Rockets Daily: Thursday, September 9th, 2010

  • Those who had felt the buzzing, warm feelings of connection after first hearing Carmelo Anthony wanted the Houston Rockets to be his next stop should prepare for the inevitable heartbreak associated with loving someone so popular: he doesn’t want us anymore. Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears reports that Anthony wants to live it up in the big city, Babe-style, and has now listed only the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls as preferred destinations. While Morey may be able to melt ice sculptures with a stare and sprinkle the magic dust that causes second-rounders’ PERs to skyrocket, even he may have little to no chance of making this one work, a deal many Rockets fans question Morey even wanted to make happen. As Rockets fans begin to settle in to a roster that may stay together for a little longer now, the newly revamped (and vastly improved) Bulls are left wondering something a lot similar to the Rockets: is he even worth it? By the Horns‘ Matt McHale wonders whether the Nuggets wing is even markedly better than Chicago’s current inefficient former All-Star playing the 3: “Which begs the question: Is Anthony an upgrade from Deng? I can hear the howls of dismay already, but bear with me for a minute. Yes, ‘Melo scores more than Deng (about 11 PPG more last season). But his Usage Rate is 33.4 (third in the league behind Dwyane Wade and LeBron) to Deng’s 21.9. Denver’s offense runs through Anthony, and he was carte blanche to shoot the ball. Not so for Luol. Furthermore, Anthony shot the ball less efficiently than Deng. Last season, ‘Melo’s Effective Field Goal Percentage was .478, while Deng’s was .482… It might also be worth stating that Luol’s career field goal percentage (.474) is higher than Anthony’s (.459). Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that Deng is a better scorer. It’s clear that Anthony has the more complete offensive skill set. What I’m saying is that his shooting efficiency is lower than Deng’s and his PPG stats almost certainly benefit from extra looks.”
  • While Rockets fans may have shades of phantom limb from all of the NBA 2K11 Rockets lineups built with Melo, at least the team never saw the man on the roster, only to see him leave without ever playing a game to go contribute greatly to another team. That is the collective misery of Spurs Nation, as 48 Minutes of Hell has taken a break from their regular programming to bring you the Lamenting of Luis Scola this week. On our TrueHoop sister blog for the Spurs, Scola has been called a “cornerstone”, the kind of player the Spurs should be seeking in 2010-11 instead of role players (like Tiago Splitter): “I watched and TiVo’d yesterday’s Brazil vs. Argentina game looking to write another Tiago Splitter post for those who might not have had the opportunity to watch it. Shortly after the game I deleted the program with almost nothing of note on Splitter, mostly because Luis Scola was too depressingly dominant to pay attention to anything else. There were other notable storylines to be sure… But the story of the night was best summarized in a Tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, ‘Scola goes into video game god mode to finish off Brazil. Wow.'”
  • gives the Houston Rockets a “summer report card” grade of a B. While few things should be read into an arbitrary grade of no one particular thing (it doesn’t particularly have to do with offseason acquisitions, yet it isn’t clear if it is simply an overall team rating. It basically means nothing), I do find the NBA’s piqued interest in the Rockets slightly fascinating, as it seems the rest of the league has lost the perception that when Rockets stars get injured and do not come back. During the McGrady Era, media outlets were so quick to dismiss our oft-injured stars and collection of “nobodies”. Of course, this “grade” was handed out by former Rockets beat writer Fran Blinebury, so the rest of the world may still be scoffing at Houston’s chances; for a day, though, the Rockets look to contend.
  • Ben Polk of A Wolf Among Wolves makes an excellent post about Kevin Love and the racial archetypes built within basketball. The Rockets have their own stereotype-bending Caucasian in sophomore Chase Budinger, a shoot-happy, high-flying athlete more adept at finishing on the fast break than any other player on the team (mostly thanks to Trevor Ariza getting his walking papers); players like Budinger have been playing outside of our presupposed racial limitations long before today on the court, but in many fans’ and media members’ minds, J.J. Redick, despite his insanely quick trigger and game-changing playmaking abilities, still finds a spot on a team like the Magic because he “plays the right (white) way”. Polk talks more about Love, his obvious gifts, which would look amazing from just about any color of skin (except green. Damn green people), and his less-than-expected behavior: “What’s compelling about Love is that he both conforms and diverges from the idealized picture.  True enough, when he is at his best, Love appears to be out-hustling every other player on the floor, to be compensating for his lack of size and leaping ability with a dogged work ethic. His passing skills and patience within the offense seem to speak to a willingness to share the ball, to unselfishly and intelligently play within systems. But, contrary to mythology, these skills are not simply moral achievements, the products of a well crafted, blue-collar soul. Kevin Love is a tremendously gifted natural athlete: his hands are terrifically strong; his vision and hand-eye coordination are preternatural. Moreover, we Wolves’ fans are well aware of his shortcomings as a teammate: his willingness to publicly criticize coaches; his 30-odd game flirtation with sulky, middling effort last season.”
  • The Rockets have not won a division title since 1994, the first time Houston brought home an NBA championship (meaning more championship banners, 1, have been hung up in the Rockets’ rafters than division titles since). Given the aging cores of both the Mavericks and Spurs, this would appear to be an attainable goal for Houston in the upcoming season. That is unless those teams got better this offseason, which it appears those Mavericks did. The Two Man Game‘s Rob Mahoney takes a look at the deal involving Erick Dampier’s gigantic non-guaranteed contract that Mavs fans had hoped would bring back a superstar in the Summer of LeBron, which brought back a bench center in Tyson Chandler instead. Mahoney found out that while the overall presence that Team USA’s lone true big may be overrated, particular aspects of his D could leave Mavericks opponents stifled and bothered: “In fact, if we use Hainline’s player swap tool, his system puts the Mavs at 1.9 fewer Pythagorean wins with Chandler than with Dampier based on both players’ offensive and defensive impact from last season… However, a look into each player’s individual defense does reveal a few interesting discrepancies. Take a look at how Chandler, Dampier, and Brendan Haywood each performed last season in various defensive capacities… By these measures, Chandler is actually a slight improvement over Dampier, and a far better pick-and-roll defender. In my initial analysis of the Dampier trade, I noted that although Chandler may not be supremely talented, there is value in variety. Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier are similar defenders, while Chandler, empirically speaking, separates himself with his defense of the pick-and-roll. That’s why even though the Mavs didn’t make any significant personnel upgrades, their D could still improve in the coming season.”
  •’s Jason Friedman adds to the chorus of praise for Not-Much-Leaping Luis Scola, comparing the nuances of his game to that of the new Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs: “I know you didn’t come here to hear me blather on about music but I think it speaks to my point (and my abject inability to ever be a music critic) when I tell you that I was utterly unimpressed by this album the first few times I listened to it all the way through. It didn’t hook me and it certainly didn’t capture my imagination the way their two previous releases had… That was a month ago. Today? I’m totally smitten and head over heels in love with its sonic landscape lush with complex colors, chords and lyrical wizardry… All of which is my convoluted way of steering the conversation toward the similarly ethereal Luis Scola. That he is once again dominating on the international stage is no surprise. The Rockets’ forward was a whirling dervish of a one-man wrecking crew for Argentina two years ago during the Summer Olympics in Beijing and he’s at it once more at the FIBA World Championships… The delicious irony, however, is that such a performance came from someone who couldn’t possibly appear more mortal (at least in a basketball sense, anyway).”
  • If you want to know why I like Twitter, it’s because of things like this. Oh, Kyle Lowry and Jameer Nelson like to talk to each other? Awesome. I expect a lot more “OH MY GOD, why are you taking th… oh, it went in off the backboard” shots from Mr. Lowry in the upcoming season.

in columns
  • rahat_huq

    Ron Artest is definitely the biggest enigma in basketball history. Dennis was just 'weird' and it was forced.

  • rahat_huq

    Ron Artest is definitely the biggest enigma in basketball history. Dennis was just 'weird' and it was forced.

  • Lyfestyle

    The efficiency stats really annoy me. Is it not an apples-to-oranges argument to say that a player like Carmelo Anthony isn't as efficient as generic role player #3, implying that a team of generic role players would beat a team of Carmelo Anthonys based on the irrefutable efficiency gospel?

    I'm an out-of-shape white guy who couldn't dribble or shoot, and thus I'd rarely do either. Yet, I would make 1 open shot out of 2 in any given game. All bow before my superiority to Carmelo Anthony.

    And aren't usage stats just as useless in determining effectiveness? What that stat seems to argue is that if you upped Deng's usage to Carmelo's level, his efficiency numbers would stay the same, thus making him the better player. But that's ridiculous – there's a reason Melo, Wade and LeBron had the highest usage numbers in the league… right?

    Am I totally wrong here?

  • Thomas

    It's certainly not a perfect comparison, but apples and oranges are still comparable nonetheless. Both are fruit. They are commercially farmed and harvested, and are eaten widely and used in cooking. I enjoy both of them.

    The efficiency and usage veins of argumentation aren't irrelevant; of course there are good statistical measures and bad statistical measures. Bad statistical measures include Per 36, and, like you noted, simply increasing Usage to assume that a player would have the same linear growth — the key flaw is assumption. But good statistics simply use recorded, measurable facts to assess a situation. Using yourself as an example is a straw man and not at all analogous to replacing an NBA SF with another NBA SF who would be playing the same position, in the same system, and with the same players against the same teams.

    While Carmelo Anthony is a prolific scorer, should we not care *how* he achieves his totals? Isn't high-volume, middle (lower than average by some measures)-efficiency alarming?

    There are only a finite number of possessions in a given game. With a limited number of attempts to get the ball through the hoop, Carmelo Anthony just is not a vastly superior option to his alternatives. Giving the ball to Carmelo means less touches for Yao Ming and Kevin Martin, both vastly more efficient scorers. Giving the ball to Carmelo also generally terminates ball movement (this is where Usage is significant), because he ends up using the possession 1/3 of the time.

    LeBron James and Dwayne Wade get away with higher Usage because they are each more efficient than Anthony. He provokes such a mixed reaction specifically because his boxscores are so good, but his advanced stats are not — they're nowhere near the same tier as James or Wade. We might hate Tracy McGrady for what he became, but he at least *was* in that tier while he was good.

  • Easy

    You are not totally wrong. Good scorers get high usage for a reason — because they can. And high usage players are usually not at the top of the efficiency list because defenses tend to pay more attention to these guys.

    That said, accounting for usage rate and efficiency isn't totally meaningless either. High usage paired with low efficiency may indicate poor decision making, selfishness, etc. Allen Iverson used to have the excuse, when he was in Philly, that he had to jack up shots because nobody else on the team could score. Then when he got to Denver and later Detroit, he was exposed.

    Anthony, being on a fairly talented team, similarly has no excuse for taking inefficient shots. High usage low efficiency means that he might have taken away scoring opportunities from his otherwise competent teammates. That's what is worrisome to some Rockets fans of the possibility of getting him, including myself.

  • Blake

    The point of the comparison here doesn't seem to me that Deng is a better player than Anthony. It's that the Bulls get the same efficiency from Deng that they would with Anthony, plus they get another 11% of their possessions to distribute among the team.

    Furthermore, while Wade and LeBron have similar usage rates to Anthony, their efficiency is much higher, and they do things besides score. They are examples of actual top-tier players. Melo is just a usage-inflated scorer.

  • I think part of what makes him an enigma is that he doesn't have a “persona”. He just does things, sometimes for selfless reasons, sometimes for selfish reasons, depending on his own reasons/moods/phase of the moon. He doesn't seem (from his actions) to feel the need to be consistent.

  • smeggysmeg

    Say Queensbridge!

  • Stephen

    So why isn't Deng coveted? His contract is widely considered untradeable,yet his contract is barely $800,000 more a yr than Kevin Martin's and just one yr longer.
    If Deng is so much more efficient than Carmelo why does nobody want him-even the teams that are highly “moneyball” oriented-yet so many teams covet Carmelo?

  • Willmindanao

    I want to see more Ron Artest music videos on Youtube.

  • RL


    Deng's efficiency is not great. He is only slightly more efficient offiensively than Melo. At the same time, he makes 7 Million less and rebounds/defend better. So I can see the argument against the trade. Just like some would be against us trading Martin for Melo.

    At the same time, Teams always covet a big time scorer, someone who can get you a basket at end of game when defense zone in. Of course, the ideal is to have both an elite scorer + efficient player (Lebron) . But short of that, I'd still take the elite scorer and hope the team culture, careful game plan will help mask that elite score's shortcomings. You can't teach a player to become clutch.

  • Stephen

    I've decided as far as I'm concerned,I'd like to have Carmelo-but only if Martin is traded-but I'm just fine if it doesn't happen. I'd like him,I don't desire him on the Rockets,if that makes sense.

    I'm sort of that way w/the Rockets roster this summer. I know I've got a bad case of the-glass-is-half-empty,and have expressed it way too often in “yes,but…”. It's just I really don't like the Brooks/Martin combo as starting guards. I feel they're too perimeter oriented and have bad match-ups against too many possible Play-Off teams.(And I'm worried that the Rockets were just a .500 team w/Martin and question whether he's a good stats for bad teams player.)
    I find it hard to talk myself into fully embracing the players as I feel Morey is going to make a major trade. There are only 5 players left from the team that started the 08/09 season and just 8 from roster that began last season.
    I don't see a young player on the team that could explode into a star other than Taylor,and he is such a long shot.
    On the other hand I can't get enthused about trading away any of the Rockets for a modest-if that-upgrade. The team just seems to fit and is stuffed w/quality role players and in my mule-headed opinion just lacks a playmaker. And I don't see teams lining up to trade away theirs.
    The Rockets look to be a good team,not a contending team and I'm kinda meh about them right now. I want the season to start now so their play can wash away my misgivings.
    Thanks for letting me vent.

  • rahat_huq

    funny you say that because i was just thinking earlier that “meh” is exactly how id describe myself right now about them

  • AnthonyThompson

    Because he's not more efficient than Carmelo. I don't know if Matt McHale misunderstood the statistics or if all he really wanted to say was that Deng SHOT the more efficiently than Carmelo, which is true because his equivalent field goal percentage was indeed higher. I don't know why he would just focus on that–well, I know, because he prefers Deng to Carmelo–but Carmelo SCORES more efficiently than Deng after free throws are factored in. Deng is not a better fit for them. They need someone who can get to the line a lot like Carmelo can and Deng's contributions can reasonably be made up by Brewer.

    Deng isn't coveted because he's only a solid role player who is going to be paid like a quasi-all-star. He belongs in the pay scale of Josh Childress, making around 6-7 million a year, not 11-14 million.

  • Thomas

    I agree with most of your sentiment about the team.

    It's reasonable to have a hard time to become attached to any players if they might be part of a big trade. Full disclosure: my favorite Rockets in the Morey era: Landry, Artest, and Scola. Two are gone, though I don't really mind; Artest was for non-basketball related reasons anyway, and he's still up to the same antics in LA.

    I think we are primed for a big trade, and I think Morey is looking for that deal, but I am not convinced the target would be Carmelo Anthony. But since James, Wade, and Bosh are locked into Miami with no short-term likelihood of leaving, who is left that would be considered an elite talent?

    This summer's FA pool was the stuff of legend for good reason. The next crop of lottery talent hasn't fully matured yet. Orlando's not letting go of Dwight Howard. That really only leaves Chris Paul, who wanted out, and might be the most likely target. But would Paul be enough? Maybe yes, maybe no. I think there's still a fair degree of uncertainty, and I feel like this is Morey's test.

    So far nearly every player has been tradeable if the resulting deal nets an overall positive to improve the team. Morey has incrementally improved the team at a fairly good pace, and with continually strong moves. To me, that suggests a few things:

    – The team is in a permanent state of flux, because we do not possess any true superstars to build around, as Morey has said he is pursuing. Yao Ming once qualified, but until he proves he can keep his health, Schroedinger's superstar is not a reliable talent. A significant portion of the team's murky shot at “contention” revolves around Yao's health.

    – Rumored deals — rumblings about Andre Iguodala, specifically, suggests that we are still making incremental improvements. Iguodala is good, but he's also pricey, and a small improvement at our 3. While it would probably be a good trade, how many more of those trades would we need to make at other positions before the sum of our parts trump other championship squads?

    – No major (major!) talent to pursue — Morey has stockpiled assets. We have expiring contracts. We have young talent on rookie-scale contracts. We have draft picks. Les Alexander is willing to go into the luxury tax. Everything is in place. But what if there's just not a good target? We can be ready to deal, but there may not be a superstar on the market. There's not much we can do in that position, which I think reinforces the cycle of the first two points.

    I'm ready for the season to start. Let whatever players come, come.

  • Bob Schmidt

    Meh? That's not my sentiment… Every team we face will have to respect Yao and Scola inside, leaving someone open shots. Unless everyone has been studying bricklaying this summer, we should present one heck of a problem for every team that we face. Even when Yao is off the court, Miller and Scola (or backup PF) will be a problem.

    In addition, assuming that Brooks has already peaked as a player is not a universal opinion. I see the Rockets as a team to watch carefully as they impose their will on the court. We have enough youth to possibly see improvement on the order of Oklahoma last year. Don't be meh-sayers!

  • zen monkey

    There have been rumors of an unhappy Deron Williams possibly looking for a way out of town. I don't know the details of his deal, but I think he'd be worth a big push and Utah would be a team that suddenly wants a good PG (Brooks) if he left. Just speculation, but that's what a lot of this topic is anyway, so I figure there's no harm in a little daydreaming.

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