Houston Rockets 2010 draft: thoughts and discussion

Update 2:01PM 06/25

A reader, Stephen, writes:

Hate to multiple post,but does Morey really take best player or best player who fits a need?
He sure looks to be forming a pattern of identifying a need from the previous season and bringing in both a vet and a draftee to fill it.Then the coach decides who’s gonna play and stay.
2007 PG and PF were definite weak links.
Scola,Landry and Brooks,Francis,Jackson brought in.
2008 Two Series losses to Utah indicated a need for physicality.
Artest and Dorsey.
2009 Wing scoring.

If this holds true,whatever Morey has identified as this past season’s big weakness is going to determine who gets drafted and a similar-skilled vet will also be brought in.

Interesting and a trend I had never spotted/considered.  Still, I would argue the contrary with one of your examples as proof.  In ’08, Morey drafted Greene, a selection which did not fit the stated need but maximized value at that spot.  This value was what later allowed him to nab Artest, a player who fit the team’s need.

Another reader, Mike, writes:

If Miami creates enough cap space to sign two star free agents (say Bosh and Johnson), and Chicago does likewise via trading Deng to sign Lebron & Amare or Boozer … then the Knicks 2011 #1 protected pick looks very good!

The problem is, can we be better than Miami (Johnson Wade Bosh), Chicago (Rose, Lebron, Amare/Boozer, Noah) or the Lakers?

Our only chance would be to overwhelm them with system and depth and hope whatever rookie, either this year through trade, or next year via New York, became elite.

Other notes:

With what figures to be the most exciting offseason in NBA history could get even crazier with Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that Chris Paul is no longer untouchable.

People need to understand that they’re not trying to trade Paul.  They’re trying to reduce team salary with Paul as their only bait.  Hypothetical speculation should be mindful of that.  Just simply trading Paul for some package would be completely counterintuitive to their objective – they want to attach Okafor or other bad contracts.

You could say that Morey should hold off on making his move in the draft and take his big swing at Paul, but I’m sure he has somewhat of a gauge on his chances.

DraftExpress reported that a Vince Carter for Gilbert Arenas trade could be in the works.  For the Wizards, that’s about as close to a miracle “get out of jail” pass as you can find.

Update 9:51AM 06/24: A reader, Quinn, raises an interesting point:

Trading TA1 would be a publicity / front office nightmare unless he went to a contender inasmuch as he came here because he wanted to grow and improve his game – to ship him off (especially to a team like Minnesota) just screams to potential future players that you should not come here because you’re just a piece of a temporary team.

While I don’t think this would cause them to back off from a no-brainer offer, he is right that that could be a potential concern.

Other notes: Danny Ainge is reportedly shopping Kendrick Perkins in an attempt to move up in the draft.  My initial reaction is that there must be something seriously wrong with Perk.  The Celtics no doubt want to instill some new blood into their team after their Finals loss, but trading a 25 year old defensive cornerstone is not the way to do it.  A guy that young that can guard Dwight Howard and Yao Ming without double team help is worth much more than just a late lottery pick.

Update at 2:01PM 06/24: Apologies for my truancy thus far – just not much going on at the moment today aside from Miami and Chicago’s plans to reroute the course of history.  With the buzz that was in Houston earlier last month when it seemed Chris Bosh was a real possibility, one must envy the feeling right now in those respective cities with their teams scrambling to add not just one, but two superstars in addition to their current ones.

These various Bulls scenarios being tossed around sound incredibly lop-sided: convincing a team to take the contract of Kirk Hinrich or Luol Deng would be a win in itself, not a feat to additionally be rewarded with a top-10 draft pick.

The rumor that the #4 can only be had if taken in combination with Al Jefferson, while dubious, gives us a hint at just how wrong we all were regarding Jefferson’s value.  I thought it would take atleast some combination of Jordan Hill and draft picks to make a deal – looks like he can pretty much be had for free.  Again, just mind-boggling considering this was one of the brightest young stars in basketball just over 20 months ago.

I’m not too surprised by the Heat’s difficulties in their attempts to give away Michael Beasley because that doesn’t necessarily mean he has zero trade value – it only means teams with cap space value that space more than adding Beasley.

Update at 2:38PM 06/24: Some of these reports coming out right now are absolutely fascinating inasmuch as just how much they shed light upon the economic realities of today’s NBA.  You have the owners of legit young talent like Monta Ellis, Biedrins, and Al Jefferson just begging teams to take them off their hands, even attaching high lottery picks to make the pill more palatable, and still no one is biting.  Pretty foreboding for the new CBA.  The owners just are not going to pay long-term deals unless you’re established in the elite upper crust.  Really, gone are the days of the “psuedo-star.”  If you’re a marginal All-Star, going forward, you missed out on millions over the course of your earning career just simply by having the misfortune of being born in the wrong decade of history.

Update at 2:59PM 06/24: Wow, so the Bulls pull it off, sending Hinrich and their 17th to the Wiz for unknown considerations, freeing up room sufficient to land 2 max stars this summer.  First of all, this one makes infinitely more sense than the earlier rooms that had them not only achieving their objective of clearing room by dealing Hinrich/Deng, but also getting back a mid-lottery pick.

It’s still hard to wrap your mind around that what seemed like a pipe-dream is now a reality – the Chicago Bulls have complete financial capability to acquire both Lebron James and Chris Bosh.  From Rose being younger than Wade and being a true-playmaker, to Noah’s presence to do the dirty work, to the retention of Deng as a complementary piece, the Bulls are just simply a better fit for James than Miami.  A team of Bosh-Deng-Noah-James-Rose, coached by Thibs, has literally everything, all under-25; it would be a sickening wealth of riches, almost at vide-game levels.  Best player in the league?  Check. Best young point guard in the league?  Check.  Pass-first, unselfish point guard?  Check.  Unselfish best player willing to pass?  Check.  Elite coaching?  Check.  Elite front-court defender?  Check.  Elite offensive big man?  Check.  Ridiculous – that squad could win 70.  How it must feel to be in Chicago right now.  The excitement even contemplating the possibilities rivals the Jordan years.

Update 3:12PM 06/24: Kelly Dwyer tweets that the Hinrich deal still does not clear money sufficient for 2 max slots.  Excuse the hyperbole above.  I can get carried away at times.

Update at 3:32PM 06/24: Via DraftExpress:

Houston is entertaining offers for the #14 pick. Initially planned on standing pat, but are intrigued by the offers they’re getting now.

They’re trading the pick!!  Ok, maybe not.  Since I’ve already changed my prediction ten times in the past 24 hours, I’ll sit tight until the draft.  Or the next rumor.

A reader, Raj, writes:

How are you getting the idea that Rose is pass first?

I’m getting the idea after watching 5 years of Steve Francis.  After that, I consider anyone with better than a 1:1 AST:TO ratio to be pass-first.

Another reader, Robert, muses:

This isn’t related to the draft really, but John Wall’s potential as a PG got me thinking…
Not too long ago, Tony Parker was in the conversation of elite PGs, but not so much anymore. Is the the result of San Antonio’s regression as a team, Tony’s age, or (my guess) an influx of great young PGs into the league?

I would guess it might have something to do with everyone around him regressing.  But on that note, the complete transformation of the point guard-landscape from ‘shoot-first hybrid’ to ‘pass-first pure’ in such a short period of time is absolutely fascinating.  Someone needs to write a sociological inquiry on this.  Maybe I will.

Zen Monkey, writes:

These are hard years to be a Rockets fan, never good enough to contend for the title and never bad enough to draft a star. The middle may just be the worst spot in the NBA.

Chin up.  There’s nothing worse in sports than mediocrity, but we won’t be mired in it; not with Morey.  I think it’s difficult to tell fans to remain patient, but one should keep in mind that he’s really had actual talent for just a year.  He spent the first part of his tenure cleaning up his predecessor’s mess.

Update 3:49PM: Cavs the Blog’s John Krolik forebodingly captures the gloom in Cleveland: The Bulls may have just ended the Lebron Era, adding, “It hasn’t sunk in yet, but if that team can be made, I can’t really see how that doesn’t happen. A lot could happen between now and July 8th, but the pressure is squarely on Cleveland now. This isn’t just a “market” or “legacy” thing now for LeBron. It’s a chance to go to a major market and head up one of the most talented teams ever assembled.”

Update 4:10PM: A reader, Anthony, writes:

I wouldn’t categorize Rose as pass-first, nor should he be. He’s so outstanding a scorer, with finishing ability in the paint as good as anybody, that he would be denying his team his best ability. I rate his pure passing ability as only average. He executes the open passes and the diagrammed plays but he doesn’t unlock puzzles like Nash, Paul, Williams and yes, Rondo. I give him points for being willing to pass and he does it enough to qualify as an actual point guard.

The difference between Rose and Wall is that it’s hard to project that anyone will be able to make as many difficult shots in the paint as Rose does. He consistently hangs in the air and just pushes shots in. You can project three point, free throw and mid-range shooting and dominance in the open court but it’s hard to project the knack to make extraordinarily difficult shots. Rose at least has dominant scoring ability in his back pocket. I don’t know if Wall has an elite skill besides great open court ability.

I would argue that we’re basically arguing semantics.  The reader makes the case that Rose is not an ‘elite’ passer.  But is ability a necessary condition to being ‘pass-first’?  Doesn’t being a pass-first point guard simply mean you’re willing to pass, regardless of your actual ability?

Update 9:21PM 06/24: Houston Rockets select Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson.

First, thanks to everyone who dropped by in the first-ever Red94 chat.  To those still wondering what happened at the end, my apologies – I really dropped the ball.  I told you all to migrate to the new room, as we had reached the user limit for the original, but what I didn’t know was that the new one had an even lower limit.  Consequently, a lot of you were left standing in the rain.  I should have made better preparations, but I did not expect such a turn-out given the established tradition of longer-tenured pages in this niche.  It was fun though and we will have to make some arrangements for game chats before next season begins.

At the time of this writing, the Rockets have selected Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson and have not made any deals.  I expected a trade-down but it appears the team feels lucky to have had Patterson fall to them and could not risk losing him altogether.

I don’t want to pass judgment until the night ends and the dust settles, but this pick doesn’t necessarily foreshadow future moves.  The team probably just chose the player they felt was the best available – that doesn’t mean Luis Scola or Jordan Hill are gone.

Overall, it’s been a rather uneventful draft night, one of the most boring I can remember.  The big news thus far is that the Orlando Magic could be close to uniting Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, with a deal contingent upon Magic GM Otis Smith finding a 3rd team to take on Emeka Okafor.  Local sources in Orlando claim that the Magic would be sending guards Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter to the Hornets for Paul, a deal which, on its face, appears about as lop-sided as any in recent history.

Good luck finding a taker for Okafor, owner of one of the most poisonous contracts currently in the league.  For that reason, and the sheer-lopsidedness, I just can’t see this going down.  If it does, my first emotions are of envy: it wasn’t too long ago that we too brought together two sub-25 All-NBA superstars.

Update 10:03PM: As I’ve said before, I don’t follow college basketball so not much commentary from me unfortunately on this pick.  I’ll try to compile some thoughts from real experts by tomorrow, though.  With that said, from what I’ve read, I like the pick as he seems to be a great, well-rounded kid.  I must stress though to please not base any assumptions off of this selection.  They might trade Hill; they might not.  Selecting Patrick Patterson has no direct, absolute bearing on it.  The team just followed its philosophy of taking the best player available.

My main interest at the moment is the deal that would purportedly send Chris Paul to Orlando for Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter.  Either A) it’s total BS or B) CP3 doesn’t want to play here, because the Rockets can certainly put together a better package than that.  It would make sense if Morey just didn’t want to take back Okafor, but the report is that the Magic might actually have a deal lined up to send him elsewhere.  That’s the part that makes me really skeptical.  It’s pretty doubtful that both A) the Hornets would take back such an underwhelming package AND B) the Magic would find a taker for Emeka.  If it was that simple to deal him on his own (for a palatable contract) then why wouldn’t the Hornets just do it themselves without parting with Paul?  I can actually feel myself getting angry as I type this.  The deal makes absolutely no sense.  (And thus, I’ll likely awake tomorrow to find that it’s been consummated.)

Still no news of anything else yet.

Update 6:13AM 06/25: I might be the only die-hard basketball fan I know who doesn’t circle the NBA Draft on his calendar.  I always feel like an outcast.  Remember that Friends episode where the salesman is trying to sell Joey the Encyclopedia set?  And so, as part of his pitch, he’s like “are there ever times when your friends are talking about something and you have no idea what’s going on?”  And then Joey reminisces on all the times when he had to just smile and nod his head.  That’s usually me.  Aside from the top prospects, I know little to nothing about most of these guys and usually have to resort to fake outrage/disgust/joy over developments to fit in with the crowd.

(I should add that after writing that, I’m not as embarrassed about admitting I watched Friends as I had thought I would be.)

So anyways, Patrick Patterson was the pick at 14 and no second rounders were purchased.  I went 1/2 as I thought they would for sure trade the pick, but also didn’t think they would buy picks this year given their financial condition.

I had said earlier in the week that the only way the Rockets stayed at 14 was if they were in love with who they took and that seems to be what happened.  Patterson was apparently 6th on their draft board.  However, I would probably take all of that with a grain of salt because isn’t that dialogue pretty standard?  I can’t remember a year that they weren’t thrilled with the pick, even though it certainly couldn’t have always been the case.  But anyways, my point is, moreso than their comments, their draft history should lead us to believe that they are in love with Patterson.  If they felt they could have gotten similar value, they would have moved down. So yeah, I realize I’m incessantly contradicting myself in this paragraph.  What I’m trying to say is that I believe what the Rockets are saying, but I believe it because of the logic, not just because they’re simply saying it.

Moving on, Patterson seems interesting.  I’m most intrigued by the claims that he supposedly has range out to the 3 point line…?  With Patterson, I’m just taking my standard approach with Morey draft picks – I’m void of emotion because I don’t know much about the players, but overall at ease and confident because things almost always work out with Daryl at the helm.

All I can do really is assess the overall situation and I would reiterate not to base upon this anything.  They’re not a team that just says “we don’t have a backup center….okay, let’s draft one!”  They’ll sort out needs through other means.

Anyways, now the real fun starts with July 1st around the corner.  Morey’s comments about not wanting to use up any assets was obviously revealing.  They’ll pursue Bosh but I can’t see much coming out of that, in all honesty.  Let’s say they strike out on Bosh – do they still use the New York picks?  Let’s do some simple math: Miami and Chicago have pretty much cleared or are getting close to clearing room for 2 top tier guys each.  You have James, Wade, Bosh, Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, and Boozer as the guys expected to get the max or very close to it.  I was never good at math but that’s 6 with 5 open spots (as Wade will re-sign.)  So is it safe to assume 5 of the 6 top-tier guys will go to Miami and Chicago, leaving 1 of them, Rudy Gay, and David Lee for everyone else?

I think it will be James and Bosh to Chicago, and Stoudemire and Joe Johnson to Miami.  Do the Knicks waste it all on Boozer and Gay?  If you’re Morey, with the draft over, there isn’t really much anxiety left over the value of the Knicks picks.  They’ll just wait and see what happens as it will become clear pretty fast where everyone is going.  I have a hunch that they felt the Knicks wouldn’t get anyone and thus didn’t feel pressured to trade the picks.  So now, they can either hold onto them and actually use them, or if a deal comes along during the year or later in the summer, they’ll trade them.

Would they swallow Okafor if it meant taking back Chris Paul?  Would Paul even want to come here?  Okafor and Paul make roughly $27million this season.  You have roughly $14million of expiring contracts in Battier and Jeffries, and can add Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin to make a match, throwing in a New York pick or two.  You can use your glut at the ’4′ with Okafor, Scola, Hill, and Patterson to trade for a shooting guard, giving you a starting lineup of Okafor, Ariza, Yao, new shooting guard, Paul, with Lowry, Scola, Budinger, and either Hill/Patterson off the bench.  Very nice, but I just don’t know if they’d bite on Okafor.

Update 7:35AM 06/25: Here’s another question, and it’ll sound odd: Given the cost, would they even want Chris Paul?  He’s a top 5 talent, but it’s no secret that pure point guards aren’t necessary in Rick’s offense.  Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry are more than enough – the system gets you shots.  Instead of blowing everything on Paul, and being tied down to Okafor for years, maybe they prefer the flexibility and roster parity?  Trading for Paul and Okafor would definitely be a CD move in the old NBA economy, but is it a Morey move?  Maybe you’d rather just spread it out and build an absolutely stacked team from 1-12?  Then again, with that said, in the scenario I laid out in the update above, that team too would be pretty damn stacked granted you could find a decent shooting guard, which I think you could.  Along those same lines, you need an elite player to go deep in the playoffs, not to mention the fact that they’re going to have to bring in elite talent somewhere at some point whether it be through the draft via New York or through trade.  A few years ago, did you ever imagine we’d run into the problem of having too much talent at every position and not knowing which need to address?

Okafor is elite defensively, and young, and would allow you to drastically reduce Yao’s minutes.  Could you get a starting quality shooting guard for a package of say, Jordan Hill and Patrick Patterson?  Maybe a young player, like Kyle Lowry, rotting away somewhere who Morey has identified to be undervalued?

Update 9:55AM 06/25:

A reader, Miles Durham, pretty much makes the case against Chris Paul:

I don’t like that Chris Paul lineup scenario at all. Kevin Martin has enormous value and I see him as an integral part of our future lineup. He has a phenomenal EFG% and is lights out from 3. When Yao gets hurt he has the fire power to put up 25ppg and when he’s in the lineup he’ll be a great role player. Also, more importantly, CP3 would hurt our chemistry because he needs to dominate the ball. What is the last championship team that had a point guard like that?

The championship formula is always: PG – do it all guy who can hit the open 3, SG – good scorer who can hit a tough shot when you need him to, SF – defensive guy who can hit the open 3, PF/C – one is a low-post threat, while the other is really gritty, grabbing every board and playing defense. This formula applies to most of the recent champions (Lakers, Spurs, Heat). Exceptions are possibly the Celtics (though they essentially fit the mold) and the Pistons with Chauncey. These two teams were simply defensive powerhouses and could make up for offensive liabilities on the other end.

Update 2:01PM 06/25: A reader, Sam, writes:

Nevermind CP3, and still not wanting to let go of the idea of Chris Bosh. I just find it hard to believe that he would walk away from $30Million just to play with Lebron. The rockets can offer a number of combinations to make it work, even Patterson, Scola and Hill. If we had Bosh, Dorsey and Hayes could handle any bench duties and wouldn’t we be able to still sign Brad Miller with the MLE? I would be against any moves that would seperate the Brooks, Martin back court.

Here’s an interesting question – as a player, do you take the money or the dream scenario?  In truth, the $30million figure is slightly disingenuous if we’re being honest – you’re not actually leaving $30million on the table the way it’s presented for argumentative/rhetorical emphasis; you’re just passing up $30million of guaranteed money.  Some of that (due to the difference in maximum annual raises between straight signs and sign&trades being 8% and 10.5%) is lost for good, but a lot of that can still be earned back in the next contract (as much of the loss is due to the rules only allowing for 5 year deals for straight signs as opposed to 6 years for sign&trades.)  Of course, the new CBA could drastically limit salaries and guarantees, but this has likely already gotten far too technical/theoretical/dull for anyone’s taste….

Where were we?  If you’re a role-player, always take the money. Never sign a deal for far less based on team preference unless you’re nearing the end – they’ll ship you out the second it’s convenient.  But what about if you’re a superstar?  What’s the likelihood of Bosh getting traded?  I guess it’s plausible if he falls off.  It’s happened before.

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