On the Samuel Dalembert signing

As is well known by now, the Houston Rockets signed center Samuel Dalembert yesterday, solidifying their frontcourt rotation.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I don’t like the acquisition.

The move is financially sound.  For Dalembert’s production, given this team’s needs, $7million is great value.  It’s also basically a one-year deal as the second year of the contract is partially guaranteed.  The team retains, for the most part, all of their future flexibility.

I don’t like the deal because it’s a band-aid move that does nothing for the long-term.  In adding Dalembert, the Rockets undoubtedly improve their roster.  I think most here can agree on that point.  Having filled their biggest hole, there’s now a good chance the team even makes the playoffs.

But unless you’re in delusion, you accept that this team still isn’t a contender.

Dalembert is a short-term move that doesn’t help the team in the future.  Management clearly doesn’t see him as a long-term solution otherwise they would have locked him into a longer deal.  What’s the point in adding a guy you don’t plan to keep around for the long haul, just to win a few extra games, hurt draft position, and take time away from developing youngsters?

I’ve heard and read all the arguments.  “They needed a big man regardless and Thabeet could only go for ten minutes a game.”  That’s fine.  Keep 20-year-old Greg Smith, a guy who may not be nearly as good as Dalembert now, but who can grow and be a part of the core in the future.  Don’t like Greg Smith?  That’s fine — find someone else young enough to be here when it will matter.  The point is to make use of minutes developing players who can be built around; cultivating young talent.  Play Dalembert, watch him leave in a year, and you’re right back at square one again with nothing.  Remember 2006?  Some good it did the team playing David Wesley and Juwan Howard heavy minutes in a lost season.  Had they used those minutes wisely and spent them developing young players, they might have actually had a supporting cast when Yao and McGrady came back.

Making the playoffs also means no draft pick (by way of the Nets trade.)  No draft pick means no lottery pick in one of the best drafts in years.  Really now, what does more for the long-term prospects of this franchise: getting demolished in the first round or finally nabbing a blue-chip young prospect?

Many of you argue that the draft is a risk; that only a few All-Star talents are found each year.  Based on his track record, you don’t trust Daryl Morey to hit a homerun on a high lottery pick?  (Marcus Morris is already looking like a stud.)  You don’t think having something like a #8, or anything higher than a #14, would make it easier for Morey to finally move into the top 5?  You can rest assured he’ll pick the right guy.  His problem has been being unable to get him.

Really, what does a playoff appearance or even a 9th seed do for this franchise?  Some argue that success would make the team a more attractive destination for free agents.  We saw how that worked with Chris Bosh.  The reality is that stars want to play with stars.  They want to feel like they can count on someone else.  Some argue that a winning record would make our players more attractive in trades.  When has this really ever happened?  We’ve seen in all of these deals, from Derrick Favors headlining the Nets’ heist of Deron Williams to Eric Gordon making it possible for the Clippers to bring in Chris Paul, general managers just want blue-chip talent.  The Rockets right now don’t have any blue-chip young talent.

I don’t agree with the move but I understand it.  I may think the best route to contention is a race to the bottom but I don’t have a job to worry about.  Les Alexander wants to win, so Daryl Morey has to build for the playoffs.  It’s not the way I’d build a team, but given the boss’s orders, you could do far worse.

At the very least, this should make this season a bit more entertaining.  The team should be competitive even if that wasn’t my end-goal.


About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red94.net.

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