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@  majik19 : (05 May 2016 - 04:25 PM) I was just about to ask about Vogel. But can he take us to the next level?
@  slick shoes : (05 May 2016 - 03:04 PM) Vogel is available. We need to snatch him up asap.
@  majik19 : (05 May 2016 - 02:59 PM) I also find it funny that McHale said "no thanks" to the Kings job.
@  slick shoes : (04 May 2016 - 03:07 PM) I'm really enjoying the fact that we have only interviewed one coaching prospect and he would rather coach the 2nd worst team in the NBA than us.
@  thenit : (28 April 2016 - 06:27 PM) Harden is the best offensive player but the best overall was Klay last night
@  majik19 : (28 April 2016 - 04:25 AM) klay thompson is the best player on the floor. hard to win when Harden isn't the best.
@  majik19 : (28 April 2016 - 04:19 AM) GS is better at hitting bad/covered shots than anyone on our team is at hitting open shots.
@  majik19 : (28 April 2016 - 04:16 AM) that was embarassing. 4 offensive rebounds. 2 missed 3s by Ariza and 2 missed 3s by Beverley.
@  Cooper : (28 April 2016 - 03:24 AM) this team is depressing
@  majik19 : (28 April 2016 - 03:01 AM) Ariza is a complete negative on the floor. he can't hit a shot or fight through/around a screen to save his life
@  majik19 : (28 April 2016 - 02:54 AM) everyone but james harden is terrible right now
@  thejohnnygold : (27 April 2016 - 08:49 PM) I think Walton is going to be a solid hire for somebody. I wouldn't mind if it were for us.
@  slick shoes : (27 April 2016 - 06:15 PM) I'd like to see them take it full circle and hire Walton. I don't know if he's the right buy for their young core currently, but maybe 2-3 years from now.
@  thejohnnygold : (27 April 2016 - 05:24 PM) Knowing LA, they will do something that leaves us all scratching our heads.
@  slick shoes : (27 April 2016 - 04:56 PM) While I do favor JVG, I hope that we also kick the tires on a few other guys as well.
@  thejohnnygold : (27 April 2016 - 01:34 PM) If you mean JVG--no, I'm not worried. :)
@  slick shoes : (27 April 2016 - 12:32 PM) Is it just me or is the Lakers firing Scott a bit worrisome for our coaching search?
@  DenverRocket : (27 April 2016 - 12:02 AM) Seems like Parsons is already trying to recruit Dwight to the Mavs ;-)
@  DenverRocket : (26 April 2016 - 05:51 AM) I love KD even more after his post-match response to that Cuban comment: "He's a idiot!" :)
@  slick shoes : (26 April 2016 - 03:01 AM) Why give Westbrook bulletin board material in a closeout game?


What went wrong for the Houston Rockets in 2016? - Part 1

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#1 Red94


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    Posted 30 April 2016 - 02:36 PM

    New post: What went wrong for the Houston Rockets in 2016? - Part 1
    By: Rahat Huq

    I've now had over 48 hours to digest the disappointing end to Houston's season.  What started out in October carrying expectations of title contention ended in utter embarrassment, with the franchise now unexpectedly again at a crossroads.  The Houston Rockets thought they were right there and now, they'll need to tear it all down completely.  What the hell happened?


    Setting aside the gossip and conjecture, Houston's twelve month demise can be summed up neatly through one quantitative comparison: the team's defensive rating fell from 8th overall last year, to 21st this year.  That defensive decline almost solely can be held accountable for the team's record.  The team actually improved offensively, finishing 12th last season, and 7th this season, in offensive rating.


    The two most striking defensive indicators were opponents' three-point percentage and opponents' assists.  In opponents' three point percentage, Houston fell from first to 21st.  In opponents' assists, Houston fell from 12th last year to 29th this year.  Recall that many believed last season that that sparkling opponents' three-point percentage ranking Houston boasted was a product of luck and not a reliable indicator of future production.  The outcome either regressed back to a random accuracy rate, or the Rockets stopped closing out as aggressively on shooters as they had a year ago.  (Another theory might be that with different personnel on the floor this season, they were not able to recover as effectively on the perimeter).


    Among other notable defensive metrics, in defensive rebounding, Houston fell from 18th in the league last year to 27th this year; the Rockets fell from 14th to 20th in total rebounding.  Consequently, Houston was second worst in the league this season in opponents second chance points.  Last year, they were 22nd overall.  And the Rockets this season fell to 17th in defensive field goal percentage at the rim, after finishing 9th last season.  That might come as a surprise given Dwight Howard's full availability this year.  A surprise if you were not aware that Clint Capela is a comparable rim protector.


    Most of the team's other defensive metrics remained stable.  As noted above, the Rockets improved overall offensively.  In overall shooting, Houston improved from 20th last season to 14th this year.  On threes though--and this is not insignificant--the Rockets fell from 14th most accurate to 19th.  The team also fell from 9th to 16th in assists.  Such data indicates Houston somehow scored more prolifically this year while passing the ball less overall as a team.  This is rather counterintuitive.


    Pace fell from second fastest to 7th, which was expected given Dwight Howard's aforementioned availability.  But turnover percentage remained stable: 28th last year, and 27th this year.


    Offensive rebounding percentage stayed about the same: 7th last year to 6th this year.  Free throw attempts per game actually went up, despite the slowed pace, from 6th overall last year to third this year.


    Why the drastic decline defensively after bringing back essentially the same group?  Houston's most-used five-man combination last year was Ariza/Beverley/Harden/Howard/Motiejunas, with 360 minutes played together.  This year?  It was...Ariza/Beverley/Harden/Howard/Motiejunas, with 295 minutes played together.  Last year, the quintet posted a net rating of +10.7.  This year?  +11.  Naturally, we'll need to dig much, much deeper beyond the surface, in later installments, to glean any understanding.  On the surface, the 5-man lineup data seems to confirm this was the same group brought back from last season.  Obviously, we know that wasn't the case.


    What I can't wrap my head around is how devoid of talent the Rockets looked to close the year, even before the Golden State series.  The Rockets looked like James Harden and a band of D-Leaguers.  Juxtapose that with the image and perception we had of the team in October - on paper, they seemed absolutely stacked, even three deep at some positions.  How did every single individual from an entire group regress so suddenly over the course of mere months?  And maybe even more interestingly for me, how is this group such a paradox?  The Rockets are a collection of offensively limited role players many of whom are highly regarded as individual defenders.  Yet they had one of the worst defenses and one of the best offenses in the league this year.


    We'll dig into the individuals in the next installment.

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    #2 inpropagation



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      Posted 30 April 2016 - 07:08 PM


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      #3 bboley24


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        Posted 30 April 2016 - 09:40 PM

        EXACTLY my sentiments.  Every player that isn't named James Harden and Clint Capela got worse.

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        #4 isaacjunk



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          Posted 01 May 2016 - 02:40 AM

          >Why the drastic decline defensively after bringing back essentially the same group?  Houston's most-used five-man combination last year was Ariza/Beverley/Harden/Howard/Motiejunas, with 360 minutes played together.  This year?  It was...Ariza/Beverley/Harden/Howard/Motiejunas, with 295 minutes played together.  Last year, the quintet posted a net rating of +10.7.  This year?  +11.

          That is actually very encouraging, assuming that it's statistically significant.  That means with the right chemistry/surrounding role players around this year's cast, we could've had a really good team...all the narratives of decline and disarray notwithstanding.


          It's actually hard to fathom that our most common lineup performed at an elite level, hopefully there's enough statistical weight to isolate problem pairings from the other lineup combos...this fact feels so far removed from the team I saw that it reminds me of the pop psychology books that for some time have shown that people are horrible from telling a .240 hitter from a .300 hitter by memory alone.  Calls into question our ability to really diagnose this stuff with out looking deep into the numbers

          Edited by isaacjunk, 01 May 2016 - 02:43 AM.

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          #5 Red94


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            Posted 01 May 2016 - 04:43 PM

            New post: What went wrong for the Houston Rockets in 2016? - Part 2
            By: Rahat Huq

            Recall from Part 1 that Houston's most used lineup of Ariza/Beverley/Harden/Howard/Motiejunas was a +11 in 295 minutes played.  This came as a huge surprise because even after he returned, Motiejunas still wasn't at full form this year.  I'm wondering if the year would have gone differently had he simply been healthy from the start.  By contrast, the lineup of Ariza/Beverley/Harden/Howard/Jones, with Terrence Jones being in Motiejunas' place, was -20.8 in 92 minutes played.  I've argued for a few years now about the superiority of Motiejunas over Jones, but even I didn't realize how drastic the drop-off was.


            Houston's best five-man lineup this year featured Ariza/Beverley/Brewer/Capela/Harden, posting a +28.1 net rating in 74 minutes played.  Last year, the team's best quintet was Ariza/Brewer/Howard/Prigioni/Smith, which posted a +40.0 in just over 41 minutes of play.  I'm as surprised as you are that Brewer made his way into the most effective five-man this season.


            Houston's second most used lineup of Ariza/Beverley/Brewer/Harden/Howard posted a -6.4 in 201 minutes shared.  That's a pretty big drop-off from the most used quintet.


            The lineup of Ariza/Beverley/Capela/Harden/Howard, the 'Twin Towers' starting lineup Bickerstaff flirted with for a stretch, posted a +9.7 in 196 minutes together.  Maybe they pulled the plug on that too soon?  However, plug Josh Smith in for Capela, and in 109 minutes, that quintet was a +7.9.  What gives?  Most of the Rockets' most heavily used starting lineups had very positive net productivity.  Even the quintet of Ariza/Harden/Howard/Lawson/Thornton was +6.2 in 80 minutes.


            Here are Houston's worst high-minute quintets from this year:

            • Ariza/Beasley/Capela/Harden/Terry: -34.9 in 31 minutes.
            • Brewer/Capela/Jones/Lawson/Thornton: -28.8 in 43 minutes.
            • Ariza/Capela/Harden/Jones/Terry: -25.6 in 45 minutes.
            • Ariza/Beasley/Beverley/Harden/Howard: -25.2 in 69 minutes.
            • Ariza/Beverley/Harden/Howard/Jones: -20.8 in 92 minutes.


            James Harden and Dwight Howard together this year were a +2.8 in 1863 minutes shared.  The superstar duo last year was +10.9 in 950 minutes shared.  Houston's most used duo last year was the wing duo of Ariza and Harden.  Those two shared the court last year for 2284 minutes with a +4.9 net rating.  This year, Ariza and Harden were again the most used duo, sharing the floor for 2603 minutes, and posting a +2.2.  Corey Brewer and Trevor Ariza posted a +3.3 in 677 minutes together last year; Brewer and Ariza this year were a -0.5 in 734 minutes.


            Houston's five best units were lineups that featured just Capela, or just Howard, with four small players, or Capela and Howard together.  The common denominator in all eight of Houston's worst heavy-minute quintets was either Terrence Jones or Michael Beasley.


            I don't know what to make of all of this.  The biggest surprise to me was how well certain starting lineups fared overall.  I was of the impression that the team had just struggled consistently from the top down.  It seems like Houston's downfall this year, based on the lineup data, was the inconsistent power forward play and bench production.

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            #6 Stephen


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              Posted 02 May 2016 - 08:14 AM

              For the past couple of seasons the Rockets have had some major issues.

              1) The bleeding wound that's the starting PF position. D-Mo keeps getting hurt,Capella is still pretty raw and Jones has been unable to keep it despite numerous attempts due to a staggering lack of any kind of consistency.

              2) A horrendous bench:

               2A) Zero rebounding when Dwight sits. Capella takes himself out of position by chasing blocks and is still too slight and gets pushed around by any physical play.(Note this is why I am not thrilled about Capella replacing Dwight. He gets "his" rebounds,but in traffic he gets muscled away from the ball.) Besides drafting Jones,D-Mo,Capella and Harrell,Morey has bought in Dorsey,Tarik Black,Josh Smith,none of whom to date have shown they can be a reliable defensive rebounder. Harrell's a rookie so he gets a pass,but for the Rockets to succeed next yr he has to show he can stay he can be a rotation player that helps the team.

               2B) No secondary playmaker. There has been a distinct lack of players able to set up their teammates besides Harden since Parsons left. It's no coincidence last yr's stretch run and Play-Off run coincided w/Prigioni and Smith coming over. D-Mo in particular looked very good w/a passing pick-n-roll PG. To be fair Papanikolaou,when he was healthy,did a nice job setting up teammates.

              This often regarded as a PG problem,but playmakers can be found in any position-Harden,Parsons,Iguodola,Green for example. And just like the PF position Morey has tried to fill the PG spot by drafting Canaan,Nic Johnson,brought in Beverly,Terry,Goudelock and traded for Prigioni and Lawson.(The Ty Lawson trade looks really bad in retrospect as not only did the Rockets lose a First Rd pick,but they lost a vet back-up PG who could give the second unit some direction and playmaking.)

               2C) Lack of firepower of the bench. When a visibly aging Jason Terry and Cory Brewer are your bench's scorers,you have a problem. Thornton was incapable of defending anyone. Beasley looks like he can be a solid bench scorer,but he better be teamed w/a couple of STRONG defenders at the wing and at the basket. Dekker was supposed to add scoring but his season was ruined by injury.(If the Rockets are truly looking to restock I'd love to see Brewer traded for Lou Williams.)

              This rolls into 3pt shooting,or the bench's inability to make them.Over the past 3 yrs Morey has brought in shooters in Canaan,Garcia,Covington,Daniels,Terry,Thornton and Goudelock. Of these only Terry has been successful for the Rockets.

               2D) Utter lack of perimeter defense off the bench. The Rockets need somebody who can actually defend a guard/SF coming off the bench. Nic Johnson failed as a PG/SG-pssibly due to rumored attitude problems. Brewer has never been a great defender,barely was once good and now is mediocre at best. KJ McDaniels hasn't won the coaching staff's trust,hopefully the next coach can overlook his offensive spazzes for his effort on D.

              Now we can question whether Morey has brought in the wrong players or the coaching staff mis-used them. For McHale trying to win a title and for Bickerstaff trying to keep the head coaching job,playing vets heavy minutes over developing players made lots of sense. But for the future,w/Morey trying for two(or more) stars and locking in other "core" players to good deals leaves players on rookie deals,aging vets on min deals and young,cheap single skill players to fill out the roster,esp the bench. The Rockets HAVE to do a better job of acquiring and developing young talent to be rotation players.

              The Rockets have to get quality rotation minutes from Harrell and McDaniels next season or else the bench is effed. Having Dekker give something would also be huge.

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              #7 thenit


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                Posted 02 May 2016 - 10:28 PM

                Agree with a lot of this but no Lou Williams. Terrible defender and a chucker. He isn't efficient at all and takes a lot of bad shots. Had him here in Toronto and he couldn't defende 2nd unit guards.

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                #8 Red94


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                  Posted 04 May 2016 - 04:31 AM

                  New post: What went wrong for the Houston Rockets in 2016? - Part 3
                  By: Rahat Huq

                  Discussing what I felt were the keys to the Rockets' then-upcoming season, I wrote back in July of 2015:



                  Ariza, Jones, and Brewer (thank God) are all back, but Josh Smith now resides with the Clippers, the team he tormented in guiding Houston to the Final Four.  In Smith’s place are free agent pickup Marcus Thornton, and 6’6 sophomore K.J. McDaniels whose rights Houston secured for $10 million combined over the next three years.  McDaniels is particularly tantalizing, and its easy to see why Daryl Morey agreed to pay the former second rounder a sum befitting of a late lottery pick.  He’s already shown glimpses of elite defensive ability and when given a chance, his athleticism should further fuel what looks to be, yet again, a devastating Houston fastbreak.


                  My elation over Brewer's return is particularly ironic given his abysmal season, but more on that later. I went on to write:



                  Ariza, Brewer, and Jones are cogs in Houston’s rotation, and should bring the same merits to the table which they did last season.  But will McDaniels crack the lineup?  If he can bring anything, even a few minutes per game, it will allow Houston to keep James Harden fresh, a task deemed almost impossible last season.  But to warrant playing time, the former will have to improve upon his disastrous accuracy (29% on 3’s) or opponents will pack the lane, daring him to shoot.


                  Yes, Brewer and Ariza alone will ensure Houston’s athleticism on the wings, but the emergence of McDaniels–just one more added weapon–would lift Houston to a different stratosphere, helping close the gap with Golden State.  They could mix and match weird lineups, playing Harden at the ‘4’, with two fellow wings, or even Harden at the ‘1’, with three accompanying small forwards.  They could trap, switch everything, and put length on star point guards for the minutes when Patrick Beverley isn’t hounding them.


                  Setting aside the tragic humor inherent in my previous perception of "the gap" between Houston and Golden State, its interesting to note that the latter point was one we were all screaming in regards to as recently as one week ago.  When he actually did play, K.J. McDaniels did seem to bring the dynamic I spoke of in that previous piece, giving the team flexibility, and at times allowing it to play James Harden at point guard.  Indeed, McDaniels had far and away the highest net rating on the entire team at +18.9, though that figure should be taken with at least a small grain of salt, given the sample size.  But for whatever reason, McDaniels rarely played, failing to crack the rotation, appearing in only 37 games and averaging 6.4 minutes per contest.  He shot 40% overall and 28% on 3's, likely the cause for Bickerstaff's reluctance, though those numbers are almost identical to Corey Brewer's.


                  Jones was abysmal, posting by far the worst net rating on the team (-10.5) and costing himself millions over the course of a nightmare season.  As I noted in Part 2 of this series, Jones was also a member of most of Houston's worst five-man units.  But enough on Jones for our purposes here, as I'll focus on the power forwards in a different piece.


                  Ariza and Brewer, players that made up the strength of Houston's 2015, both took drastic steps backward this season.  Ariza shot 42% overall and 37% on 3's, after shooting 40% overall and 35% on 3's last season, thus, an improvement.  But it was on the defensive side of the ball where he really declined, finishing with a DRPM of -0.46, good for 45th among all small-forwards, right behind such notable defensive stalwarts as Chandler Parsons (#42) and Chase Budinger (#44) and one spot ahead of Joe Johnson.  (Note to those clicking the link: you have to scroll over to Page 2 to find Trevor, a point which initially left me wondering if I had missed him).  Ariza last season was a +2.36, good for seventh.  The greatest misnomer concerning the Rockets pertained to Ariza's defensive abilities this season, challenged only by the misperception surrounding Beverley's.  Trevor Ariza was not a good defender this season, and his individual decline might have been the biggest factor in Houston's overall decline.


                  And then there's Brewer.  Aside from the illusions created from the occasional steal and perhaps the "random chaos" factor, Corey Brewer never was a good defender.  After shooting 43% overall and 28% on 3's, Brewer slipped to 38% overall and 27% on 3's this season.  Brewer started the season shooting 33% overall and 20% on 3's in November, and then closed it out by going 32% overall and o% on 3's in April.  I wish I was making this up.  Brewer was so bad, you might say he was unplayable, except that he appeared in all 82 of the team's games, with his spot in the rotation never really in jeopardy, averaging a steady 20 minutes per night.  With Corey Brewer on the court, Houston had a net rating of -2.2; when Brewer didn't grace the court with his presence, the team was a +1.4.


                  I thought the continued steady contributions of Ariza and Brewer, with the emergence of McDaniels, would be a major factor in Houston taking the next step this season.  The former two players' respective declines, and the failure of the latter to crack the rotation, contributed significantly to Houston's disastrous season.

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