The Rockets Daily – July 23, 2013

Poachers – First it was Sam Hinkie, fleeing east to head up the Sixers, then Arturas Karnisovas leaving to be the assistant GM in Denver. Now it’s Gersson Rosas heading to Dallas to be the new GM of the Mavs. It’s sad as a fan to see such talented people take those talents to rival teams, but you have to be happy for them reaching the highest level of success in their field (short of winning a championship). Hopefully their achievements will encourage more bright minds to think that working in Houston is a good career move.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting(Note: It’s a long time until the Dwight-led Rockets squeeze out into the light of their first regular season. To fill some of that time, it’s worth taking a look back at some past articles of the travails and triumphs of Dwight that fans should prepare for going forward. This is the second entry.)
Along with the myriad intangibles Howard brings to a franchise–drama, expectations, teeth–he also brings the very quantifiable Dwight Effect. “The Dwight Effect” was a ballyhooed paper on interior defense from this year’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT, submitted by Kirk Goldsberry and Eric Weiss of Harvard University. Aside from leading to the worship of Larry Sanders and the emasculation of David Lee, it had this to say about Howard:

We also contend that dominant interior defenders often deter shots from even happening. Many NBA players will be reluctant to “challenge” a dominant interior player or be more likely to “settle” for a jump shot further from the basket. We evaluated this effect by examining the percentage of field goal attempts that occur near the basket when a qualifying interior defender is within 5 feet of the rim. We found that the most deterrent interior defender in this sense was Dwight Howard. Overall, when a qualifying defender is within 5 feet of the basket, the NBA shoots 57.2% of its attempts close to the basket; however, when Dwight Howard was the interior defender this number dropped to 48.2% (Appendix 1A). This is what we call the “Dwight Effect”–the most effective way to defend close range shots is to prevent them from even happening. Although Howard does not lead the league in blocks, he does lead the league in “invisible blocks,” which may prove to be markedly more significant.

This was based on data 2011-2012 and part of 2012-2013 (the paper was published March 1). Although the paper taps Larry Sanders as the league’s best interior defender, it’s still clear that Howard demonstrates Bill Russell’s philosophy of defense: “The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.”

Separate WaysThe New York Times’ Beckley Mason writes on the divergent fates of Daryl Morey and Mark Cuban since they sat side-by-side at the Sloan Conference a few months ago:

Cuban suddenly went from one of the most free-spending owners in the N.B.A. to adopting a plan that looks an awful lot like the Daryl Morey blueprint: sign players to short contracts, continue stockpiling assets that can be moved easily, reshuffle them continually (only three Mavericks players remain from 2011) and stay on the lookout for another star to team with Nowitzki.

While Morey spent three seasons accumulating young talent and draft picks, eventually nabbing James Harden while keeping his cap sheet clear enough to later sign Howard, Cuban has missed badly on Deron Williams and Howard. Everyone knew the Mavericks had their eye on perhaps landing both stars, but they never seemed that close to signing either.

Assets – In John Hollinger’s most recent interview with Truehoop, he makes an observation that indirectly explains the Rockets’ success with the philosophy of rebuilding while winning. He starts discussing tanking at around the 1:34 mark:

The key statement: “It becomes so much harder to do anything in free agency when you’re a bad team, that I think it offsets a lot of the benefit of your expected return on a high draft pick.” It’s clear by now that the quality of his teammates is what brought Howard to Houston. It’s what brought LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami. It’s even why Iguodala went to Golden State. I also believe that Morey’s refusal to tank heightened the value of players like Kyle Lowry (flipped for picks which were flipped for Harden) and Kevin Martin, who were eventually turned into James Harden. The strong play of Harden & Co. made the team look good for Dwight. If the Rockets had tanked, it’s hard to imagine we would be in the same place.

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Total comments: 1
  • CC. says 12 months ago

    Yeah I've always thought about this-the other invisible factors certain players bring to their team, factors that really can't be measured or analyzed by numbers. In this case it's what I've referred to Dwight's 'Intimidation' this whole time, but I guess it finally has a real name, "The Dwight Effect". Like I'm sure* opposing players in teams against Dwight have restricted their attempts in the paint while Dwight or any key player (Lebron) is on the floor. Did they ever consider hey I might end up in a poster with Dwight swatting the ball away from my attempt at a lay-up? I might get roughed up if I go near the pair Dwight and Asik are(or w/e)? It's nice to finally know there's a name for this 'effect' Dwight brings to him team.