The Rockets Daily – February 7, 2014

Sorry about my absence yesterday, dear reader.  To make it up to you, I doubled down on today’s Daily to get you through all the “work” you’re going to do today in anticipation of the weekend.  Enjoy.

Shooting Supreme – Ricky O’Donnell over at The Dream Shake has a pretty good breakdown of the crop of young shooting guards to come into the league in the last few years, finally bridging the gap from elder statesmen like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginobili and Ray Allen. The conversation started with the head-of-the class: The Beard.

James Harden, still just 24, is the household name here. So much attention was focused on what initially looked like a paltry return for Oklahoma City in the trade that sent him to Houston, but the real lesson of Harden’s situation lies in the benefit of added opportunity for young players. Harden showcased a full offensive arsenal as a member of the Thunder, but he wasn’t going to get the touches required to be a superstar with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sharing the floor. In his first game with the Rockets, Harden dropped 37 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals. He’s held the belt as the best shooting guard alive ever since.

As the likes of Bryant and Wade entered the golden years of their respective careers, 2-guards began to rival centers as the position with the least marquee talent in the Association.  Once upon a time OJ Mayo, Eric Gordon and Brandon Roy were considered the future of the position.  And while Roy was robbed of his chance at supplanting Kobe as the next great thing, the rest all fell short of expectations, leaving the position barren of anything resembling a young star at the position He created.  

That is, until James Harden showed up.  O’Donnell provided a chart showing just how far ahead of the curve Harden is in respect to his peers.


Granted, this chart only accounts for offensive contributions.  But only Lance Stephenson, Victor Oladipo and to a lesser extent Klay Thompson are really known for their two-way ability.  While Stephenson gets a lot of credit for playing on arguably the league’s best team, it’s kind of curious that NBA coaches voted Joe Johnson over him for the All-Star game.  And it’s odd to see Thompson with such a low PER considering he’s such an efficient shooter, although he doesn’t offer much else in the way of offense.  DeMar DeRozan has taken off since the cancer known as Rudy Gay was was dealt, averaging 24/5/4 since the trade.  And DeRozan’s teammate, Terrence Ross, is one of only nine players in NBA history with a 50-point game at such a young age, although that accomplishment didn’t exactly spell stardom for Brandon Jennings when he did it in 2009.  Ross and the rest of the group would be best classified as “still-developing” prospects, but all are unique talents.

Needless to say, the shooting guard position is trending up.  And with players such as Andrew Wiggins (seriously, how has no one thought to nickname him Ender yet?) and Marcus Smart coming up the pipeline, the conversation is only going to more crowded.  But for now, the Houston Rockets have the leader in the clubhouse.

#Jonesing – Last night on TNT, Grant Hill (with the help of Charles Barkley) and Chris Webber (with Kenny Smith assisting) selected their rosters for the Rising Stars Challenge, All-Star weekend.  The rosters are in order by their selection; Webber picked first and the rest was done in snake fashion.  The complete list:

Team Hill

-Damian Lillard (Portland, Soph.)
-Bradley Beal (Washington, Soph.)
-Andre Drummond (Detroit, Soph.)
-Harrison Barnes (Golden State, Soph.)
-Terrence Jones (Houston, Soph.)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee, Rookie)
Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto, Soph.)
-Dion Waiters (Cleveland, Soph)
-Pero Antic (Atlanta, Rookie)

Team Webber

-Anthony Davis (New Orleans, Soph.)
-Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia, Rookie)
-Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York, Rookie)
-Trey Burke (Utah, Rookie)
-Jared Sullinger (Boston, Soph.)
Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn, Rookie)
Victor Oladipo (Orlando, Rookie)
-Steven Adams (OKC, Rookie)
-Kelly Olynyk (Boston, Rookie)

I have to say, I am pretty disappointed in C-Webb for going the homer-route and taking two former Wolverines in his top-4.  We were robbed of seeing Terrence Jones play next to his old running-mate from Kentucky, first pick Anthony Davis.  Not to mention, Jones’ do-it-all skill set is ideal for this type of exhibition game.  And although (in my opinion) they didn’t select him high enough, they did have some nice things to say when his name did finally come up.

It is a fine compliment, although one they’ve been throwing around a lot lately.  Shaq is fond of calling David Lee “WCW” (White Chris Webber), which I’ve always found insulting to Webber.  I probably have a higher opinion of him than most, but there was nothing he couldn’t do when his team had the ball; he ran like a horse, could shoot out to 18-feet, passed like a guard and to say he could handle the ball is to say Leonardo Da Vinci could paint.  Lee has solid skills for a big man, but Webber was transcendent.

I don’t know if Jones will ever have the kind of ball skills Webber had, but he sure looks the part when he tears down a rebound, rumbles down court and lobs the alley to Dwight’s oop.  He and Andre Drummond should make for an exciting pair come All-Star weekend.

So are the Days of Our Lives – Admittedly, I’ve been pretty hard on Omer Asik since he’s been out for such an extended time with his thigh/knee injury.  But even I am looking forward to getting him back, whether it’s to showcase him before the deadline or get him back in the lineup and boost the Rockets bench.  And it looks like he’s finally getting close.

As I tried to swallow my cynicism in the previous paragraph about the timing of his miraculous recovery just in time for the deadline, I felt like Asik is speaking directly to me when he addressed the rumors about his injury.

“All the other stuff, everybody who says maybe that’s not an injury,” Asik said, according to the Chronicle. “But doctors and trainers can tell everyone it’s real and hopefully I am better now.

“Of course, I always want to play basketball no matter what. This is the first time in my NBA career that I had this long injury. So it has been tough, but I am feeling better now.”

Whether or not Asik has been sitting out voluntarily is a moot point anymore.  The Rockets would never say, lest they lose even more leverage in trying to trade such a disgruntled player, and the timing is such that it finally behooves both sides to get Asik back on the court as soon as possible.  It’s no secret that Asik wishes to be traded, and no team is going to meet the Rockets halfway if they believe he has lingering health issues.  On the other hand, the Rockets have a giant seven-foot hole on their bench and need to fill it, either with Asik or other pieces brought in by a trade.

Several weeks ago, when the original deadline set by Daryl Morey passed, I hoped the Rockets would keep Asik for the remainder of his deal and then pursue another star in the summer of 2015.  But my tune has changed over the past two months that Asik couldn’t manage to find the court.  I’ve had a rekindling in my feelings for Donatas Motiejunas, and I think Asik’s behavior (if my personal beliefs are indeed true) has been reprehensible.  As usual though, I will continue to have eternal trust that Morey will do right by his team.  He knows the extent of Asik’s injury and whatever the case, knows what must be done to continue towards the goal of a championship.

Captain BrowBeard – On Wednesday, I covered the conversation James Harden had with Henry Abbott while filming a Reebok commercial, also starring Anthony Davis.  The commercial was all over the internet in the following days, with various thoughts on it by multiple outlets.  Andrew Lynch of Hardwood Paroxysm had an interesting take on the whole thing, taking the premise from the end of the clip (that The Beard had become a Harden/Davis hybrid) and ran with it.

And it’s a terrifying thought for the NBA. Is there a more effective combination of skill sets and athletic abilities than the Beard and the Brow? Take Harden’s shooting, ball handling, finishing at the rim, and ability to get to the free throw line seemingly at will. Add Davis’s Inspector Gadget-length, defensive instincts, pick-and-roll prowess, and youth. Destroy all teams that stand in opposition to the basketball Frankenstein that arises.

First off, that “Finkle is Einhorn” line slayed me.  Second, he goes on, naturally, to ponder other hybrid “chimeras” that would lead to on-court destruction: A LeBron James/Roy Hibbert freight train, an in-his-prime Shaq/Steph Curry destroyer battleship; you get the point.

This got me thinking: what two players, past or present, would I want to see combined to form a basketball death machine?  Obviously, my thoughts immediately went to Hakeem the Dream, but since he already feels like an unfair hybrid (Kevin McHale/Serge Ibaka?), I decided to let my mind wonder.  Eventually, I ended up on Larry Bird.  His basketball instincts, sharpshooting and passing combined with Julius Erving’s power and grace; his athleticism and raw leaping ability, not to mention his mid-air artistry.  Maybe that doesn’t make the ultimate basketball monster that say, Wilt and Magic would, but it would definitely be one of a kind.  Like a 6’10, 210 pound butterfly that only eats 3-point bombs and free throw line dunks.  The only question is, does Dr. Legend take Erving or Bird‘s fro?

Feel free to use the forum to voice your picks for your favorite basketball hybrid.  Happy Friday, everyone.

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