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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.

in essays
RocketRick
RocketRick 5pts

Derrick Favors, et al to Utah for Deron Williams could easily turn into a disaster instead of a "heist" for the Nets as Deron Williams is an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season. Deron grew up in Dallas and has not been timid in saying he would like to end up there next season. Eric Gordon, et al for Chris Paul could also turn out to be not so great for both the Hornets and Clippers. Eric Gordon is a free agent at the conclusion of this season (not sure but probably is restricted) while Chris Paul currently is not certain to sign an extension with the Clippers although I believe he is committed for this season and next (but if he decides not to sign an extension by the trade deadline next season, once again Chris Paul will force his team to trade him rather than take a chance of nada if he signs elsewhere at the end of next season.) One final comment, has anyone recently researched say the top 10 draft picks of the last 10 years (so the top 100 draft picks) and determined how many of those were outright busts, so-so picks and picks that have turned into franchise type players? I truly believe that simply having a lottery pick in this year's draft, or any year's draft in most cases, is certainly no guarantee of future championships. When was the last time that anyone other than the Spurs won an NBA championship primarily through the draft?

Patrick
Patrick 5pts

Having a competitive team is not a bad thing. NO to tanking.

Easy
Easy 5pts like.author.displayName 1 Like

Rahaq, while I don't like tanking, I don't disagree with your reasoning. Frankly, I think the Rockets would have been better signing Hayes than Dalembert if they really want to develop their young bigs for the future.

But here is a counter point to consider about building a contender through the draft. In the past two decades, Duncan was the only top 3 pick who won a championship with the team that drafted him. This is especially important given today's tendency of star players wanting to jump ship.

Young studs don't win championships. They need several years to mature. And that time usually comes when their second contracts are within one or two years to expiring. So even if we get a high pick AND Morey got us a franchise player, there is still the risk of not being able to keep him when we finally are good enough to contend.

It seems to me, the only consolation here is our faith in Morey's ability to assemble good supporting talent in a fairly short time. He has shown that he indeed can get good players with low draft picks and with trades. He has yet shown that he can sign impact free agents though. Perhaps that's not his fault but Houston's lack of attractiveness, but doesn't that add weight to the point here?

Anyway, I do believe the best chance of building a contender is through the draft. But "best chance" might not be enough. It still a chance which involves A LOT OF LUCK even with a good GM. Is it worth throwing a season or three just to get a better (but far from guaranteed) odd?

big daddy reasoning
big daddy reasoning 5pts

Tank man just suck it up during a shorten season. You guys are going to regret this when we finish 5 games above .500 again. It's not worth it be honest with yourselves. Let's first seperate are expectation's for the rockets starting with yours. First, what i think you guys want the rockets to do this year. Be competitive compete show the world that we have good young an veterans players, and at best get to the second or even third round of the playoffs an get knocked out. Now heres mine. My expectation for this houston team this year is exactly the same as yours. But... BUT expectations and wants are two different things. Expectation for this team regarding this year me=you. Notice i said this year. Now if you add my wants into my decision making of this years rockets expectations it is. Get Twill along with the other younger players experience an playing time for the future. Tank the season by losing games obviously. Then get a top 3 pick an play ball from there. Now let's look at long term future of these decisions. Long term your way keep being competitive until you maybe..... maybe pull of a blockbuster trade. My way build a companionship team within the next three years, that get's you wins and rings. I don't like when GM's have their back against the wall and half to make trigger happy trades. Everybody knows the best way to build a team is threw draft.

Tower818
Tower818 5pts

What a weak argument.

Your headline belies the fact that you understand and support the Dalembert signing!

Jeby
Jeby 5pts

A lot of arguments about this year's Rockets seem to not take into account the fact that this is a very different team from what it was at the beginning of last year.

The team that started 2-10 featured Brooks as the starting point, a declining Battier as the starting 3, and the Yao experiment as the starting center. Patrick Patterson was in the D-League. If you thought Kyle Lowry was going to be a Western Conference Player of the week before the end of that season, you're lying. (I originally wrote a much longer comment highlighting changes, but my computer wisely deleted it).

After the All-star break, the team (THIS team) was on fire.

The only change we've made is trading Chuck Hayes' high-post passing for Sammy Dalembert's dominant height.

This is not the team that played 2/3 of last season. If the trade deadline comes around and the team is floundering, sure, let's tank. But to assume that it will finish in the same place as last year -- and commit to throwing the season before a single game is played -- would be a waste.

rahathuq
rahathuq moderator 5pts

interesting take. what are your expectations/predictions for this team? @Jeby

Jeby
Jeby 5pts

@rahathuq best case: 4th seed worst case: 10th, all with a TON of asterisks. The top of the West seems very volatile this year. The shortened season means that injuries can play a huge role in every team's fortunes. Can't stress that enough. Houston's depth and youth will help, lack of continuity with a new coach will hurt. Team has too much talent to rule out a collective breakout year.

PMAC
PMAC 5pts

I don't disagree with anything here, but to take a counter-position for the sake of it, what if consider where Memphis was two years ago? Young, unproven players (conley, gay, mayo, gasol) with a veteran that was considered to only produce stats, not wins (Randolph) who was traded around the league like a hot-potato at a ever diminishing price. Come last year, however, they make a nice run into the playoffs, largely unexpected even by their own management, and now the value of all those players have soared. Is it really out of the question this can't happen to the Rockets? You never know... Is Kevin Martin really that worse than Randolph? (This might get a resounding "YESS!") but remember the way Randolph was seen around the league from '07-'09 and the comparison isn't that far off.

rahathuq
rahathuq moderator 5pts

yeah, i go back to this alot too. It's not out of the question that we could be that good. But is Memphis really a contender? Can they beat the Thunders and Heat of the world? @PMAC

Jeby
Jeby 5pts

@rahathuq@PMAC short answer: Yes.

Long answer: If you took the exact same Memphis players and put them in Lakers uniforms, no one would even ask this question.

big daddy reasoning
big daddy reasoning 5pts

@PMAC No it's not by any means. But you just gave one more reason for us to use this shorten season to see exactly what we have from are young players. I like morris an company, but giving them shared minutes is counter productive in a place where we have potential to win with one more piece or so. I don't know if you guys realize this or not but, we have a championship bench by far. I would go as far as saying top 3 in the league. As i look down the rockets rosters it frustrates me to see so much player not getting playing time that has so much potential.For instance. Where do you see patrick, t wiil dragic or thabeet getting playing time ?

PMAC
PMAC 5pts

@big daddy reasoning Yes, I see where you're coming from, it hurts to see these guys compete for minutes, but I think it comes back to Morey showing off the other players. I don't think Morey intends to trade any of his playeers at low value (this is obviously why the Gasol trade cancellation was so crippling). If the Rockets go on any kind of run and start getting national attention, that improves the outlook for the returning value of any Scola and Martin trade, which I think is the plan. It's not so much a question of developing our young guys as it is showing off our old ones. Then after some three-for-one (or draft picks) trade, only then do the young guys step in. Frustrating, yes, but I can see the value in it (other than dumping Martin and Scola for draft picks when their value is low).

Is it the Shoes
Is it the Shoes 5pts

@PMAC I don't see Memphis as a title contender, except in a dream scenario for them, where they play 4 consecutive teams that they matchup well against. Even then, not sure they have enough talent.

And their certainly "stuck" going forward- capped out and no meaningful draft picks. After all they tried to trade mayo before the season, right?

PMAC
PMAC 5pts

Oh, I completely agree. I'm just saying that a playoff run, no matter how unlikely, where the Rockets get to show off their assets (say TWill breaks through, or Courtney Lee, and maybe Speedracer drains some lucky shots), ESPN crowd start swooning over the Rockets the way they have Memphis this offseason... that gives Morey much more room to maneuver to pull off something great.

big daddy reasoning
big daddy reasoning 5pts

Losing cultures only exist on teams with no veterans. That's one reason why i don't believe in trading veterans for young players. I can't remember in any sport where a team won with straight young talent an no sprinkle of veterans anywhere. That's why you need a scola or martin to pick these kids head up in a tough slump or loss. In the mean time you really have to see the good in a shorten season of developing a t will,jordan,patrick,thabeet,morris and even flynn

rahathuq
rahathuq moderator 5pts

yeah i agree there. the only problem though is that i think keeping scola and martin ensures the team will be good. @big daddy reasoning

big daddy reasoning
big daddy reasoning 5pts

@rahathuq I'm talking about if we tank. If we tank that means we are developing young players, and giving scola an martin less minutes. Therefore a lottery pick. Tanking in this case means the opposite of a bad team. It means a good team trying to be great

big daddy reasoning
big daddy reasoning 5pts

i'm sorry but i think i only want to tank during an 66 game season. 81 games i most likely would have said no, buts it's only 66 it's really not that painful. Think about it number 1 pick just added to our talent it can't hurt

1MilDreams
1MilDreams 5pts

I think it's the responsibility of the owner & GM to put out a competitive & entertaining product every year. The whole tanking strategy just breeds a culture of losing and your franchise loses credibility. I mean I rather take these rockets than the we've been bad for forever and now are possibly good clippers. I just think if your franchise's top down culture is to lose/tank you'll inevitably make all your players/staff apathetic and as a fan I rather support a team that's competitive and play their hearts out every year than support a team of going through the motions millionaires.

rahathuq
rahathuq moderator 5pts like.author.displayName 1 Like

@1MilDreams I disagree on two counts:

1. going through the motions - I'm not saying you're trying to lose. You just play the young players. They'll try their best but won't be good enough to win.

2. "culture of losing" - I just don't agree with this premise. The Celtics were awful before they traded a high lotto for Ray Allen and Al Jefferson for KG. I don't think there's any such thing as a culture of losing.

1MilDreams
1MilDreams 5pts like.author.displayName 1 Like

@rahathuq@1MilDreams

The parallel I'm trying to draw is that in our everyday lives, if we are not striving for a goal it's easy to lose the drive to do well. If your boss' goal doesn't include you becoming successful it's hard to care and dedicate yourself to that goal. In the case of the team were to choose to go in the rebuild mode. I think that would negatively affect our players. I think players need to feel like their team want them to succeed & win in order for them to perform well. Well I guess the debate is more about what is the franchise's responsibility to the fans is it "be the best team you can be all the time" or "it's all one big plan, tanking included, to ultimately become a contender."

big daddy reasoning
big daddy reasoning 5pts

I'm not going to lie, at first i didn't want to tank, but now i do. This team can only get better from tanking for a year. Your only adding a top 3 talent to an already good young squad

rahathuq
rahathuq moderator 5pts like.author.displayName 1 Like

Ok, let's all assume this was a good move. So what is your plan for getting this team back into contention? My plan atleast gave this team close to a guaranteed shot at a blue-chip talent. Trading off Scola and Martin, and avoiding other veterans. So what is your solution?

You either:

1. are fine with mediocrity

2. think this team as composed will be better than mediocre (ie: a top 5 seed)

3. think the players on this team can grow into making this team a contender

4. in combination with #3, think through small minor upgrades, this team can one day become a contender

5. think we can attract dwight howard in 2012

6. think we can pull off a blockbuster trade

i guess its just a philosophical difference. i'm of the opinion that you need a superstar to win, so i don't think 3 or 4 will suffice. and i think what we've seen in the past few years rules out 5 and 6.

majik19
majik19 5pts

I still believe in 6.

I also believe that there is a chance Morey will trade for a high draft pick (probably unknown to the team that trades it) and then that team can tank.

Or, Williams/Hill/Thabeet could show enough to be an intriguing deal starter for the next disgruntled star.

Or, what if the big markets fill up? i.e. New York already has Melo, Amare, and Chandler... LA has Kobe (maybe Howard in the future) filling up their cap space. Boston is currently "full" on star power. So the star won't be able to get his dream location maybe, but knows that Houston sure as hell wants him.

Maybe I'm dreaming too much. And I'm all for playing the kids, and trading assets if the right deal comes along. Dalembert may just be another asset - at the trade deadline, the Lakers may be hurting for frontcourt depth because Bynum punched someone, or the Mavericks may realize they can't do anything with Brandon Haywood at C, or the Heat know they need more help at the 5... Then we nab something good for a free agent.

Is it the Shoes
Is it the Shoes 5pts

I agree with all of this. And further I think Morey is too smart, to believe any of the above positions, which is why I think Les is tying his hands. If we were going to tank, this would be the year of all years, and we're doing the opposite...

Les should have fought vehmently for a no max salary CBA, if he wanted to build a team this way. Of course, maybe he did and no one would go along, or maybe he doesn't think that deep into things.

rh
rh 5pts

There seems to be a lot of negative energy among Houston followers. Do you think Morey isn't trying? Do you think all teams are pulling off blue-chip trades? I think patience is in order.

rahathuq
rahathuq moderator 5pts

@rh Nothing to do with patience. I would have preferred to do nothing.

EL
EL 5pts

Hi Rahat,

Specifically re "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 present this like a slam dunk idea but I am not sure I agree with you. To be the 8th worst team in the team requires that your team have few tradable assets, as the team would be quite bare in terms of *wanted* talent to be at that level. The most valuable one would be the pick which is exactly what you would want to improve. No team with a top 3 pick will give the Rockets their pick for a number 8 and any Rocket player on the roster (unless one of them blows up this season, but then you won't be trading him). So my assessment is the team will be stuck at whatever draft position it's been dealt.

My point in the last comment was, which I didn't fully elaborate, is that Scola and Martin are both lottery pick worthy talent. If your 6th pick gives you 18/8, you ought to be satisfied. If your 5th pick gives you 23 pts a game and no defense, ditto. I listed the stars players in the last 10 lotteries to try make that point, but did a poor job at that. To break into the top 3 picks, you need large amount of luck AND a large amount of suck (or a TREMENDOUS amount of one). On top of that, most years there are not 3 legitimate all star players in the draft. As you want All-NBA talent not the 20th-30th fringe all stars otherwise you would be winng 45-50 games like you are now. By definition these top players are few and far in between. Having the top overall pick in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2006 don't amount to much, even if you are allowed the benefit of hindsight and pick the absolute best available talent. There simply weren't any franchise players in those drops.

Also one player doesn't make a team. You'll need several years of bitter pills. OKC is used as the Exhibit A, but even for them it took 3 long years for the core to develop, PLUS they are still going to face the music when the rookie deals of Westbrook and Harden are up. Both will attract the max on their current trajectory. There is no way they can afford both of them and Durant and not gut the rest of the team. Especially with the new CBA. So if they don't win it this year it's likely going to be downhill for them then up. So please ask yourself, is 2.5 years of good (on the back of tremendous suckitude and luck involved for them) a worthwhile strategy for the Rockets? I would argue the answer is no because I wouldn't bet on luck.

rahathuq
rahathuq moderator 5pts

I see your points. But what do you propose the team do? Do you think they are just on a natural trajectory upward? I completely agree regarding Scola and Martin. My contention though is that they won't be around for the long haul. Unless you feel this team is ready to contend within the next year...?

EL
EL 5pts

I like what they are doing right now. Draft best talent available, trade smart, sign free agents without crippling the cap situtation, play hard. Then see where the chips fall. @rahathuq

majik19
majik19 5pts

@rahathuq Do you really think that trading Lowry and Scola (with no Dalembert) would make us bad enough to be bottom 5?

riverrat
riverrat 5pts

Unless you want to trade away productive young players like Lowry, Patterson, and Morris in ADDITION to the vets Martin and Scola, we weren't going to get a top 5 pick anyways. Look around the league, there are some truely terrible teams. And trading Lowry and Patterson to "rebuild" would just make zero sense. You underestimate how hard it would be for this team to truly tank. By trading Martin and Scola you will still be stuck with the 10th pick. How is that so franchise changing compared to the 14th? This team is not racing to the bottom, not only because the owner and GM are against it, but also because they are simply built too well to suck that bad.

rahathuq
rahathuq moderator 5pts

I completely agree and also disagree. I think with Martin and Scola, there's no way they can be bad. But if you had traded off Martin and Scola (which I've been advocating), and stayed away from Dalembert, I think you could be pretty bad, with the loss of Hayes. @riverrat

rocketfan
rocketfan 5pts

I think it would make sense to go ahead with the best team possible to assess how far this team will go and then re-evaluate our long term plans on-the-fly as the season progresses. If we perferm well and are in the 4-8 seed in the west, Morey will stay the course and look for short term upgrades. If we are a marginal playoff team then I think Morey will try to trade our assets for a blue-chip talent or a high draft pick position. I personally think that we have the depth and chemistry to fight for a 5-7 seed in the West. Hopefully we can get that extra piece (from a bad team looking to pawn off their veteran for youth and picks, ala our plan B) at the trade deadline and see what happens in the playoffs.

rahathuq
rahathuq moderator 5pts

Here's where I disagree. I just don't think our assets are tradeable for a high draft pick or blue-chip talent. The only way they are is if we have a high pick ourselves, hence this entire conversation.

rh_rivera
rh_rivera 5pts

Rahat, you've made your disdain for Les Alexander's desire to put a competitive product on the floor well known at this point. Continuing to focus on the negative will only drive away readers.

That you seem to think Morey is handcuffed by Alexander is also a little presumptuous...I tend to believe that he actually believes remaining competitive is the best way to build a championship team. Morey wants to trade for a superstar. Morey never gives up something for nothing. It's against his ethos. He doesn't like to gamble on lottery picks. He likes known entities. Trades and contract negotiations are what Morey does best. His scouting is average to slightly above imho. If he's the GM, I'd rather he stick to what he does best. I like having Daryl Morey as GM of the Houston Rockets. Maybe you don't?

rahathuq
rahathuq moderator 5pts

Come on now - you know I'm the biggest Morey supporter out there. This isn't about Morey. And I also disagree - I think he's a superb scout, not just "slightly above average."

As far as driving away readers, I would hope you all would want me to remain honest in my opinions when I don't agree with a decision rather than just be a cheerleader.

rh_rivera
rh_rivera 5pts

@rahathuq we'll see about Morey's scouting with how Marcus Morris pans out. An explosive, athletically gifted, true small forward in Kawahi Leonard was available at #14 and the Spurs nabbed him at #15. We should all know him by now, what with the way he drained the game winner against the Rockets with Jeremy Lin in his face just the other night...

I just don't like the term "tanking" and what you propose isn't "tanking." It's changing course, plain and simple - and allowing young players to develop. Perhaps your criticisms of the Rocket's recent course isn't as abrasive as the vocabulary you use to describe what you'd like to see happen instead :)

Finally, as an avid reader of Red94, I'd just hope that even if you don't like the course Morey/Alexander set out for this year that there will be in-depth reporting on the positive things the team accomplishes.

rh_rivera
rh_rivera 5pts

good point. but head 2 head matchups dont mean too much. yao always dominated dwight howard, but you would have been a fool to pick yao over dwight had they been in same draft class. we'll see.

Kay
Kay 5pts

The thing about Leonard is that for the previous 47 minutes, Morris utterly dominated him. 1-5, 4 points, and a team-worst -17 vs 7-14, 20 points, and a +11. @rahathuq

Stephen
Stephen 5pts

Rahat,

Traditionally teams in top 3 in Draft have been teams that have lost about 75% of their games.

Even if the team traded away Scola,Martin and didn't sign Dalembert,look at what's left:

Lowry,Lee,Bud,Patterson,Hill and Dragic,Flynn,Taylor,Williams,Morris,Parsons,Thabeet,whatever young C that was signed and some PF as well.(Assuming the barely believable scenario where Martin and Scola are traded for no players,just TPS. Sorry,I just don't think Morey would do that.)

This is a young team,but unike most young teams they have a true floor general and most of the players have BB-IQ and have their heads screwed on straight.

Even assuming T-Will flamed out,Lory,Lee,Bud,Patterson,Hill is a better starting 5 than at least 4 teams can field.

Considering that several teams will be tanking as well,it's problematic at best that the Rockets could "play" their way into a top 5 Draft pick.

If Lowry gets hurt and misses a significant chunk of the season,that's an entirely different matter.

As for the future,I would certainly argue that a champion-ship contending team needs a star,a player who can down the stretch both get his own shot an get the favorable calls from the refs.

So how can the Rockets get one?

Grow one from current roster. Unlikely as Williams is closest talent wise,but his outside shooting is so suspect.

Draft one. Iffy as teams are getting better at drafting and very few great players have dropped out of top 10 in recent yrs. Best chance is either trading down-and that's d*** near impossible-or doing homework and drafting a young Euro and hope he explodes when he comes over. This may be Rocket's best chance. I expect them to increasingly try to get late picks and draft Euros.

Trade for one. Very difficult and unlikely. OTOH,McGrady and Gasol.(Lesson,don't deal w/a team run by Stern.) And who knows what team may have to trade away a star/near-star.

Sign one in Free Agency.Hasn't worked too well recently. But...there are a couple of teams w/problematic pairings. Westbrook in OKC may well want his own team.

Cousins and Evans in Sac may end up in a Cage Match w/the loser leaving town.

rahathuq
rahathuq moderator 5pts

Absolutely - I'll never stop giving credit where its due.

And yes, I do think I'm using the word "tanking" wrong, or i atleast have a very different definition of it. I explain this in the intro to my season preview.

rh_rivera
rh_rivera 5pts

lol that i know what morey likes is a wee bit presumptuous of me, but you get the idea :)

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