Brief Thoughts on Luis Scola

2010 March 12
by rahat huq

In his last four games, Luis Scola is averaging 21.7ppg and 16rpg.

In the ten games since the trade of Carl Landry, Scola is averaging 17.5ppg and 11.3rpg.

Not including the night against Orlando when he only played 16 minutes, Scola is averaging 19.4ppg and 12.2rpg during that period.

The chart below compares Scola’s production over this time frame to his season and career averages.  I have also included his per 36-minute averages as a frame of reference.

Luis Scola’s main fault is having the rotten luck of being born in the wrong decade of history.  Were he 24, rather than 30, he could undoubtedly expect an offer this summer somewhere in the range of what Anderson Varejao took home.

But because his athletic prime was wasted toiling in an inferior league, held hostage by the presence of the greatest big man of our decade, I can’t see Scola being offered more than $6million annually.

The greater question concerns his status with the Rockets.  If such production is the norm, and at a still relatively cheap price, with the emergence of Jordan Hill, would the Rockets not best be served by simply bringing back Scola to anchor the position?

I’m not sure it’s that simple.  It’s true that Scola is one of the best role players in the game; he will also remain one of the greatest bargains.  At the same time, the team is still one impact player away from true contention.  With the emergence of Aaron Brooks and acquisition of Kevin Martin, an upgrade at power forward makes the most sense.

Scola’s production is undeniable, but it comes through filling a role.  There is a considerable difference between scoring 17ppg off hustle/open looks/single coverage postups and scoring at a similar rate against double teams.  To take the quantum leap, this team needs a player who will produce through the latter means, opening up opportunities for other players, and helping them match up against elite competition when half-court sets stagnate in the playoffs.  Yao alone will not suffice.

By mere odds, its probable that the team strikes out in free agency this summer.  In that event, retaining Scola would be a no-brainer decision.  Still, exploring upgrade possibilities should be the preferred course of action.

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  • Alituro
    I see people are not too hot on AB around here. I will agree he has some skills to work on as being a good distributive point. What I'm wondering, Rahat, is what kind of effect does having two definite scoring threats in the backcourt (Brooks and Martin) have on a guy like Scola? I've noticed Scola's numbers skyrocket since Martin was brought in. Are these guys spreading the floor, demanding attention at the perimeter that they haven't before Martin came along, allowing our post guys more opportunities? If this is the case what are the implications of this situation once Yao is back? How about if we pick up a marquis name in the post who can play 4 or 5? Does Scola's production go down with Lowry at the point because Kyle's not as much of an outside threat?

    So, while I'd be foolish to reject the notion of bringing in someone the caliber of Paul in, I do think there is a price too high to pay for that upgrade. In other words, what good is it if Paul only has Hayes, and Hill or Jeffries to send it to in the post if Yao's hurt and Scola (if retained) is resting? Right now we are able to have 48 minutes filled at the point with 2 different notable talents that can cater to different needs as the game progresses, both, admittedly with certain shortcomings, but they compliment each other well. We are relatively talented two-deep at the 2 and 3. What we don't have is positions 4 and 5 filled for 96 minutes with effective low post scoring capabilities. Even with Yao back we are still about 25 minutes short of that goal, ideally. Hill might one day be able to be that 3rd wheel in the post, but not for 2-3 more years IMO. I want to win NOW.
  • rahat_huq
    i have a post on this in the works, but i think what makes brooks and martin so dangerous is that they can both pretty much do everything - they both cut, can shoot off the dribble, shoot off the catch, and pass. some of these aspects of course they are better than the others (ie: brooks can pass but is bad for a pg at that.) i'll go more in depth on this in a post.
  • bob schmidt
    I'm thinking that Scola's increased production is partially because the ball distributors aren't looking for Landry anymore and Scola is now given more opportunity. The same is true for his rebounding, he and Landry were often positioned for either to get the rebound.

    No way do I want to see our team gutted to acquire a Chris Paul, or anyone else.
  • Alituro
    Afterthought... Too great a sacrifice made in the name of signing Paul would, well, make us look like the Hornets, not bad, but not great.
  • Verbs and Nouns
    "If it aint' broke ... don't fix it" i think most rockets fans sense that our window is closing fast. what started 6 years ago with aspirations of greatness, turned into an ocean of resentment and sadly darryl morey was not at the helm when Tmac was initially picked up and surround him with more competent players, but you cant cry over spilled milk i suppose, so now everyone wants a big name, somehow thats going to win us a title, regardless of what kind of human being they are, as long as they can jump,shoot and run. so after finally having all the necessary reinforcements in place, we're gonna ship them all out for one sexy brand name and THEN we'll win??? i find it amusing that most people underestimate the impact that yao will have on the game, and not even on the box score really. he's going to provide the kind of space that the current players thrive in. ariza-slasher to the rim, martin-will slice and dice the D on the two man game with yao, especially if yao is commanding the double. AB=penetrator. there might have been a reason that carl was expendable, Luis Scola is the perfect compliment to yao. he can play either with his back to the basket, or facing up. if yao wants to post, luis pops to the elbow. if yao doesnt want to bang, luis can do the texas two step in the paint and scoop em up. he is the Ice Cream Man. I knocked him for a long time, but he's improved his game, he scores at ease, and is more than capable defensively, and morey loves value. i wouldnt be surprised if morey is just making other GM's pull out their voodoo dolls with his comments, or maybe use some of his 'assets' to jump up in the draft, there might be a youngster or two that may help this team right off the bat, instead of overspending on the flavor of the week.
  • Easy
    I agree that Adelman's offense does not need a traditional PG. But any offense, especially if you want to go deep in the playoffs, needs a perimeter guy who can take over the game when the going gets tough. I don't see Brooks being that kind of player. And I could be wrong about Martin. He seems like a nice "quiet" kind of scorer, rather than some "take over" guy.

    We really don't have anybody who can do that.
  • physicsgeekandrocketsfan
    How many of those players are in the league? Kobe, Lebron and...?
  • thirdcoastborn
    With no Yao and McGrady coming into the season Scola and Brooks were supposed to have breakout years. Landry ended up having the breakout year, but Brooks and Scola were asked to be more aggressive and shoot more. Early in the year when Brooks hit twenty we won the majority of the games. So he is being told shoot be more aggressive with not much offense around him. Until Martin, he was the only one in the starting five that could keep taking his defender off the dribble to score or find someone open. With hopefully a healthy Yao and maybe another prime player less scoring will be needed and asked from him. He needs to work on his turnovers but overall is a good guard. Scola is worth resigning i just hope he would finish stronger at the rim, and dunk more.
  • physicsgeekandrocketsfan
    Funny you mention that thirdcoast, I love how Scola doesn't dunk. A true 'smarts' player, two points is two points. Can Bosh play with a big man like Yao? Who is the center for the raptors?
  • rahat_huq
    pretty interesting, in combination with the comments on my other posts, it seems most of you guys would prefer an upgrade at the 1 rather than the 4. i should have touched on this above. what complicates matters is that it's not just a case of scola vs. brooks - you have to factor in lowry (and his pay raise) and the potential of hill. then of course, scola has his age working against him - are we building a team to just win a title while yao is still around or are we building long term?

    i think everyone agrees this team needs an upgrade somewhere to contend. i also think almost everyone agrees it has to be at the 1 or 4. the 5 is set and it makes little sense to upgrade the 3 when we already have ball dominating guards.

    the problem is that the only guy who might be available who is a worthwhile upgrade at the 1 is chris paul. that type of deal would require gutting the team but would also result in a lopsided team b/c both brooks and lowry would not be included. i think there are more options at the 4 that would require giving up less.
  • bob schmidt
    How do you feel about Brooks rahat? Do you think that he is already peaking? I'd rather upgrade a backup behind him and Lowry, someone with size and defensive skills. I hate to see any of the regulars going much over 30 minutes a game, and think that we have the depth to avoid that next year.

    If Bosh, Paul, or some other obvious upgrade wants to come to Houston and it can be done without gutting the team, that's fine. Houston is a great place to play, and Texas has no income tax. That might just attract a Bosh who might be ready to contend for a title and lock in his future. If Yao is healthy enough to play 25 minutes a game, I think that Scola and friends are good fits to his game. Of course, if you bring in a Bosh, Scola would not get enough minutes to pay him what he' s worth. I'd really value your input on this rahat, you know a lot more about the team than most of us..........
  • rahat_huq
    i've been of the opinion for some time that brooks has become a bit overrated. he's a nice player, but not really worthy of some of the plaudits that are being thrown around - it's really a little bit more of a case where a guy with a nice skillset is getting high usage opportunities. this probably wouldn't happen in a vacuum. with that said, i do think he can be the 3rd wheel on a title team. the problem is that you have to have a 1 and 2 better than what we have (yao and martin) for that to work, IMO.

    as far as him peaking, i do think that is the case as far as him being a "point guard." i don't think he'll ever become a true point guard like the critics demand - we would have already seen the flashes by now. that's completely fine by me as that sort of ability is not necessary in this offense.
  • bob schmidt
    I am conflicted with the idea of trying to upgrade from Scola, his numbers compare with many of the so-called stars like Duncan. When Yao is back, he will be double-teamed, leaving someone open while he is on the floor. If he isn't double-teamed, he will have high scoring games. The tandem of Yao and Scola looks great to me.

    As to comments about Brooks, why would he be considered to not be able to be coached to be more assist-oriented? He has matured a lot this year, let's give him a chance to continue getting better.

    We already have some good prospects in the system, and good draft picks to fill out our team. Sure, a can't-miss signing would be great, but sometimes big names don't produce when signed. I think that Scola is a keeper, and I hope that Morey and Adelman agree with me..........
  • RiceOwlsRoxFan
    Rahat I love your articles but I think I have to disagree with your assessment of where our team needs an upgrade. I think we have capable post players but that our problem is actually at point. With aging players and a point-guard that runs/plays shoot-first, we're putting a lot of wear and tear on our bigs without them even really getting set in the post or touching the ball. I think Brooks is good at what he does, but that if we could upgrade at point guard and move him, and have him and Lowry off the bench (depending on when you need speed vs. size, respectively), it would make our team better. Slowing down our pace (we didn't run nearly as much last year with Yao did we?) would let us make better decisions with respect to who shoots the ball. After all we won over 50 games last year playing a slower pace than we did this year. Yeah Yao was the difference, but can you see him playing in the up-tempo system that our guards have become accustomed to?

    We need a PG that has better court vision and ball-control. AB turns it over a lot, has missed some clutch FTs, and at least to me, is proving that maybe he should be coming off the bench. I love the offense that he provides with his range and cutting ability, but a pass-first PG would help us better distribute the ball and keep us from jacking up bad threes every night. He would also let us establish our post-game early and I think better recognize that you can regain control in a game getting out of hand by getting a consistent 2 (+1) in the paint than trying to get it back with the long ball. I don't get to watch as much as I would like but I honestly don't see Aaron Brooks displaying that type of maturity and control, and I think that ultimately, we need somebody like that to contend for a title next year. I think Lowry could be the guy if he had more time, actually, but Adelman seems committed to AB.

    I agree with this sentiment: "To take the quantum leap, this team needs a player who will produce through the latter means, opening up opportunities for other players, and helping them match up against elite competition when half-court sets stagnate in the playoffs. Yao alone will not suffice." but I don't know if it's wise for us to go after a 4th post-presence (Yao, Hill, Scola + new guy) when we could really use the help at point.

    I feel like I am in the majority about AB, but I am just not comfortable letting him be the guy who sets the pace for our team.
  • Easy
    I agree with Rice. If I had a choice of upgrading the 4 or the 1, I'd choose the 1. Scolandry was great. Now that we see the potential of Hill, we might be set at that position for a few years to come. (Scola seems to be quite durable, btw.)

    Brooks might one day become a consistent elite scorer. But he will never be an elite playmaker. If we can get a star PG with Lowry backing up, we can be contending.

    That said, the choice is probably not there to choose. It looks like elite PFs (Bosh, Stoudamire) are more available than elite PGs on the market these days.

    My question is, assuming Hill makes strides in his development, if we do have a chance to SnT an impact PF, do we want to keep Scola or Hill as the backup?
  • paper
    I was afraid you were going to say that, Rahat. I hope my wife doesn't find out that her boyfriend is trade bait.
  • weallloveluis
    haha. she might be surprised to find that he's a lot of people's boyfriend
  • Alituro
    I certainly wouldn't complain about holding on to that guy, his hustle is interminable, and he's really refined his pet moves to an art, as well as being a graduate of the Battier school of defense. Seeing that he and Yao are getting up in years NBA-wise, and we all know Yao's proneness to injury, an ideal solution would be to retain them both and try to acquire another major post piece. It fully deplete's both their energy to play much more than 30 minutes in a game, you coulda wrung a gallon out of Scola's jersey at the end of last game. So ideally if we were to pick up that elusive other major post piece, we would be able to split 96 minutes between 3 starters reducing their max minutes to 32 apiece, bring in Hill off the bench for 10-15 minutes a game as back-up and those guys go down to significantly under 30 minutes each. Most of all, we hardly lose any firepower. Also it allows them to be more aggressive defensively, not having to worry as much about fouling out. To me, this balance/reduction of our aging post players' minutes is going to be key to making any type of championship run, and that can only be achieved by bringing in another significant piece.
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