Yesterday presented an unusually high volume of Rockets-related content across the web. Let’s start with the worldwide leader.
Forecast – According to the SCHOENE projection system (I think it’s like doppler radar, but for basketball), ESPN.com predicts Houston to win 54 games and finish third in the West behind San Antonio and the Clippers. That was just the postscript of Bradford Doolittle’s wide-ranging season preview on Insider. Also, the Pythagorean win projection for last season caught my eye:
“Houston eked into the postseason with 45 wins, but fashioned a point differential of a 52-win team, giving the youthful Rockets a promising baseline no matter what moves were made over the summer.”
This makes the SCHOENE projection for the coming season a little hard to understand. As Justin Wehr beautifully explained in these pages yesterday, another statistical measure, WP48, shows the Rockets having the potential to win a frightening number of games (it predicts 63 wins as “normal”). I’m not sure how the SCHOENE numbers add up to saying that adding Dwight Howard to a team full of young, developing players while losing no one but Carlos Delfino (and half-seasons of Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson) only adds two wins to your projected total. If the team should have won 52 games last season, it would seem that player and chemistry development alone would add up to two more wins in the projection. However, I wouldn’t take the SCHOENE numbers as a red flag for Houston’s performance this season. The same system predicts 54 wins for the world champion Miami Heat.
Our own Rahat Huq and Michael Pina dished insight in a 5-on-5 on the Rockets’ season. One thing that stands out from that article: 5 writers listed 4 different guys as the Rockets’ most intriguing player. Patrick Beverley was the only player named twice, getting nods from Pina and J.A. Adande.
Adande: Patrick Beverley. His playoff run was most notable for its impact on Russell Westbrook‘s meniscus, but before and after that moment, Beverley showed he belonged in the NBA playoffs by averaging 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds. Where does he go from here? And will his reception in Oklahoma City be even worse than Howard’s return to L.A.?
Pina: Patrick Beverley. A fiery on-ball defender who can also make 3s and attack the paint, Beverley deserves more playing time than the average backup point guard. Will he get it?
Since we’re riding on a high of Beverlove at the moment, check out this reel of his Jrue Holliday demolition from the other night, courtesy of Clutchfans.
As much as Jeremy Lin brings to the floor, he has never punked an All-Star like that. Although I still prefer Lin as the starter, I look forward to seeing Beverley and Howard on the floor together in the way a middle schooler looks forward to a monster truck rally. Sometimes I get giddy to see something get crushed.
Tinkering – Brian Windhorst has thoughts on what the Rockets might do to improve the roster, and assesses the Asik situation:
Finding a deal for Asik, though, will be tricky for the Rockets. Prying him away from the Chicago Bulls during restricted free agency in 2012 took an abnormal contract. Asik’s salary-cap number for the Rockets is a little more than $8 million this season and next. But because of the way the deal had to be structured to meet restricted free agency rules, Asik actually earns $20 million over the next two years. For the 2014-15 season, Asik is owed $15 million in actual salary, and that could be a stumbling block.
And until the second unit can figure out how to defend without the big Turk, it’s fine for him to stay where he is.
You’re Still You – A blogtable on NBA.com debating whether Dwight or LeBron would be the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year. I was somewhat surprised that many of the writers felt Howard could get it. Lang Whitaker was one of them:
Dwight. As versatile and powerful as LeBron can be, with the ability to defend basically every position on the court, I still believe a healthy Dwight is the most dominant defender in the NBA. Not only can he control the boards on both ends and block enough shots to rank among the league leaders, but his presence covers for all sorts of defensive inefficiencies from his teammates on nearly every possession. I’m pretty sure there’s some Schuhmann stat to back all this up. I’d still take LeBron as the better all-around player, but a dominant big man is the rarest of things these days.
An intense amount of doubt and dismissiveness about Howard’s abilities has been generated by the fan base of a certain team on the West Coast this year, but he’s still a three-time DPOY, and he made his team significantly better whenever he was on the court last year according to RAPM. If he’s happy and healthy, he’s scary.
The Manila Diaries – You say you want to hear Dwight Howard sing “I Believe I Can Fly” and dance to the “Cha Cha Slide?”
Ok. Fran Blinebury has you covered. And as an added bonus, you can read what Howard has to say about the team bonding during the Asia trip:
“It gives us a chance to get away from everything and just be with each other,” Howard said “The bus rides, the little things that we do.
‘We just get an opportunity to be with each other, especially with a team like this with a couple new guys, to get that opportunity to really bond, to know each other, the personalities. It think it’s really great and it’s going to help us in the season, because we already have a special bond that we developed.”
Perfect – Omer Asik ranked no. 64 in the ESPN Player Rankings. He beat Andrew Bogut by one spot, which is great news for anyone who enjoys the burgeoning Golden State/Houston rivalry.
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