Every Friday, I rank the active Rockets (who see the floor) based on their performance from the previous week. For last week’s rankings, here you go. Jordan Hamilton, Omer Asik, and Donatas Motiejunas were covered further in yesterday’s column.
12/13) Trisaiah Danaan
(Get it?) These two logged some garbage time minutes against the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls, aaaaand that about sums it up.
11) Omri Casspi
Casspi is now a garbage time guy. It’s sad, but necessary.
10) Francisco Garcia
Looking for a boost (maybe?), Kevin McHale called on Francisco Garcia to light a fire under Houston as they slogged behind Oklahoma City. It actually sort of worked, with the veteran hitting some threes and drawing some anger out of Kevin Durant. That was nice.
But for Garcia to enter last night’s game before Jordan Hamilton didn’t make a ton of sense. In no way is Garcia the better player, and it isn’t the best idea for McHale to reconfigure the rotation after every little hiccup.
9) Omer Asik
Wrote a lot of nice things about Asik yesterday. But all that’s left is basketball death.
8) Jordan Hamilton
So, Hamilton’s minutes have been…interesting. He was huge against Portland, then didn’t really play in the second half against the Thunder. Francisco Garcia gobbled up some of his time in last night’s loss to Chicago, too. I wrote more about Hamilton yesterday.
7) Terrence Jones
When Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Chandler Parsons all aren’t playing well, there’s literally a 0% chance Terrence Jones will pick up the slack. His athleticism has been a revelation this season, but he’s still too dependent on those other guys to do all the heavy lifting on offense.
Defensively, there were a few plays against Portland’s large front line where Jones made a perfect rotation but was still tossed aside at the rim.
6) Donatas Motiejunas
I wrote more about Motiejunas yesterday, but would like to point out that he was the only Rocket (besides Jeremy Lin) who showed up for last night’s game. That isn’t necessarily saying a lot, but Motiejunas is beginning to come into his own as a surprisingly quick man-to-man defender.
This may be due to the confidence he has knowing either Omer Asik or Dwight Howard is standing behind him at all times, prepared to block a shot should Motiejunas’ man blow past him, but against Taj Gibson he was fantastic, taking a charge (that sent Gibson to the bench), knocking the ball away, staying grounded on pump/head fakes in the post.
It was really good to see, and probably he only positive takeaway from Houston’s most pathetic loss of the season.
5) Patrick Beverley
When he’s knocking down threes, converting tough floaters, and turning 30,000 faces a violent shade of red, Patrick Beverley is first team NBA All-Emotional Impact. I’m sure thousands of people detest his antics and wish he’d play nice, but Beverley isn’t in this league on physical ability alone. If he didn’t play the way he does, with such physicality and aggressiveness, he wouldn’t be an NBA player.
Sometimes Beverley goes too far, and turns into an uncontrollable antagonist; sometimes that notoriety bites him in the ass. Russell Westbrook Hannibal Lecter’d Beverley up and down the court last week, proving true the long held belief that unnecessarily riling up one of the best players in the league isn’t always a great idea.
But more times than not, Beverley dances on the productive side of mania. It’s a pleasure to watch whenever it happens.
4) Chandler Parsons
Parsons drove to the basket quite a bit this week, and his mid-range pull up game poses a difficult dilemma for defenses everywhere. He’s knocking down runners, getting all the way to the rim, throwing a vicious pump fake before knocking down a mid-range jumper.
He’s always adding subtle wrinkles to his offense, but the other end remains craptacular. Although, I will say his on-ball defense against Kevin Durant wasn’t terrible.
3) Dwight Howard
It’s no mystery: the Houston Rockets won’t beat the Oklahoma City Thunder until Dwight Howard plays like Dwight Howard. Kendrick Perkins didn’t even play in this go around, but Howard still couldn’t deal with OKC’s Steven Adams, Hasheem Thabeet, Nick Collison hydra dragon. This is officially a concern.
Last night, Howard didn’t really get into the game until there were a few minutes remaining in the second half. He was drawing fouls away from the ball, flying out to contest jump shots, sucking up rebounds, blocking weak dunk attempts (Howdy, Carlos!), and even throwing in a couple hook shots for good measure.
At halftime, he crawled back into his cocoon only to emerge 20 minutes later as a scary turnover monster. Meanwhile, Joakim Noah was one assist away from a triple-double. I still think it’s ludicrous to put Chicago’s center ahead of Howard on the All-NBA first team, but if last night’s the only sample you’re using to vote, then Noah is clearly the superior player.
2) Jeremy Lin
Something interesting happened with 12 seconds left in the first quarter of Houston’s win over Portland. Jeremy Lin came off a high screen, saw the big man in his face giving him a healthy cushion, and pulled up for a mid-range jumper. It went in.
For the season, only 16.7% of Lin’s field goal attempts have come between 10 and 23 feet from the basket. This should surprise zero people, since he plays for the Houston Rockets. But maybe, when he’s stuck in a shooting tailspin, Lin should tighten his range a bit. He’s not a bad mid-range shooter.
The long two is widely frowned upon, but there are instances where it might be acceptable, especially when the defense is giving him a wide open look.
All that said, he was aggressive down the stretch against Portland, and hit a monstrous go-ahead three with just over a minute to go. That Lin-Beverley-Harden-Parsons-Howard lineup is a tornado. And he was fantastic against the Bulls when nobody else came to play.
1) James Harden
Heading into last night’s abomination in Chicago, James Harden was averaging 32.3 points (on a high volume and INSANE 47.0/58.3/87.5 shooting split), 6.3 assists, and 7.3 rebounds in 40.3 minutes over this week’s games.
These games did not come in a triple-header against the Cavaliers. The opponents were tough cookies: the Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s fair to say Houston caught all three at the absolute best time (including the Thunder, who won), but that’s besides the point when you look at how efficient and commanding Harden’s numbers are. (It’s also a three-game sample size.)
Side bar: Only a tiny handful of players should be allowed to pull up for three off a high screen when their defender follows them above it. Harden might be number one on that list. (Brandon Jennings comes in at #467.)
It’s one of his most savagely unstoppable moments. How do you guard this without totally compromising your entire team defense? My head hurts just thinking about it.