The Rockets Daily – September 18, 2013

Ranketology – ESPN’s 2013 NBA Player Rankings kicked off this week, with the bottom 100 announced on Monday. Current Rockets ranked so far:

  • 498 – Jordan Henriquez
  • 493 – Robert Covington
  • 478 – B.J. Young
  • 419 – Isaiah Canaan

The Rockets aren’t relying on any of these guys to contribute, and woe to any team counting on a guy in the 400 range to step up (hey there, Robert Sacre). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention former Rio Grande Viper Royce White being ranked last at number 500. Lavoy Allen famously used that ranking two years ago as motivation to become a solid rotation player. Sadly, I think that motivational tool will be wasted on Royce White, because lack of motivation is the reason he is ranked that low to begin with.

But if ESPN’s slog through the league’s dregs is too slow for you, then you’re in luck. Sports Illustrated’s The Point Forward blog is simultaneously running through a quick-and-dirty top 100. If you like your player ranking the way I like my cereal (cheap, quick and off-brand), then this is for you!

Unlike ESPN’s rank, which is done by a massive panel of writers (including our own editor-in-chief), SI’s rank is done by two guys–Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney–who, to be fair, are excellent writers. Before getting into the ranks, they offered a pretty comprehensive list of notable omissions, which included Jeremy Lin:

The Man, the Myth, The Linsanity Legend came hurtling back to earth in his first year in Houston. In a rocky 2012-13 season, Lin started slowly, ceded crunch-time minutes on multiple occasions and ended on a whimper because of a chest injury that caused him to miss time during the playoffs.

In the actual rankings (which are only up to no. 31 for now), Chandler Parsons slips in at 94, just behind Ricky Rubio. And in the greatest travesty against basketball since the 2002 Western Conference Finals, Omer Asik was ranked one spot behind Monta Ellis. Asik was ranked no. 69, to the amusement of middle-school-aged Rockets fans everywhere.

Hall of Clutch– The founder of The Dream Shake has laid out his case for why Robert Horry deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I can’t argue with him, only because Robert Horry was my first favorite basketball player. It didn’t take long before Olajuwon’s manifest greatness was clear to my 8-year-old consciousness, but still you never forget your first. But check this out:

Horry played in 7 NBA Finals series.  His team won all of them.

Only Bill Russell exceeds that rate of success (11-for-11), while Jordan can almost match it, going 6-for-6.

Karl Malone played in 3 NBA Finals.  He went 0-3.
Charles Barkley lost the only time he played.
Hakeem Olajuwon was 0-1 in the NBA Finals before he met Horry.
Shaquille O’Neal was 0-1 before he played with Horry.
(Horry of course is the reason Barkley, Malone and Shaq were ringless).
Even Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have lost twice in the NBA Finals.

Was Robert Horry just incredibly lucky, or did he have the super-secret sauce? Yes.

The Best – According to Bradford Doolittle (ESPN Insider), the WARP projection for Houston’s backcourt is the best in the league with a combined WARP of 22.6. To clarify, Doolittle is referring to the starting PG, starting SG, and the third guard (usually the backup PG). In Houston’s case, that’s James Harden, Lin and Patrick Beverley:

Surprised? Well, remember that elite players in the NBA generate such a disproportionate amount of a team’s production that unit rankings will invariably be dominated by star performers. So it is with the Rockets, who landed a big man as the jewel of the current offseason yet still project to have the league’s most valuable backcourt. The rating is of course driven by MVP candidate Harden, now entering his age-24 season, and it’s somewhat speculative given the optimism about Beverley despite his short track record.

One of Houston’s key questions entering the season is whether Beverley or Lin fits better as Harden’s primary partner. In the playoffs this past spring, Lin and Harden played together for 70.2 minutes, per, during which Houston was outscored by 28.7 points per 100 possessions. However, Harden teamed with Beverley for 172.4 minutes and the Rockets outscored opposing Oklahoma City by seven points per 100 possessions. We’ll see whether those results hold up in preseason play and affect Kevin McHale’s formulation of his new rotation.

It should be pointed out that in the OKC series, Lin played most of his minutes before Westbrook went down with his injury, and he was playing hurt.

Always exercise caution when projecting future performance based on a single playoff series. J.J. Barea looked like Tony Parker after ripping up L.A.’s defense a few years ago, but he remains just about an average backup point guard. Roy Hibbert looks like the next Patrick Ewing after pushing Chris Bosh around for a few games, despite only shooting 44.8 percent from the floor for the season, seeing his PER drop from 19.35 to 17.32, and struggling to defend guards on the pick-and-roll. Patrick Beverley could fall into the same group.

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About the author: John Eby got on the Rockets bandwagon in 1994 and never got off. He is a public relations guy and recovering TV journalist living in South Carolina.

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