USA! USA! – It’s no surprise that Dwight Howard and James Harden have been included in the 28-man pool of names that Team USA will be chosen from for the next three summers. Howard began his international career back in 2006, but since winning gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics he has missed the last six years, including his time away for back surgery. And Harden, whose profile has only risen since he came to Houston, even made the gold medal-winning team at the 2012 London Olympics when he was just a sixth-man for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The complete list:
Backcourt: Harden, Bradley Beal, Steph Curry, Gordon Hayward, Andre Iguodala, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Korver, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Klay Thompson, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams.
Frontcourt: Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Carmello Anthony, Tyson Chandler, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Kevin Durant, Kenneth Faried, Paul George, Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, David Lee and Kevin Love.
What is surprising though, is one name that was left off the list: Chandler Parsons. And rather than give any kind of diplomatic coach-speak, Parsons opened up and told us how he really feels.
“I’m not happy about it,” Parsons said. “I’m frustrated. I feel like I definitely belong on that team, can help and be a good piece to the team. I think my versatile game would translate well to that team. I’m upset and frustrated I didn’t make it.”
And (with a heavy dose of bias sprinkled on) I agree with him. You can make a case for young guys like Beal and Hayward, who provide youth and variety over adding a third Rocket player. I imagine David Lee got in as something of a lifetime achievement award, although his play does fit the international game even more so than NBA-ball. Kyle Korver provides something few others in the world can offer, and Kawhi Leonard is probably a wash with Parsons. But names like Deron Williams and Kenneth Faried seem out of place next to the elite players featured on this list. Williams, in the few games he manages to suit up, has been a shell of his former self. Faried has failed to continue his development, and without one of the deepest rosters in the league to run with, may have even regressed.
Parsons has already shown that his game fits perfectly playing next to other stars, and while he may not have made the senior-Olympic team, he definitely deserved a shot to play in the World Cup of basketball in Spain this summer.
Hack-a-Harden – Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry controls the NBA shot chart game. And he loves talking Morey-ball. More specifically, he loves talking James Harden. This time, it’s about Harden’s innate ability to draw fouls all over the court.
According to data collected by the league, James Harden ranks fourth in shooting fouls drawn, while Howard is fifth. However, Harden is the only guard in the top five, which speaks to his unusual knack of getting to the line…
Despite attempting only 223 shots within eight feet of the hoop this season, Harden has drawn 84 shooting fouls in that zone. In other words, Harden draws 38 shooting fouls per 100 shot attempts close to the basket. The NBA average is 22. Harden has the highest such ratio in the league close to the basket. The only other player who’s close is Kevin Durant, the best scorer on planet Earth, who has drawn 37 shooting fouls per 100 close-range attempts.
While Harden’s free throws per game are down from last year’s astronomical 10.2pg, at 8.9 he still shoots well over 2 free throws per game more than the next highest guard. And as Goldsberry states in the piece, a two-shot foul for James Harden translates to 1.6 points-per-possession, a number that dwarfs Portland’s league-leading 1.1 ppp.
The Dwight Howard-James Harden Rockets have started taking some flak nationally for the way their games can devolve into whistle-stopping free throw contests (I’m looking at you, Simmons). But the Rockets style of play is predicated on taking as many of the most efficient shots on the court as possible, and nothing beats free shots from the “opportunity” stripe. So do your thing, James.
Stats”R”Us – Some interesting numbers came out after last night’s win over the Sacramento Kings. Via Twitter:
In first 2 games back from injury, @patbev21 is a combined +57 in 62 minutes of action. Was +26 in Blazers win, +31 tonight against Kings.
— Jason Friedman (@JasonCFriedman) January 23, 2014
In past three games (since OKC second half) Rockets have had season-high for points in paint twice, 2nd-chance points 3 times.
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) January 23, 2014
What’s really remarkable about that Beverley number is that against two high-scoring point guards, Damian Lillard and Isaiah Thomas, Beverley was able to maintain such a high plus-minus. And it’s not like he just benefited from his five-man unit holding down the opposition’s lineup in his time on the court; he was +13 (Kings) and +14 (Blazers) higher than his next closest teammate in either contest. That means in neither game did the opposition ever get any kind of sustained runs while Beverley was on the floor. We knew he played D like a wolverine, but that is outstanding.
And as for the second stat, my initial reaction was that Terrence Jones’ run of late, and his propensity for beast mode-ing around the rim, would lead to something like that kind of stat. But seeing as Jones didn’t play in the last two games (although he did absolutely destroy Milwaukee inside), that can mean only one thing: Dwight Howard is getting it back. He averaged nearly 70% shooting over that three-game run, and had four offensive rebounds in each contest. Not to mention the Rockets in general, but especially Omri Casspi, have rebounded their own misses at a high rate (44 total, +8) over that same span. What it also means is that after going so frigidly, arctic, T1000-in-liquid-nitrogen cold in the second half against the Thunder, the Rockets and their coaching staff have switched gears and are playing a little more inside-out.
So while the Rockets are still mired in a season-long shooting slump from deep, at least fans can take solace that at least the Rockets are still fighting for all those misses.