says 2 months ago I completely agree Buckko, the Warriors are fools gold.
  • Buckko says 2 months ago

    The Warriors also play a much more flawed way of basketball, so those little miracles are nice but they're not taking them anywhere.

  • BrentYen says 2 months ago

    Too bad ROX had to play MEM back to Back. I believe it would be different if we play them later.

  • thejohnnygold says 2 months ago

    Are we taking San Antonio's "most boring team in the league" title?

    It makes sense. Watching Dwight in the post is not much more exciting that watching Tim Duncan go glass 15 times a game. People want to see crazy cross-over, blow-by, posterizing dunks every play.

    One of my favorites happened in the WAS game. I love when the ball never touches the floor from end to end. I believe it went Howard (rebound), Harden, Parsons if memory serves. It's like Pong, but different :)

    I think the Rockets, once Memphis was finished crushing their souls, have been playing a more exciting brand of basketball--making the extra passes that lead to better shots. The post-ups and free throws aren't going anywhere, but if we can sandwich those with some nice, pass-happy offense I think people will begin to appreciate us more.

  • NickyK says 2 months ago

    Just as we have discussed before there is a bias favoring Golden State. I personally don't find the Warriors that enjoyable to watch but I am pretty biased. I'm okay with the Rockets flying under the radar.

    Warriors is a fun team, just look at how many games they have won coming from behind (often by big margin). They are going to be awesome if they can cut down TO. Rockets, on the other hand, is playing boring and predictable game.....selfish Harden and hacking Howard plays. :(

  • PhillyCheese says 2 months ago

    Houston is not exactly a hotbed media capital. Howard is good with the fans and the media, but Harden is not yet there and seems like he just wants to be left alone. Parsons tries but his game is not that exciting either and he is not yet a star. Plus football is the dominant sport over basketball.

    Sorry, what was this thread about?

  • thenit says 2 months ago It's because we are not that exciting to watch. It's Howard and harden to the free throw line a lot of stop and go. There is no flow. Unless you are a houston fan it's not as entertaining to watch as to watch the warriors.
  • BrentYen says 2 months ago

    Belittling happens a lot to teams and players, and I think most of the media were wrong a lot of times too. What they say probably does not matter at all, except when considering a player or team's perceived ranking/value.

  • Buckko says 2 months ago I just can't stand the media constantly belittling us.
  • Sir Thursday says 2 months ago

    Just as we have discussed before there is a bias favoring Golden State. I personally don't find the Warriors that enjoyable to watch but I am pretty biased. I'm okay with the Rockets flying under the radar.

    While being on the West Coast in a big market helps, I don't think that bias accounts for all of the love GS gets. Stephen Curry is incredible to watch when he's on in a manner nobody on the Rockets can come close to. That gets more eyes on Warriors games and when they do post beatdowns they get people thinking about how they could be contenders. It's only natural to ascribe more weight to that which you enjoy. If the Rockets' style was aesthetically pleasing enough that writers would go out of their way to watch, I suspect it'd be Houston getting the press.

    It's illustrative that most of their press came after they went on that 10 game winning streak (and should probably serve as a cautionary tale for ourselves when evaluating our current run). It will be interesting to see what gets written about the Rockets if they can sustain their run coming out of the All-Star break.

    Like you I don't mind too much that the Rockets are under the radar. It's just that I'm always interested in how that sort of thing comes about.

    ST

  • feelingsupersonic says 2 months ago

    Just as we have discussed before there is a bias favoring Golden State. I personally don't find the Warriors that enjoyable to watch but I am pretty biased. I'm okay with the Rockets flying under the radar.

  • Sir Thursday says 2 months ago

    New post: Player Power Rankings: Week 16
    By: michael pina

    6) Donatas Motiejunas (Last week: 7)
    Donatas Motiejunas was better than Terrence Jones this week. For Houston, that's better news than heading into the All-Star break on a seven-game win streak. Not that Jones struggling is a good thing, but for them to have two super cheap, young guys contribute and show week-to-week improvement is fantastic. Motiejunas was aggressive off the dribble (somehow he caught Jan Vesely in a torture rack out at the elbow), made quality defensive rotations, and, generally speaking, looked like a player who deserves legitimate minutes.
    There was one play against Minnesota when Motiejunas sprinted up the floor, caught a pass over his shoulder while going full speed beneath the basket, and still managed to lay it in. This was marvelous. Also, Bill Worrell said "3-Mo for D-Mo" when Motiejunas made a wipe open three, and it made me laugh. Who isn't enjoying this season of Rockets basketball?

    The answer to that last question is probably "people who aren't Rockets fans". I've seen quite a few articles complaining about the Rockets' style of play, and their arguments have some merit ("Their games are full of interminable trips to the free-throw line and Harden isos, so dull/painful!"). In the national conversation the Rockets are often put in the same bracket as Golden State, but of the two the Warriors get all the love because they are much more fun to watch, even though the Rockets are doing much better.

    ST

  • Buckko says 2 months ago Both are true points but both Lin and harden are very effective so it doesn't mean Lin is bad. Just harden is more effective and the starters are far better than the bench.
  • Steven says 2 months ago It means th offense scores more when Harden controls the ball, then when Lin does.
  • BrentYen says 2 months ago

    I think it simply means bench players are less productive than starters.

  • LOFlcopter says 2 months ago

    Hey guys, can someone explain this part to me?

    "On the other end, Lin wasn’t bad. He nearly shot 50% from the floor and 40% from the three-point line, but Houston scored 8.1 more points per 100 possessions with him on the bench."

    Trying to understand why that is, when Lin is generally shooting pretty efficiently. Is it because Lin has regressed from last year as playmaker, so even though he is shooting well he is not helping the other Rockets score as much? Is it because of issues with fit (the Rockets starting 5 just have more synergy together than with Lin?)? Or are the numbers possibly skewed a little bit because Lin plays most of his minutes with bench players (who, as a whole, are less productive whether Lin plays with them or not?) Thanks!

  • timetodienow1234567 says 2 months ago Not so say that Harden isn't capable as a defender just that his reputation is well earned.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 2 months ago I think it's confidence. Guys KNOW there isn't a real defender on them(Harden) so feel more confident which helps get them going. Confidence plays a big role in basketball.
  • IvyShy98 says 2 months ago

    One could argue it would not have come down to Harden hero ball had Arivawitzki not scored a career high. Didn't someone also do a piece on the disproportionate percentage of Harden's man having "career" games? Same old chicken and egg dilemna.

  • txtdo1411 says 2 months ago

    Lin's defense was pretty spectacular this week. I was really impressed with how he handled Wall. Wall is super quick, and can get to the rim at will, so it was nice to see Lin able to handle it for the most part. Those images of Harden and Parsons are really funny and really sad at the same time. I don't know what it is, but we are good for about 5-10 of these lapses a game where we just completely forgot what guarding the perimeter is. D-mo's confidence is at an all time high, and I love the combination of our young PFs. Both with extremely different skill sets, but both growing into quality players. Nice to see after so much debate on how the Rockets should approach the PF position last off season. Nice to be able to look internally and develop two young players that are only going to get better. Garcia's stroke looked better than it has all season. He did clank one off the side of the backboard, and stepped out of bounds on a corner 3. Overall it looked semi-better maybe probably :rolleyes: