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The Rockets Daily – December 24, 2013

All That Power – The Rockets maintained the 8th spot in Marc Stein’s Power Rankings this week. The committee of one writes:

James Harden remains hobbled and Omer Asik is still a Rocket, so all is not well. But it’s not exactly dire, either, when Houston sports the league’s seventh-best nightly point differential (+4.3) and when Dwight Howard is putting up 21 and 14 in December compared to 17 and 12 previously.

John Schuhmann at NBA.com also has Houston stagnating in 8th place:

Patrick Beverley – out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand suffered Saturday in Detroit – is Houston’s latest injury victim. Dwight Howard is the only Rocket to have played in every game, so it was nice that he was able to dominate the Pistons’ frontline to the tune of 35 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks. It would be nicer if Houston had a healthy James Harden for this week’s run through the Southwest Division.

Hollinger’s stats-based rankings aren’t so kind, putting Houston in 11th place as of Tuesday morning.

LoweballZach Lowe at Grantland unveiled a power ranking of his own, but this one is just for the Western Conference. The Rockets ranked 5th, in the category of “Just Plain Solid,” a category below the “Notch Above” reserved for San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Lowe sums the team up thusly:

Houston ranks a very solid 10th in points allowed per possession, but when they are bad, they look so hopelessly bad that you just can’t imagine them winning a playoff series against a good team.

But he goes on to make some observations about Dwight’s post game:

You might recall that about six weeks ago, I wrote that Dwight Howard’s post game was “dead, or at least on life support.” At that point, Howard had shot just 33 percent on post-ups, and he was turning the ball over on an embarrassing number of them — the continuation of a decline dating to Howard’s first wave of back issues in Orlando.

Gulp. In the 16 games since that column ran, Howard has shot 55-of-101 on post-ups — 55 percent! That would have ranked no. 3 among 70 players with at least 100 post-ups last season, per Synergy Sports.

You Are The Weakest Link – Last night against Dallas, Francisco Garcia shot 1-5 from behind the arc, and scored only 3 points in 35 minutes on the floor. That kind of got me thinking.

Garcia has a PER of 11.14 this year–the lowest of any rotation player in Houston. The only other player who comes close to that is Patrick Beverley (12.05), but his contributions on defense, which PER can’t really track, more than make up for it. Garcia’s Simple Rating on 82games.com, which is a combination of a player’s on/off court impact and the difference between his own production and his opponents, is a -2.5. Only Brooks’ rating is worse, but Brooks has not had near the number of minutes this season (Garcia averages about 20).

Zeroing in on what Garcia brings to the court, it should be three-point shooting and defense. Garcia is shooting right around 35 percent from three this year. In a vacuum, that’s not bad; it’s right around the league average. The problem is that shooting threes is the only thing Garcia does on offense. At 32 years old, his athleticism is mostly gone, and he has never had the ability to create anything off the dribble. He’s basically a designated shooter who doesn’t shoot very well.

On defense, he moves where he is supposed to, and uses his length effectively, but he’s still not going to lock down any elite scorers. He has basically become a very lanky version of Derek Fisher. He’s a guy who doesn’t make mistakes, but doesn’t have one skill with which he can really punish the other team.

With all of the Asik trade talk going around, and the need for wing players like Courtney Lee being mentioned repeatedly, I was a little worried about where said wing player would fit into the rotation with Parsons and Harden taking up big minutes. The answer was staring me in the face.

View this discussion from the forum.

About the author: John Eby got on the Rockets bandwagon in 1994 and never got off. He is a public relations guy and recovering TV journalist living in South Carolina.

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