Going Somewhere? – Omer Asik continues to be the subject of trade speculation on ESPN (Insider), as Kevin Pelton lists him as one of the top 10 most likely players to be traded due to Dwight’s arrival:
The Rockets will surely experiment with playing both big men together after successfully starting Asik alongside another paint-bound player, Greg Smith, late in the regular season.
But if that combination clogs up Houston’s spacing on offense, Asik is much too valuable to relegate to backing up Howard. If the Rockets can parlay him into a stretch 4 to complement Howard, GM Daryl Morey surely won’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
Morey has expressed how important he feels it is to have two elite defensive centers, even if they can’t share the floor, so I wouldn’t expect Houston to trade for a stretch 4 unless he happened to double as a solid defender. In a related Insider article, Bradford Doolittle and Amin Elhassan estimate Atlanta as the most likely landing spot for Asik. Doolittle talks about Asik playing alongside Horford with Millsap as a quality 6th man, leaving me to wonder who Houston is getting back in this scenario. I suppose the realistic answer would be Millsap, but it’s tempting to think the Rockets could get more. In today’s NBA, wouldn’t you value an elite defensive center over a good-but-undersized power forward? I would love to be a fly on the wall as Morey haggles with other GM’s about Asik’s value.
The Other Half – While I don’t typically read things over at RantSports, one item in my Google alerts caught my eye: an analysis of James Harden’s defense. The numbers are revealing:
In terms of points per possession, Harden ranked 322nd in the NBA defensively last season, allowing 0.92 points per possession. Harden was especially poor in defending spot-up shooting, the set he defended the most last season. While defending spot-up opportunities on 38.5 percent of the plays run at him, he allowed 1.07 points per possession and allowed opponents to shoot 40.4 percent from three against him. In fairness, Harden was solid against isolation sets, allowing just 0.72 points per possession, and in defending the pick-and-roll, allowing only 0.8 points per possession.
If you watched at least one Rockets game last season, you saw Harden try to hide in the paint for a steal, then fail to even put a hand up when his man (usually the other team’s 3 and D guy) launched a jumper. So those numbers aren’t really a surprise. The solid isolation numbers show that Harden has the ability to defend well when he’s focused on his man, and that he could play better defense, but he dogs it a little since he’s carrying the offense.
Should we be concerned? I say, “No.” If Houston can go on to win 50-plus games with Harden doing what he did last year, and the Beard has the ability to take his defense to another level in big games, then the team is in good shape. If Harden takes a page from LeBron and Dwyane Wade and focuses on dominating on both ends, then that’s even better. He’ll just have to work in his conditioning to get there.
Throw It Down, Big Man – This video from a reader, NorEastern, Donatas Motiejunas dunked on Belarus’ life last Friday.
Unfortunately, he came up holding his knee. I haven’t read any ensuing injury reports, so knock on wood.
Natural Habitat – Witness an untamed Chandler Parsons in the pages of Esquire magazine. Like gazelle on the golden plains of the Serengeti, or chinook salmon in the Yukon, the symbiosis between creature and environment is a monument of beauty and balance. Here’s a one-sentence window into his world:
I liked how he had the pants cropped a little short with no socks and then some dope monk straps.