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The Rockets Daily – January 6, 2013; Farewell John Eby, Welcome Mitchell Felker

When I hatched the idea of a Rockets Daily (also briefly known as Rockets Blast), I was skeptical.  A daily news gazette isn’t anything unique in the sports blogosphere, but I wasn’t sure I wanted such a thing on Red94 – some days there’s just not enough news and the piece itself could appear as fluff.  That’s why it’s such a tough loss losing John Eby who, for the last year, wrote these Dailies filling in the pieces with his own editorial touch.  It’s been pretty neat coming to my own site every morning to get filled in on the day’s news and I’m fairly certain you, dear reader, have gotten the same utility out of Mr. Eby’s writing.

A lot more goes in to running a blog of this scale than just what you see appear on your page.  In the early days, when it was just myself and Durvasa, I handled everything on my own.  Now, with a staff that has ballooned to 11 writers, in addition to four forum moderators, there’s a lot of juggling that takes place behind the scenes.  In addition to the Dailies, Mr. Eby coordinated the schedules every week to ensure that a preview and recap went up for each game in a timely manner in accordance with each writer’s availability.  That was a task that I just could no longer handle on my own.

John, as you know, will be retiring from the Dailies due to the expected birth of a child.  He’ll still be with us, penning his DwightLife series, however.  Taking his place, I’m excited to introduce Mitchell Felker who we were lucky to find after a very extensive candidate search process.  Mitchell is a native Houstonian and a former Army air traffic controller.  Below is his first Daily. – Rahat Huq

Until Death Do Us Part - Ken Berger of CBS Sports has heard that the Rockets are expecting to keep Omer Asik for the rest of the season.

“Teams that are tanking don’t want him to make them better and winning teams want to steal him,” one rival GM said.

Now, I know we were all so excited to see what kind of haul Morey would be able to pull down with perhaps his most valuable trade asset yet, but this doesn’t necessarily mean keeping him is bad news.  As has been said many times on this site, there is real value in having Asik come off the bench and provide 48-minute rim protection, even if it makes him the most overqualified, overpaid part-time player in the NBA.

The Rockets were 5-4 during the failed Twin Towers experiment, but rolled off a downright dominant stretch of games, going 8-1 over the next 2 weeks after committing to Terrence Jones full time at the 4 with Asik coming off the bench.  Since Asik’s injury though, the team is 9-8 and continues to battle with consistency issues.  That’s just two games over .500 combined with Asik not in a reserve role.  If that doesn’t spell value, I don’t know what does.

I commend Morey for being proactive and trying to move Asik while his value was still (somewhat) high after realizing the need to do so, but that time has passed.  And maybe this team can still be improved with a trade, but I sure hope (and truly believe) that he will continue to practice patience and not just make a move to pacify Asik’s request.

Proof is in the pudding – The guys over at Hickory High have created their own take on the metric Expected Points Per Shot (XPPS). XPPS is a metric that figures out how many points a player should get per attempt, based on league averages, from a shot in one of the five league-recognized areas: Restricted Area, Paint, Mid-Range, Corner 3 and Above the Break 3.  Ian Levy has created his own take on this metric by adjusting it to show what each player can expect to score on each shot based on his shooting percentages in these areas, as opposed to the leagues average.  It gives a truer picture of what players really dominate in which areas of the court.  His first area of concern is the most coveted shot on the court: the restricted area.  It’s no surprise that Lebron dominates this area in his metric.  The rest of the list does offer one pleasant surprise:

And while wings are scarce among the top 25 for this category (predictably populated mostly by low-block presences at PF and C), the others beyond King James all fit the bill perfectly – Manu Ginobli, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant are all elite rim-attacking wings, and their RA-Adjusted XPPS reflects it.  Likewise, while seeing a name like Jeremy Lin might be a surprise to some, SportsVu data backs up his inclusion – he’s one of the most efficient and most frequent drivers to the hoop in the league.

That’s a pretty impressive list to be on for a guy who takes flack for not being his team’s starting point guard.  And if you click the SportsVu link, you’ll also notice James Harden and Chandler Parsons’ names on the list of players with the most points per game off shots at the rim.  After playing with the filters a bit, requiring players to average at least 4.5 ppg on drives with a shooting percentage over 48.5%, I managed to whittle the list down to just 14 players in the whole league who fit that criteria.  And all three Rockets remain on that list.  This can help us further understand why Lin is better suited as a sixth man for this team.

Morey has always said he prefers two attacking guards in his lineup, but with Parsons’ continued improvement across the board, adding an elite attacking guard to the bench reeks of sense.  Patrick Beverley’s perimeter defense is a bigger addition to a starting 5 that already consists of Harden and Parsons.  Jeremy Lin was already somewhat redundant playing next to Harden before you even take into account how much Parsons’ offensive game continues to grow.  It’s just a crying shame that Lin and Asik haven’t been able to spearhead the second unit together much this season, just three games by my count, because they are both elite at such important aspects of the game.  How many bench units can make a claim like that?

Expectations vs Reality – Taking a look back at last year’s schedule, the Rockets ended their 35th game of the season with a 125-112 win over the Lakers.  James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Carlos Delfino all had at least 19 points, with Harden leading all scorers with 31 points.  More importantly, it was the Rockets’ fifth straight win and pushed their record to 21-14.  Not bad for a team that not only featured one of the league’s youngest rosters and paid almost 130 million dollars to three players with less than a full season of starts combined, but also prominently featured Toney Douglas.  Those Rockets were loveable gunners that no one expected much out of come playoff time.

This year’s team, which features 2 of the top 10-15 players in the league, has the NBA’s best value contract in Chandler Parsons and is considered one of the 5-6 teams with a legitimate shot at the Finals, has rushed out of the gate to a record of….22-13.  Let me save you the trouble of looking for a calculator; that’s only a one game improvement.  Both teams faced similar problems.  Consistency, chemistry and defensive question marks are all issues that have plagued the Rockets since two summers ago.  While the talent level and overall ceiling of the current incarnation is somewhat higher, the results just haven’t been there.

For those looking for a bright side in that comparison, last year’s Rockets lost their next seven games and barely played .500 ball the rest of the season.  These Rockets will surely continue to grow and are much more suited for the grind that is the NBA schedule.  It’s just interesting to remember the euphoria of last season’s first few weeks, reveling in James Harden’s breakout, and how even with a one game improvement, this year’s team feels slightly underachieving.

 

 

 

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Total comments: 13
  • rocketrick says 9 months ago

    IIRC, last season's team at this stage had not lost nearly as many key player/games to injury as this season's team. An important factor in comparing records.


    I agree with BigKirk here. Casspi has been asked to do more than probably originally expected at the start of this season due to the injury bug. Both Casspi and Garcia have had their moments this season, but no doubt in my mind that Delfino was a huge sparkplug off our bench the first half of last season. Perhaps once the Rockets return to health, Casspi and Garcia can better fulfill their roles going forward and possibly become more effective as the season continues on.


    Delfino had another year left in the contract at 3M, with a team option (which we needed to opt out in order to bring DH). Nonetheless, he wouldn't have taken the "pretender/contender" discount García took, so all in all, it was the best move to let him go. Him being injured for the entirety of the season is just a bonus to that point.


    Good point. I had forgotten about the Rockets option to retain Delfino, but because of the need to clear cap space for D12 which was necessary before the Rockets could qualify to offer D12 the max, plus because of the uncertainty at that time of the severity of Delfino's injury, the Rockets made the right decision in not opting to retain Delfino. If memory serves, the Rockets did clearly state their preference and intention of bringing back both Delfino and Garcia (he had a much more expensive contract for this season, $6.6 million I believe, that the Rockets chose to opt out of) were the right situation to arise. The Bucks decided fairly quickly to bring Delfino back and so the Rockets never really had a chance to bring him back. And pretty doubtful they would have been willing to give Delfino a similar contract that the Bucks offered Delfino anyway. Good for Delfino, he earned it with his play last season!


    i meant delfino last season for 35 games versus garcia and cassipi 35 games this season......

    after his playoff last season i guess i has higher expectations for Garcia, i've found him to be disappointing, inconsistent at best this year... and the bone headed fouls i'm over those.....

    not sure about cassipi, feel like he has tailed off somewhat with Jones getting the minutes, but a very solid bench contributor


    For sure, Delfino was a huge sparkplug off the bench last season for the Rockets. Probably similar to what the Rockets envisioned by having Jeremy Lin play that role as the 6th man this season except the injury bug has pretty much prevented this so far this season with the exception of a few games here or there. Casspi and Garcia really aren't the right players to fill the Delfino or Lin role as the energy guy off the bench every night although there have been some good signs with Casspi providing some needed energy from time to time. However, Casspi and Garcia truthfully were brought here to play at best the 7th and 8th guy in the rotation and shouldn't be expected to be the lightening in the bottle type of player off the bench like a Delfino with his 3 point shooting (and ability to play some PF last season) or a Jeremy Lin with his unique skillset in attacking the rim and his improved shooting percentages this season.
  • smeggysmeg says 9 months ago

    Since Delfino has been injured this entire season, it's pretty easy to note that Garcia and Casspi > Delfino.

    In addition, Milwaukee signed Delfino to a 3-year contract that I believe in no way, shape or form the Rockets were at all interested in considering.

    I enjoyed watching Delfino play on the Rockets team last year and I wish him the best going forward.

    i meant delfino last season for 35 games versus garcia and cassipi 35 games this season......

    after his playoff last season i guess i has higher expectations for Garcia, i've found him to be disappointing, inconsistent at best this year... and the bone headed fouls i'm over those.....

    not sure about cassipi, feel like he has tailed off somewhat with Jones getting the minutes, but a very solid bench contributor

  • ale11 says 9 months ago

    In addition, Milwaukee signed Delfino to a 3-year contract that I believe in no way, shape or form the Rockets were at all interested in considering.

    Delfino had another year left in the contract at 3M, with a team option (which we needed to opt out in order to bring DH). Nonetheless, he wouldn't have taken the "pretender/contender" discount García took, so all in all, it was the best move to let him go. Him being injured for the entirety of the season is just a bonus to that point.

  • Bigtkirk says 9 months ago

    IIRC, last season's team at this stage had not lost nearly as many key player/games to injury as this season's team. An important factor in comparing records.

  • rocketrick says 9 months ago

    welcome Felker.........

    so after 35 games...... is Delfino>Garcia+Cassipi????


    Since Delfino has been injured this entire season, it's pretty easy to note that Garcia and Casspi > Delfino.

    In addition, Milwaukee signed Delfino to a 3-year contract that I believe in no way, shape or form the Rockets were at all interested in considering.

    I enjoyed watching Delfino play on the Rockets team last year and I wish him the best going forward.
  • Incubus2803 says 9 months ago Sir Thursday, the contracts keep it about even. Delfino is the better, more productive player but I'd take them at the reduced rate. I think Casspi had more in him. He needs Asik though. He'd be fine as a full time backup power forward playing next to Asik.
  • Steven says 9 months ago

    Welcome Mitchell..........looking forward to reading your dallies. John we'll miss you, but at least it appears you left the dallies in good hands.

    What is a dallies? Have people been roping around here that I didn't know about?
  • rockets best fan says 9 months ago

    Welcome Mitchell..........looking forward to reading your dallies. John we'll miss you, but at least it appears you left the dallies in good hands.

  • smeggysmeg says 9 months ago

    welcome Felker.........

    so after 35 games...... is Delfino>Garcia+Cassipi????

  • Sir Thursday says 9 months ago

    Thanks for all your hard work with the Dailies, I've really enjoyed reading them! Best wishes to you and your family.

    And welcome to the fold Mitchell, I look forward to reading your stuff :).

    ST

  • jstid911 says 9 months ago

    Great post michel. I can tell you are oozing with intelligence and must surround yourself with like individuals.

  • blakecouey says 9 months ago Were all going to miss you John, thanks for the year of dailies and I look forward to the next chapter of Dwightlife.

    Very good read, looks like we've got a good replacement for our dailies.
  • Jeby says 9 months ago

    Great post, Mitchell, and welcome to the fold. Also, being the first to comment on your first post = pure win.

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