Player Power Rankings: Week 19

Every Friday, I rank the active Rockets (who sees the floor) based on their performance from the previous week. Unfortunately, due to various scheduling conflicts, I had to take the past two weeks off. Hopefully too many tears weren’t shed by all you loyal, dedicated readers out there!

12) Troy Daniels 

Two minutes of garbage time that provided a zero in every statistical category. Welcome to the Red94 Player Power Rankings, Mr. Daniels!

11)  Isaiah Canaan

See above, minus the second sentence.

10) Omri Casspi

The arrival of Jordan Hamilton and a healthy Omer Asik has nudged Omri Casspi to the end of Houston’s bench. He’s barely in the rotation, and played just 16 minutes this week even though he shot the ball pretty well. 

9) Donatas Motiejunas

Interesting week from Donatas Motiejunas, who tries really hard, but looks out of his element. He’s still too timid at the rim, rushing shots when nobody’s around. This week, the Rockets averaged 80.3 points per 100 possessions with Motiejunas on the floor. Those units only knew two ways to play: fast and atrocious.

Kevin McHale is pairing Motiejunas with Omer Asik quite a bit, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for the youngster to provide spacing and show his potential on the offensive end. Rebounding won’t be a priority, and he looks comfortable as a defender on the perimeter. He has quick feet and solid instincts. It’s time he combines them. That talent is waiting to burst.

8) Omer Asik

Omer Asik is having a REALLY difficult time putting the ball in the basket. Catching passes at the rim and laying the ball in used to be OK, but his impact is now limited to setting screens and grabbing offensive rebounds.

He averaged 1.7 points this week, and shot 25% from the floor. But his defense, is, just, wow. So good. Asik finally looks like the guy from last year on that end, smothering pick-and-rolls and breaking out some imposing verticality at the rim.

He destroyed every Pistons ballhandler who dared challenge him, jumping straight in the air and sending the smaller guards crashing to the floor. Right now he’s one of the biggest luxuries in the league (no pun intended).

7) Jeremy Lin

Shooting woes continue for Jeremy Lin, who put up a 26.7/16.7/66.7 split while averaging barely 15 minutes per game this week. Unlike Beverley, who can contribute in so many different ways when his shot isn’t falling, Lin is a liability elsewhere. Here he is trying to guard Norris Cole on a simple high pick-and-roll.

He runs into D-Mo, and Cole knocks in a wide open jumper. As someone constantly looking for his own shot, Lin can be a detriment to his team when he isn’t confident and aggressive with the ball. His hesitations in the pick-and-roll led to more than a few bad turnovers, and he probably won’t see an increase in minutes until that shot starts to trickle in.

6) Jordan Hamilton

His numbers weren’t anything phenomenal this week, but Jordan Hamilton has easily tripled Daryl Morey and Kevin McHale’s expectations.

It was assumed he’d knock down the occasional open three as a catch-and-shoot threat, but Hamilton has looked so comfortable doing more on both ends.

He’s taking hand-offs into the paint, handling the ball in transition, reading the defense and reacting with smart decisions, sinking buzzer-beating runners. If I had to put the over/under on pick-and-rolls Hamilton would run this season, it’d be 2.5 and I’d take the under. This week he nearly ran one or two per game.

Hamilton’s defense has been solid, too, especially on the ball, which is exactly where the Rockets could really use some competence. On more than one possession, Dwyane Wade couldn’t get past him in the Miami game.

5) Chandler Parsons

Chandler Parsons shot just 22.2% on threes this week, but still put up solid all-around numbers: 14 points, five boards, 7.5 assists per game. He was active against the Heat, driving to the basket and showing off a nifty mid-range game, but was completely absent from the action early on in Orlando. The Rockets are a much better team when Parsons is taking the ball to the basket.

4) Terrence Jones

Do you ever feel like the Rockets are struggling when Terrence Jones is on the court? Me neither. This week Houston outscored opponents by 19.7 points per 100 possessions with him playing. He also dunked the ball 682 times in three games and demoralized Miami’s undersized front line. Here’s his shot chart from the week.

A truly horrifying moment (for the opposition) came against Orlando, when Jones broke out some extra funky handles and murdered Tobias Harris before scoring two points. Almost all his production is dependent on the play of others, but if Jones manages to make more plays like this one, the Rockets will be scarier than they already are. What starting five-man unit would be more formidable offensively than Houston?

3. Patrick Beverley

He wouldn’t agree, but this may have been the most important week of Patrick Beverley’s career. He’s been great all year, but for whatever reason this week just felt like a coming out party. The Rockets are playing exceptional basketball, and Beverley is one of their strongest personalities. More tangible rational: He shot the crap out of the basketball, filled every opponent’s heart with murderous rage, and propped his name on the national stage against Miami.

Beverley shot 47.6% on threes this week. He also attempted seven threes per game. Three games is a small sample size, but something about him doing it against the defending champs this late in the season feels significant. Surely it isn’t.

There are moments when Beverley tries pulling off just a little too much off the dribble, but in the regular season that stuff is fine. Obviously, Houston would prefer drives to the basket be handled by Chandler Parsons, James Harden, or even Jeremy Lin, but when Beverley misses a wild floater, you feel like he’ll immediately make up for it with a solid defensive play.

2. Dwight Howard

I wrote about Dwight being “underrated” yesterday, so all I want to say here is his game-opening drop step in Orlando was sublime poetry. That’s all, really. He was awesome this week.

1. James Harden

Tape of James Harden’s first quarter against the Detroit Pistons should be remembered as the basketball equivalent of Monet’s Woman in a Garden.

It was beautiful and simplistic. Harden did what he wanted. For the week, he averaged 24 points (on 54% shooting), 9.7 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game.

He commanded stretches against the Miami Heat with isolation plays that typically aren’t desired—and nearly threw the game away (literally) with a ridiculous pass in the closing moments—but also hit some shots that superstars get paid to take and make.

One interesting development of Harden’s game has come on the defensive end, where he’s suddenly playing too much defense. He’s fouling jump shooters left and right, and picked up two early fouls against Miami and Orlando. It’s almost as if he’s acknowledging the criticism people (rightfully) keep lobbing towards his sorry defensive effort. But fouling jump shooters won’t put you in good graces with anyone.

Michael Pina regularly contributes for Red94 and CelticsHub (ESPN’s TrueHoop Network), Sports On Earth, Bleacher Report, and The Classical. His writing can be found here. Follow him @MichaelVPina

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