Friday, October 30, 2009

Chuck Hayes

Chuck Hayes' duties as a Rockets co-captain along with Shane Battier have been limited. He had to answer a question about being a captain.

“I'm a captain?” he said. “I didn't know I was. That's news to me. Wow. I can't remember the last time I was a captain. I guess as far as the captain is concerned, I'm more of the Robin to Shane's Batman.”

-Houston Chronicle

Never before have I witnessed a player so hopelessly overmatched perpetually emerge so thoroughly triumphant.

Watching Chuck Hayes at his craft, one wonders, in some less cruel world, were he afforded that oft taken-for-granted privilege of full sizedness, wherein would his fate lie? This is a 6'6 stub portraying dominance in a time when power forwards were crafted as some superhuman race.

I should mention that Hayes possesses leaping ability paralleled in futility only by the late Matt Maloney. To consistently smother into submission men towering above him, on the strength of basic positional leveraging and fundamentality is the pinnacle of cerebral excellence. When I watch him completely suffocate an All-Star, or merely hold ground on a routine post-up, I admit that the sight never fails to evoke amazement.

It's a shame. While he doesn't garner anywhere near the praise and adulation of his more celebrated teammates, Hayes is undoubtedly the best defender on this team. One must wonder, were his offense not so egregiously dreadful, would the experts finally take note? Will the day come when it is finally discerned that Hayes is in fact, not the same person as Carl Landry (or the infamous "Carl Laundry" for that matter)?

Alas, I can assume he will go on unappreciated, uncredited with the plaudits he so rightfully deserves, even by fans of his own team, his sheer mastery of his craft unnoticed.

So usually goes the stinginess of appreciation of the finer subtleties of life, even if manifested throughout an 82 game season.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Game 2: And the Apathy Has Sunk In...

Yes, the apathy has already sunk in. No, not the Rockets'. Don't expect them to take even a single play off this entire year. We're talking about my own apathy. Unfortunately, I'm pretty bored already and we're only two games into the season.

I know I'm not alone. Watching the game last night, I had that "I guess I'll watch but my heart isn't exactly racing here over the outcome...wait, do I even want us to win?" feeling going on that I haven't had since Stromile Swift still had potential.

Nothing against the team. They play a refreshing brand of ball that would put a smile on even Bobby Knight's mug. I apologize, but it's just hard to push from my mind the thought that at this time last year, we were in that glorious denial phase about McGrady's injury and were still considered a legitimate threat to win the title. My God, what I would give for false hope and delusion right now.

As I said in my season preview, what makes matters more difficult is that this team doesn't have any high profile growth prospects. I can't key in on one guy and tell myself, "okay, we're going to suck, but this kid is fun to watch going to take us to to the top within 5 years!" as was my in-game ritual from 1999-2002. Okay sorry, I'm ruining the fun for those of you still interested.

As is to be expected, we beat up on the utterly pathetic Warriors. They're more talented, but they are young, undisciplined, and just overall completely suck. This is the type of team the Rockets will feast on this year on their way to a range of 35-42 wins. This would probably be an appropriate time to admit that I wasn't exactly upset when Aaron Brooks turned it over late to give the Warriors a chance. Yes, I feel a bit guilty. More on this later.

I should mention that, just two games in, I really, really like David Andersen. Yes, he might not ever become even average defensively but that's irrelevant. He's just a solid offensive player who I really think will be huge next year upon Yao's return. He can shoot from the perimeter and has been showing off a very nice array of moves inside. Again, this is a 7 footer making $3million. Most 7 footers that can walk and chew gum at the same time are making at least twice that amount. I can't begin to understand why some are actually complaining about his defense. He won't exactly be asked to guard Dwight Howard when the games actually matter. He gives the team an option it didn't have in the past when Yao was ineffective. The objective is to assess each part, not on the basis of its own independent merit, but in relation to the whole. The question isn't whether he can fill Yao's shoes or guard premiere 'bigs.' The question is whether he can be a legit option at the backup center position and be a reliable scoring threat off the bench. So far, it is looking very good. Another solid move by Daryl Morey.

Finally, Trevor Ariza has really been having a hard time holding onto the ball. This actually reached humorous levels last night. I'll have more on this in-depth at a later time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Season Opener: No Surprises...but a Pleasant Surprise

No, the sky isn't falling. In the Rockets' 96-87 loss to the Blazers in last night's season opener, things went just as anyone should have expected.

The good guys scratched and clawed for 48 minutes, even making things interesting at one point late, but ultimately fell to a superior foe. This is the same effort you can expect from this group with consistent results. They will beat up on bad teams and lose to the good teams when overwhelmed by the talent differential. There will be nights when they look completely overmatched inside, as they did tonight, but they will continue to fight. You can bank on this team to not ever mail it in.

To me, the most interesting storyline came late in the 4th. The Rockets had cut the lead to single digits with ample time remaining on the clock and were beginning to pose a serious threat to steal the game. It was at this point when conventional wisdom flew out the window.

While Chase Budinger played a big role in the comeback, with a chance to win the game one would expect Shane Battier or at the least, Trevor Ariza, to be reinserted for the duty of guarding Brandon Roy. I mean, this is Brandon freaking Roy, it's the 4th quarter, and you can actually still win this thing!

So what did Rick Adelman do? Much to my delight, he kept Chase in the game, kept him guarding Brandon Roy, and kept Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry together in the backcourt. I absolutely loved that. One might argue that Rick wanted to stay with the hot lineup, but there's no way you can tell me he would have seriously kept Chase Budinger on Brandon Roy had his prime motivation been to win the game.

What that 3 minute sequence did was prove that Rick Adelman is taking a greater, macro approach to this season. This year isn't about meaningless wins and losses but rather planning for the future and seeing what we have in each of these players. That tends to be forgotten. Kudos to Rick Adelman.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Who Will be the New Whipping Boy?

With the dawn of the new season upon us, there isn't really that much uncertainty surrounding the Houston Rockets. Pretty much everyone agrees that they will win 35-42 games, that Aaron Brooks and McGrady are the biggest wild cards, and that Clyde will remain as unintelligible as ever. However, one burning question still remains unanswered: Who will be the new whipping boy?

As any fan knows, intellectual sports discussion is simply not possible without a designated whipping boy. The Rockets have had a particularly rich legacy in this department with characters spanning from Rafer Alston, to the infamous Kelvin Cato, to Matt Maloney, and even the legendary Kenny Smith.

In trying to assess this year's team, what really troubles me is that no one really jumps out as a strong early candidate to fill Rafer Alston's shoes. Brian Cook would be the obvious favorite, but he's more of a punchline and hopefully won't be seeing the light of day. Some folks will crucify their personal choice of David Anderson, Trevor Ariza, or Aaron Brooks, but that will be on the basis of unwarranted assumptions and I do think reason will prevail in each respective case before the angry mob gains too much steam.

It is absolutely crucial for a sports fan to stay angry about something at all times. That potential void is what makes this season so difficult. Daryl Morey has assembled such a rock solid group of players (at reasonable price tags) that it is hard to foresee anyone sucking badly enough to incur the collective wrath of the fan base. But it's still early. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kyle Lowry: Upside?

I've said before that Kyle Lowry is my favorite player on the team.

I really, really like Kyle Lowry.

Much ado is made of the Scola trade or finding Landry in the second round, but in my opinion, the Lowry trade was the most impressive acquisition of the Daryl Morey era and really microcosmic of Morey's overall philosophy in management of the team.

He held off on dumping a presumed negative asset in Rafer Alston until the market for point guards was bone dry and a desperate buyer in the Orlando Magic presented itself. If it wasn't enough that he was able to reel in a 23 year old prospect who was actually an immediate upgrade over Alston, the real genius of the trade was that Brian Cook is only a one year commitment.

So essentially, Morey just split Rafer Alston's burdensome $4.5million contract into a better player and the difference in salary. In a nutshell, Morey landed the far superior player in the trade without taking on any future salary obligations. That rarely happens.

What is so frustrating is that if Lowry could just shoot, even at only age 23, I think he would immediately have to be considered a 'top 15' point guard in this league. The problem is that his lack of an outside shot is such a glaring weakness that it precludes any serious discussion of a starting role and severely limits his ceiling. The kid already has everything else.

He attacks the basket and draws fouls as well as anyone, he runs the offense with the sure-handedness usually only exhbited by veterans, and he has the tools to be elite defensively. That last trait is particularly significant. How many guys at that position can actually defend at an elite level and not completely suck at everything else?

There were reports in the summer that Lowry had been working diligently on his shooting. That does not seem to have paid off. What is strange is that his form is fine. This is not a case of a bad shooter (ala Rafer Alston) chucking his way to a predictably low percentage. On the contrary, watching Lowry, I get the sense of a guy who just does not want to shoot out of a belief that there are higher percentage options off the pass/drive.

This is a true point guard mentality but unfortunately, this mindset neglects the fact that the offense would be better served if the defense had to honor Lowry's shot as a legitimate threat.

As perimeter shooting is probably the skill most easily developed, entering only his 4th year, Lowry has time. But for now, especially on a team with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, the inability to shoot is such a huge weakness that I don't think Lowry is starter material. And that's really a damn shame. He's so good already at everything else that if only he were a competent shooter, he could be a modern day Mark Jackson - never an All-Star but a guy you could pencil in as a rock solid starter for the next decade and feel great about your chances.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yao/McGrady - Year Six

Upon hearing the news regarding Yao, my initial intent was to create a post-mortem assessment of the 'Yao-McGrady experiment'. This was based on the assumption that the team would opt for rebuilding. Unbeknownst to us at this juncture, this may still very well be the plan. However, with the core surviving intact through the summer, and the prospect of retaining McGrady appearing more likely, such an evaluation would be entirely premature.

The outward irony in the title is immediately evident as year 6 of Yao/McGrady will actually be about everyone except Yao and McGrady. But the greater overlooked irony is that, by virtue of their glaring absence, this is really the first season that is truly about these two. Every year, based on our mistaken presumptions regarding their health, the focus of our hopes, justifiably or not, has been on the abilities/weaknesses of everyone else. This year, having finally assembled possibly the best supporting cast in basketball, the fact that McGrady and Yao's bodies have completely failed them truly is the elephant in the room.

My Assumption:

While I am skeptical whether he can ever regain his former status, my starting assumption here is that Yao will return strong from injury in 2010. Without that controlling assumption, there is simply too much uncertainty to conduct any type of analytical preview for this season. All of the proverbial ***** would hit the fan. Without this assumption, the only reliable constants are the team name, those horrendous uniforms, and the mascot.

Guiding Principle:

I can't endure an entire season of following a sports team without some guiding principle of what I feel it should be trying to accomplish for that year. This presents quite the predicament in what is undoubtedly the oddest season I can remember. Unlike the past 5 years, as well as the Olajuwon era, there isn't even a remote possibility for title contention. Yet unlike the Francis era, we have no high potential growth prospects nor even any self-conceived path of upward trajectory. Frankly speaking, we collectively willed ourselves through the painful ‘Francis years’ with the naive belief that what we were watching would later bear fruit.

This current season epitomizes the sports equivalent of 'Limbo.' We're essentially awaiting some later triggering event, whether it be a blockbuster trade, or the return of Yao, and we have no real room for tangible collective improvement. So I must ask myself, "what exactly am I looking for this season?" Wins and losses are not a proper measuring stick for this team, and depending upon your perspective, the former could even be detrimental in the grand scheme (though I do not necessarily feel that way.)

The guiding principle will be to envision the team with Yao. Each independent factor will be assessed only in relation to its role on a Yao-centric team. Developments exclusive of these limits will be considered extraneous to any evaluation.

The Factors:

David Anderson - The conventional opinion will be to assess his abilities to dependably rebound and defend and I expect him to receive a great deal of criticism from this board in these areas. This is of no interest to me. I want to see how he does against the smaller quicker teams such as Toronto. Why? Because that is when he will be needed most upon Yao's return. Our biggest weakness is that we crumble when smaller teams take Yao out of the game. I don't care if Tim Duncan hangs 40 and 15 on David. I want to see how he fares against Bargnani and the like. Simply put, is he good enough to give us something on those nights when Yao is unable to give us anything? Can he be a viable enough alternative to Yao to keep us competitive against any style of play?

Scola and Landry – Defense. Both have pretty much maxed out their capabilities offensively. Their weakness is defense. Far too often, we have to rely on Chuck Hayes for long spurts when an opposing power forward goes off. This takes a predictable toll on our offense. This team’s chances would be much improved in 2010-2011 if Scola and Landry made strides defensively allowing us to keep their offense on the floor at all times.

Trevor Ariza - Trevor is salt in the wounds. Signing Trevor Ariza was like securing the elusive antidote after the patient had already died. This was the guy who would have kept Jerry Stackhouse off the block and beaten Matt Harpring to those crucial loose rebounds. Its bittersweet because this was the athletic, tall swingman this team desperately needed for so long and now it may be too late. I don't care if he doesn't improve his offense, nor do I expect it. All I hope for is a duplication of his postseason production: efficient shooting, stifling defense, and high energy play. Don't look to see if he can handle the ball. Look to see if he can pump fake the 3 off the Yao kickout and slash to the basket or cut in through the backdoor (unlike Shane) when McGrady is doubled up top. Is he dependable enough defensively to trade Shane if a tempting offer presents itself? I am not advocating that we trade Battier as he is the heart and soul of this team, but from a managerial perspective, you hope that Ariza is so good that he makes Battier redundant, presenting further flexibility to shape the roster.

Shane Battier - He has pretty much tapped out his abilities so there isn't much to expect here. I would just warn everyone to not be too alarmed if his defense noticeably slips this season. His style of strategic positioning defense is much more difficult without a shot-blocker in the paint. If he is getting burnt, it doesn’t mean he is washed up. Things will be fine when Yao returns.

Kyle Lowry - This one is interesting. He has pretty much maxed out his potential - unless he develops a jumpshot. Then all bets are off. He's my favorite player on this team, but unless he either learns to shoot or a true shooting guard is acquired, I don't see him starting at point in a Yao-centric offense, especially next to McGrady. However, he is a great asset off the bench and hopefully a fixture on this team for many years.

Taylor and Budinger - It would be huge if Taylor showed some Flip Murray-esque ability to score off the dribble in spurts. This team is in desperate need of players who can score on their own. He has a Cuttino Mobley vibe to him but I don't want to give in to hyperbole. As for Budinger, you just hope he shows he can be a rotation player. Paradoxically, while Budinger is probably the better player of the two, at least seemingly so far, Taylor has the talent trait of which we are in dire need. I expect Chase to be better, but I will be watching Taylor a lot more closely.

Joey Dorsey - What is at stake here is that he is the only blemish to date on Daryl Morey's drafting record. His only real purpose on this team seems to serve as some sort of mascot for the teenaged fans any time an on-court confrontation erupts: "MAN I WISH TEHY WOLD JUST PUT DORSEY IN 2 PUNCH KOBE IN THE FACE THATD SHOW HIM HAHA!!!!1111" and the like....I digress.

The Two Most Important Considerations - Tracy and Brooks

These are the two specimens which the microscope will be most greatly focused upon. Most of you seem to care primarily about Aaron's playmaking and point guard skills. That is not what I will be observing at all. If he finally learns to run the offense, that will be gravy, but the most important aspect to this season is Aaron Brooks' improvement as a scorer. Simply put, he has to become a legitimate 18-20 point scorer. If that doesn't happen, there will probably have to be some sort of further transaction down the line.

Here's why: When Yao returns, and if Tracy is retained, this team will still be in need of additional firepower. They have been in search of the elusive ‘third star’ for 6 years now, and that need will be even more greatly heightened in Yao and McGrady's declined physical conditions. If the plan is to bring back McGrady, then Aaron Brooks needs to make the jump to consistent scoring option for this team to realistically contend in 2010-2011. At an ideal, best case scenario, you will see McGrady recovering to his 2007 form and compensating for Aaron’s weaknesses with his superior playmaking skills. In turn, Brooks can thrive off the defensive attention thrown at McGrady and the relinquishment of actual point guard duties. In theory, I think these two players’ skillsets complement each other beautifully while their strengths compensate for their respective weaknesses. They could really flourish together in the backcourt, but they each have to take the next step. That means staying healthy and staying focused for McGrady and developing as a pure scorer for Aaron Brooks.

Aaron has all the tools but still has quite a long way to go. For one, he is still wildly inconsistent as evidenced by his atrocious shooting percentage. This can be excused as last season was virtually his first year in the league. More importantly, he needs to improve his ability to finish in the lane. That he has a good feel for the mid range jumpshot puts him ahead of the curve for a young player, but his difficulty scoring in traffic is the single biggest obstacle preventing him from getting to the next level. He's not in Rafer Alston's league in terms of futility, but he is far too often stuffed at the rim. Brooks really needs to study Tony Parker's use of the floater and how it enables him to shoot farther away from the goal and avoid the shot-blocker.

Then of course, we come to McGrady. The feasibility of acquiring a max free agent (without depleting our core) has been thoroughly debunked in other threads. Almost everyone can agree that the most preferable option would be to trade him for a younger star so that we can 're-tool' while staying in contention upon Yao's return. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be too many trade options available and it seems likelier that McGrady will return long term. In any event, what I am watching for with T-Mac is just getting something out of his salary slot, whether that be production from him or new pieces through a trade. The goal should be to have full confidence in the backcourt heading into 2010-2011 on the basis of what was done/observed this year. If Yao is back, we can’t waste the precious few years he has remaining.

If we are fortunate enough to find a good deal for McGrady, then that obviously will set off a domino effect the nature of which, due to its unpredictability, there is no point in discussing at this time. Barring a trade, the single most important facet of this team to examine will be the interaction and level of play of Aaron Brooks and Tracy McGrady. Will their production suffice for contention upon Yao's return? Can Tracy McGrady be a full-time point guard? Can Aaron Brooks be a full-blown dependable go-to scoring threat? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, there will have to be later trades to restructure the backcourt. In their diminished state, this team can no longer contend with McGrady and Yao as its two major scoring options. The conundrum is that a major trade destroys the depth and chemistry which the team has worked so hard to accumulate. That is why Aaron Brooks' development as a scorer should be the key focus of this season.

Concluding Thoughts:

I think there is a popular romantic desire here to see the team band together and make a push to the playoffs on the strength of grit, determination, and chemistry. While that would make for a great storyline, and the culture of confidence could certainly carry over, I don’t think wins and losses should be the measuring stick for this season. We already have some of the best chemistry in the league and arguably the best supporting cast. We fully know the extent of their capabilities. For the last 5 years, we thought we had the stars but never had the role players. Now we finally have the perfect group of role players. The key to this season will be in determining whether we can somehow preserve this core while still mustering up enough scoring punch to contend when Yao returns. We saw in the playoffs how far our system and chemistry can take us but also that we are still in desperate need of legitimate scoring options. You can pencil in a probable MLE-class acquisition next summer as well as some other minor tinkering. If you can’t realistically envision this current group with those additions, plus Yao, as a legitimate title contender, then the team will have to make some sort of major deal somewhere along the line. Discerning this future projection will be the key theme of the 2009-2010 season.

Free Agency Has Not Been Kind to the Houston Rockets

With all the discussion these past few days with regards to the prudence in offering Trevor Ariza the full MLE, the doomsayers' reminiscence of Stromile Swift led me to thinking. There are particular episodes which are most often cited, but viewing the team’s transactional history as a whole even more greatly underscores how cruel free agency has been to the Houston Rockets.

Below I have included the notable offseason free agent acquisitions from each season since the last title in 1995. (I feel that everyone will agree that this is a fair and objective starting point for any analysis of the team's plight.) I have not included midseason pickups nor CBA/D-League fillers (more on this later.) I have also refrained from including Kelvin Cato, Moochie Norris, and Matt Maloney because although each was a disastrous signing, the two former were not obtained via free agency, while the antecedent clause disqualifies the inclusion of the latter.

Mark Bryant
- Bryant was signed to start at power forward but if I recall correctly an early injury prevented that. He averaged 8 points and 4 rebounds in 71 games which came as a surprise to me because I don't remember him having any impact at all. He was gone the next year.

Kevin Willis, Brent Price
- While a good signing in theory, Price contributed nothing to the team in his tenure due to injuries. Kevin Willis on the other hand was far and away the most valuable free agent signing in the post championship era.

no free agent acquisitions

Scottie Pippen, Antoine Carr
- Carr was injured much of the season and gave the team next to nothing. Scottie Pippen was the most disastrous acquisition in Rockets history not only for his lack of production but because his subsequent trade to Portland spawned the Kelvin Cato legacy.

Shandon Anderson
- Anderson was initially signed to a modest contract but with the understanding of later compensation. He was a huge disappointment and was later signed (to a monster deal) and traded to New York for Glen Rice.

Maurice Taylor
- Like Anderson, Taylor was also initially signed to a modest contract with the understanding of later compensation. He was initially productive, but his later re-signing was disastrous and was one of the worst contracts in team history.

Glen Rice*
- Glen Rice wasn't a free agent but rather was acquired in the Shandon Anderson trade. I have included him because he was the punition for having promised Shandon Anderson a raise. He gave the team nothing. Even more importantly, unloading him the following season (presumably to avoid the newly instituted luxury tax) cost the team a first round draft pick.

no free agent acquisitions

Jim Jackson, Eric Piatkowski, Adrian Griffin
- Piatkowski and Griffin gave the team next to nothing. Jim Jackson was a solid contributor and easily the second best free agent signing after Kevin Willis.

Bobby Sura, Charlie Ward
- Ward gave the team nothing. Sura was huge for one season but his body broke down and he was unable to play through the contract.

Derek Anderson, Stromile Swift
- Derek Anderson was signed to supplant David Wesley in the starting lineup and was absolutely pitiful. Stromile Swift was one of the biggest disappointments in team history and is probably the poster boy for advocating the exercise of discretion in utilizing the full MLE.

Bonzi Wells
– terrible.

Steve Francis
- Gave the team nothing. Contrary to popular opinion, this move did hurt the team as trading him later in the year necessitated relinquishing Memphis' high 2nd round pick.

Brent Barry
- Gave the team nothing and looks ready for retirement.


I did not include Eldridge Recasner, Sam Mack, Matt Maloney, Eddie Johnson, Moochie Norris, Chuck Hayes, and Von Wafer because while each was a major contributor, my intent was not an exhaustive critique of Rockets player personnel transactions. To do such a task proper diligence would require also factoring in to the ratio the numerous D-League and midseason minimum signings who contributed nothing such as Stanley Roberts and Rod Strickland. My intent was to analyze the team's spending of its major resources and its overall success rate in these acquisitions.

Not including Glen Rice, in the past 14 years, the team has made 17 off-season free agent acquisitions. Of these, by my evaluations, only 2 were wholly successful (Willis, Jim Jackson). Depending on your perspective, Bob Sura can also be considered a successful acquisition, but I withheld him as he did not finish through his contract. Even more importantly, his unavailability triggered the trading of Mike James for Rafer Alston which may have impacted the team's later playoff success. Such a trade might have been avoided had the resources initially spent on Sura been allocated towards a different point guard. Note that this is not a value judgment on Sura but rather on the overall success rating of the signing. I think Bob played great for us, but had the team been successful in landing Brent Barry (at that age), Derek Fisher, or Antonio Daniels, there would have been significant implications in their later success, in my opinion. Of course, this was not management's fault as no one could have predicted Bob’s injury, but the intent here is not to assign culpability. The purpose is to assess the impact of each acquisition. Some will also note that Sura was signed for significantly less than the respective asking prices of Brent Barry, Daniels, and Fisher. However, the counter-argument could be presented that had the team offered one of these three close to the full MLE rather than allocating the funds towards Sura, their later success would have been impacted. I realize that this analysis on the Sura acquisition is a bit sketchy and I am willing to consider him a successful signing if convinced accordingly.

Kevin Willis was far and away the most successful signing in the post championship era. Not only was he productive on the court, but he had liquid value in translating to two first round draft picks in his trade to Toronto. The point here is in assessing the team's ability to create a continuous flow of assets by which to remain competitive. For example, the Stromile Swift and Steve Francis signings had negative value in later trades. Ironically, the two picks which Willis was traded for later became Mirsad Turkcan and Bryce Drew. Even when the Rockets did something right, they somehow managed to screw it up.

Continuing the analysis, 4 of the 17 acquisitions signed contracts for equal or greater amounts than is being given to Ariza (Pippen, Taylor, Anderson, Swift). All 4 were complete and utterly disastrous signings.

The implications are not an attempt to foreshadow anything regarding Ariza. For one, I think this was a very good signing and more importantly, this is Daryl Morey's first major free agent acquisition (though the 3 he has made in Wells, Francis, Barry were failures.) It was only the thought of Ariza which triggered this inquiry. What I think the value in this is, in combination with the team's well documented draft day follies, is in understanding why the team hasn't been relevant for 12 years. Up until now, they simply have not created assets. Even worse (depending on your perspective) is that they have hit absolute homeruns in a handful of transactions (the Francis trade, drafting Mobley, winning the #1 pick, landing McGrady) which have made them good enough to always ensure relative mediocrity. They haven't had the luxury of stockpiling high lottery picks for quick recoveries as has been afforded to the other red headed step children of the league.

Trevor Ariza should be a major cornerstone for the team in its rebuilding era, but overall, free agency has not been kind to the Houston Rockets.