Thoughts on Jazz – Rockets

2010 February 27
by rahat huq

  • Kevin Martin is Craig Biggio.  Like the “king of hit batsmen,” Martin doesn’t just patiently draw walks – he forces his way on base by subtly putting his body in harm’s way.  Kevin made 12 free throws tonight en route to a 32 point explosion.  He hit jumpers from every angle but what impressed me the most is a surprisingly deft ability to create for himself off the dribble.  Now to clarify, he can’t do much in the way of creating for others, but given some of the scouting reports I had previously read, his handle has impressed me.  Most notable has been a spin move where Martin takes one dribble to his left and then spins back to his right for the jumpshot.  It’s intriguing because most players use this dribble spin to set up a drive to the basket.  I really can’t recall an instance of seeing it featured for the purpose of setting up a fadeaway jumper.

  • If you still haven’t quite grasped the significance of Kevin Martin’s ability to draw fouls, I hope you were awake at the 6:56 mark of the 2nd quarter.  Martin threw his body into Jazz guard Deron Williams, forcing the latter to the bench with foul trouble.  Granted, we went on to get blown out, but were we at full strength, or under normal circumstances, forcing out a guy who had already scored 23 points up to that point would have considerable ramifications upon the rest of the game.
  • Shane Battier was not available tonight which meant Chase Budinger was starting at the ‘3’ spot.  Brooks-Martin-Budinger is the perimter trio I want to see starting for this team for the next four or five years.  All three players can drive, pass, shoot, and slash, making for an extremely potent combination.  Martin and Brooks might already be the most dangerous offensive backcourt in basketball, though I am likely overlooking some superior duo in my haste.
  • The Jazz announcers mentioned that Aaron Brooks is “6 feet…maybe.”  I’ve never understood why it is that when discussing a player listed at 6 feet, NBA commentators/analysts/writers always feel obligated to imply that the listing is generous.  This happened all the time with Iverson too.  There is almost some belief that everyone is either 5’11 or under or 6’1 and over; that the height ‘6’0’ doesn’t actually exist.  I realize the intent is for rhetorical effect – to glorify a player’s abilities by hyperbolizing a hindrance (ie: lack of size), but must we always give way to cliché?…
  • As I have said before, I am very impressed by Jermaine Taylor’s continued development, particularly because he looked absolutely awful in the preseason.  He had some nifty dribble moves tonight and appears to have worked on his left hand.  I do get the sense from watching him that this is a guy who can be a regular rotation player somewhere down the line.
  • As I tweeted during the game, the difficult part about no longer having Brian Cook on the team is that it has become difficult to discern when the outcome has been decided.  Jordan Hill seems to have taken on the role of designated human ‘blowout’ cigar, a state of affairs which if still in effect at this point next year will be a great indicator that something has gone very, very wrong.
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  • Elhombredehuelo
    What are everyone's thoughts on David Andersen? I think he's slightly above terrible. I feel he is a one-dimensional offensive player (strictly a jumpshooter), and is an incompetent defender. I noticed the Jazz runs in the second quarter and in the middle of the fourth happened when he was in the game. It is a total coincidence however, but I would just like some input on that.
  • echu888

    I think this trio was a significant part of the reason why the Jazz were able to shoot about 70% for the game. If tonight was any indication, perhaps offensive potency is fools gold -- seems impressive but ultimately no real progress.
  • rahat_huq
    Completely disagree on the latter point. Consider that they have only played together for really a week and then consider that point in light of our frontcourt. Martin-Brooks-Budinger are all certainly underwhelming defenders. But I think this can be masked with a strong system and frontcourt shot-blocking. We have neither at the moment.
  • echu888
    One of the reasons why I really like the use of advanced statistics in the NBA is because it seems to me that there is inappropriate weight given to the offensive numbers with traditional boxscores, and as "common wisdom." So, generally, offensive contributions will be a bit overrated, and defensive contributions underrated. If you're backcourt is able to put up 50 pts. with ease, but is consistently exploitable by the other teams, I think fans generally perceive they have a good thing going, but the other team just happened to do really well. Conversely, someone who struggles with scoring but has disruptive effects on the other team's scorers will tend to be maligned more quickly. Now, I'm not saying that the defensive specialist is better than the scorer, but I'm just saying that they could potentially have the same kind of overall impact on the game, but the scorer will get more credit for what he does.

    I agree on your points -- they've only played together for a week, and we are lacking intimidation and shot-altering presence in the lane. The defense is always anchored by the big men.

    However, I think Brooks has no hope of ever becoming an effective defender, and Martin and Budinger only slightly better chances. They're going to get more credit than they deserve, due to their offensive skillfulness. Our lineup might be better served with mixing in at least one or two stronger backcourt defenders ... perhaps Brooks, Martin, Ariza, and then Lowry, Budinger, Battier, or combinations like that. Maybe a Brooks, Martin, Bud combo would be effective for specific situations where scoring is imperative. Last 4 seconds of a game, perhaps?

    As for defensive liabilities being masked with a strong system -- a system can't be a magic cover up for multiple weak defenders. A system is only strong because it has good, solid, committed individual defenders. When you have those (and admittedly, the anchor in the front-court), then you can compensate for a single weak defender. As I had tweeted earlier to you, consider all the recent championship teams -- I'll look it up, but I think they've been top tier in both offense and defensive ratings.
  • Mike B
    I still think Martin and Budinger can end up being more than adequate defenders, and perhaps even good team defenders. Defense is much more about effort and knowledge than it is actual ability, a vast contrast from offense. As we have seen with Trevor Ariza with the ball all season, more effort on offense may not result in better production.

    But on defense, once you have a core interior defense with a disciplined shot-blocking/changing presence (this may be the single most important aspect), as long as perimeter defenders have the athleticism and are willing to put in the work mentally of knowing their opponent and staying disciplined, I believe they can succeed. Obviously Kevin Martin isn't going to contain the Kobe's and Brandon Roy's of the world, but he has the length and agility to disrupt. Once we come together next year and if he begins to learn where his teammates are going to be around him on the court, he can play that to his strengths, as well as knowing what any particular player that he is guarding favors (fadeaway jumpshots, 3 pt vs driving, etc). Same thing goes for Budinger.

    Brooks will always be subject to abuse from the bigger PG's that can post and out-muscle him, though. He'll likely always be a liability on defense.
  • rahat_huq
    good thoughts.

    i disagree with you on budinger - i do think he has a chance of becoming effective defensively, in a shane mold. i think adelman feels the same way as you often see him guarding people like roy whom one would normally think he would have no business covering - and he has faired surprisingly well. agreed on aaron and martin though.

    as far as masking through a system - i'm not sure i completely agree here, because while there are degrees, any NBA guard can drive past any other NBA guard. but i think when you have a commitment to quick rotations and shot blocking, you can mask perimeter defense. but we will have to see what morey has in mind.
  • echu888
    thanks rahat. As a fan, I really hope that you (and Mike B) are right and I am wrong. I'd LOVE to see these guys develop into solid individual defenders, or at least play the right way in our defensive schemes. Perhaps the Utah game was a fluke, especially with Lowry, Ariza, and Battier out, but I really hope we aren't seeing the decline of Rockets defensive intensity as a priority in our organization. Really though, I hope that Yao will again be a difference maker for our defensive impact once he returns, and that defensively, the pieces will just fit together well around him.
  • Kade
    "I hope that Yao will again be a difference maker for our defensive impact once he returns, and that defensively, the pieces will just fit together well around him."

    I have read similar quotes in other threads on this site and wondering that does the majority of Rox fans honestly believe this that Yao will somehow become the bionic man and no longer have injuries? I want nothing more than Yao to come back and no longer have horrible, lingering injury issues but why would anyone automatically think this will no longer be the case except simply faith and hope?

    I really wonder what Morey and co. think about Yao's future. Do they honestly think the chance of Yao playing a full season/post season be the norm or honestly come to the realization that his body simply can't handle the wear and tear. Do they have a contingent plan? Are they going to determine Yao's fate as a Rocket in this last year of his contract then decide?

    I just worry that so many people are just assuming that the prior years regarding Yao will no longer be an issue and the team is counting 100% on Yao returning or they'll once again falter.
  • echu888
    I don't think there is anyone in connected with the Rockets organization who doesn't know that injury will still be a risk for Yao. Everything about his career and future is ALWAYS predicated by, "IF he says healthy..."

    That being said, the surgery he had to reshape his foot has a good precedent. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, was severely limited for multiple years by very similar problems. He received a surgical procedure not unlike what Yao just recently underwent, and since then, has played nearly 6 or 7 full seasons without reinjury.

    So, it is a big IF for Yao, but it is a possibility. If he gets hurt again, nobody will expect him to get an extension from the Rockets. This is the make or break year for him.
  • thirdcoastborn
    This was the second time Yao broke this ankle. From day one the Rockets supported Yao and said they are still building the team around Yao. If they honestly thought he was finished or could not come back from this injury then why be so fast to say this is still his team, even after the bone did not heal properly and they had to do surgery again. Yao got his foot reconstructed this time, not just letting the bone heal like the past. And yes Yao is the difference maker on offense and defense. He clogs up the paint, gets blocks, or makes them change thier shot. When he is in offenses do not penetrate as much. Even if he does not comeback and can play at a high level, next year is his last year on the contract, so you move on like we did we Tmac.
  • Kade
    I hope you are right about Yao but I think we all need to have a "I'll see it when I believe it" attitude. Interesting chronicle article today regarding Morey counting on Yao. Even when healthy though he hasn't been a lock to get us to a championship. Rockets won over 50 games in the 04-05 season with he and TMac healthy. Out first round. Next year breaks foot and before had his big toe injured. Next year Yao breaks his knee and comes back with first round exit in playoffs. Next year fractures foot and 1st round exit
    So Yao's history is littered with major injuries and when he's been healthy has never been the man on that team to get them to the promise land. So are we supposed to throw out all those stats and his history and think he'll suddenly become a different player? Lets stop comparing him to Z who is a completely different player / body type. We need someone who doesn't have injury issues practically ever year and has the "carry you on my back" attitude that's not taught but in your heart.
    Again, I hope I'm wrong and Yao will come back 100% with a team leader attitude but given history it's foolish to count on that. I hope Morey while saying all the right things about Yao is really planning him being the second "man" on the team.
  • Kevin
    all very true. love that last part. i went through every team, and we definitely have the best offensive backcourt.
  • VBG509
    I think Budinger is better suited coming off the bench and being the sparkplug. I prefer having Ariza in the starting lineup. Maybe this will change with Yao.
  • Grayson Berry
    Thanks for the blog Rahat Huq...
    No doubt Martin was a shrew move. Needed a real 2 since Clyde's departure 11 years ago.
    Here's my question: Take a time machine back to Steve Francis's All-Star years here with :Yao, Mo Taylor, Cuttino, and Jimmy Jackson, w/ JVG as head coach.
    Now take the current starting 5 of : Brooks, Yao, Scola, Battier, and Martin, with Adelman. Assuming Francis kept playing at that level, which squad would you rather have in a Game 7 vs. the Lakers? I'm genuinely curious-
  • rahat_huq
    Greyson - Against the Lakers, probably have to go with the Francis team as he feasted on them. Against any other contender, this Rockets team as he would have been trapped and exploited.
  • Christopher
    Rahat, awesome blog! I've been following your posts since a little before the trading deadline, and I've been really impressed. You have a great objective-minded approach to your analysis--I loved the Morey post and your analysis of Martin. I've thought Martin was underrated for years. A lot of people miss out on the importance of how often players get to the line, like Martin and Billups can.

    Anyway, keep up the good work! I'll be looking forward to your posts!
  • rahat_huq
    thanks for the kind words, i appreciate it.
  • Alituro
    I'd have to agree with echu888 that such offensive potency without much defensive presence can be a bit deceiving. Case in point is that their wings hit 8-13 behind the arc and were even more deadly inside the perimeter with Matthews going 7-9 (what is that about, who is that guy?). Ariza or Battier together or alone, could have easily matched Bud's effort offensively going 5-12 with 14 points, which isn't exactly stellar. Having either of Shane or Trevor in, without a doubt would have caused disruption on those easily made shots from the get-go, changing the whole dynamic of the game. If a team can't do anything to slow down your current offensive scheme, why stray from it? It's easy to forget when watching an offensive extravaganza that this game is equally about stopping the other guy from scoring.

    You wouldn't want to bench an offensive powerhouse like Matin in the name of defense, but success can only come with offensive/defensive balance in both frontcourt and backcourt. Of course I hope you are right though, Rahat that it is all an issue of acclimation between our players. At this point, I can't exactly rave about that combo, until they show they can stop somebody... anybody.
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