Every Friday all season long I’ll be ranking every active player (who sees the floor) on the Houston Rockets based on his performance from the previous week. If you missed last week’s installment, here you go.
I had the good fortune of attending Friday night’s contest in Oakland, my first time in the Oracle, and the last time I’ll ever see Dwight Howard sink a corner three. Many of this week’s observations will be taken from that experience.
Also, semi-related: this week was another hectic travel period for me (hopefully my last of 2013?), so PPR won’t be as in-depth as I’d like it to be. Thanks for understanding, and hope all Red94’s readers enjoy a Happy Holiday!
12) Ronnie Brewer (Last week: 11)
Two nights ago against the Chicago Bulls, Ronnie Brewer converted a nifty reverse layup against his former team. It made Jeff Van Gundy say nice things about Houston’s depth. Go Ronnie Go!
11) Donatas Motiejunas (Last week: 10)
He isn’t getting better on the defensive end, and he isn’t getting minutes. Why not let him get some burn in the D-League? Seriously, send him down there, let him ball, let him improve Someone explain why that’s a problematic idea?
10) Greg Smith (Last week: N/A)
If someone not named Dwight Howard or Omer Asik is capable of improving Houston’s standing as the 20th ranked defensive rebounding team in the league, it’s Greg Smith. Nobody talks about Smith, but he’s an efficient big with nice hands and solid touch, and him playing well casts a wider net on what the Rockets can ask for while shopping Asik.
He scored 10 points in 34 minutes this week, but it’d be nice to see him get to the free-throw line.
9) Jeremy Lin (Last week: 8)
Lin can’t stay healthy. Upon returning from a knee injury, he immediately found himself sidelined after the Warriors game with back spasms. In that contest he was understandably underwhelming, scoring eight points and turning it over four times in 21 minutes.
8) Aaron Brooks (Last week: 7)
Jeremy Lin was out, but Brooks wasn’t able to take consistent advantage of an expected minutes increase. He scored 13 points on eight shots against the Kings, but followed that up with two points on five missed shots against the Bulls.
7) Terrence Jones (Last week: 3)
I wrote this last week, but it carried into this week so I’ll write it again. It isn’t fair to play Terrence Jones at center. At times it’s also irrational. In Golden State, Kelvin Sampson opted to play Jones at the five whenever Howard needed a rest, even though a perfectly healthy seven-foot tall Donatas Motiejunas was on the bench.
Golden State’s Marreese Speights turned into Karl Malone, abusing Jones and the rest of Houston’s undersized frontcourt. Again, this isn’t Jones’ fault, but it’s not like he made up for it on the other end. In three games last week Jones averaged 4.7 points on 26.3% shooting. No threes were made, either.
Jones is a super young energy guy, and playing him out of position is starting to damage other parts of his game.
6) Omri Casspi (Last week: 4)
This was easily Casspi’s least impressive week of the season. He shot 35% from the floor and posted a negative number in plus/minus. There’s nothing to be too concerned with, though. Casspi simply missed some threes that he’d spent the season sinking. They’ll fall again.
5) Francisco Garcia (Last week: 9)
Finally used as something more than a streaky spot-up up shooter, Garcia was incredibly effective down the stretch against Golden State as a pick-and-pop partner with James Harden. On almost every trip down the court, Garcia would screen Harden’s man and either force a switch, create an open shot for himself, or a slick driving lane for Houston’s leading scorer.
4) Patrick Beverley (Last week: 6)
Safe to say this was the best week of Patrick Beverley’s season. Numbers aside (including 12.3 points on a 56/40/71.4 shooting split), it was when he showed up that leaves a mark. Beverley was sensational in the 4th quarter against Golden State, taking four shots and missing none of them. Despite an insane crowd and the endless threat of delirious wizardry from Stephen Curry, the Rockets were seven points better than the Warriors in the nine minutes Beverley played during that frame. The 7.00 assist to turnover ratio doesn’t hurt.
3) Chandler Parsons (Last week: 5)
From this moment forward, Chandler Parsons is no longer ChandlerBang. Instead, in his moments of on-court glory, we will shout “Buffalo Jeans!”
Anyway, Buffalo Jeans was a (basketball) stud this week, with all-around numbers that settled above the clouds. He was Houston’s second leading scorer (20.3 points per game) and trailed only Dwight Howard in fouls drawn, with 4.3 per game.
2) James Harden (Last week: 2)
Sinking two free-throws while balancing on one foot in Sacramento was aristocratic, but dropping 19 points on 13 shots in 35 minutes three days later against the Chicago Bulls was mesmerizing. Harden led all players with a +22 in that one, by the way.
1) Dwight Howard (Last week: 1)
The aforementioned three-pointer was great, and moments after it went in, the hush that befell the crowd reminded me of one time back in the 7th grade when a kid in my Spanish class sprayed several square feet of the room with vomit while our teacher distributed the Final exam.
Howard’s three wasn’t as gross, but it hypnotized the room. He spent the rest of the week on a tear, making 61.9% of his free-throws and 71.4% of his shots from the floor, most of them coming on the prettiest post-moves Howard’s made in a few years.
Michael Pina has bylines at Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Bleacher Report, Sports On Earth, and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.