Player Power Rankings: Week 4

Every Friday all season long I’ll be ranking every active player (who sees the floor) on the Houston Rockets based on his performance from the previous week. If you missed last week’s installment, here you go.

12) Ronnie Brewer (Last week: 11)

Brewer played one minute this week, and in that time he was unable to mold a normal looking jump shot.

11) Aaron Brooks (Last week: 10)

It’s sort of a running joke around these parts, but Houston was outscored by 40.7 points per 100 possessions when Brooks played this week. He played five minutes. We’re really looking forward to all that Isaiah Canaan has to offer.

10) Omer Asik (Last week: 9)

A somewhat forgotten footnote lost in the whirlwind of commotion surrounding Omer Asik’s unhappiness is his waveless status as one of the best centers in basketball. He’s perfectly healthy but played only 18 minutes this week, which, in a vacuum, is both sad and strange.

Here’s five seconds from those 18 minutes where Asik reminded us how great he can be on the defensive end.

Not many guys can force Nowitzki into an embarrassing situation, but that’s exactly what Asik did with this disciplined pressure defense.

9) Francisco Garcia (Last week: 8)

As the weeks roll on, Francisco Garcia finds himself further and further removed from contributing on this team. His playing time continues to drop (he averaged only 14 minutes of action in Houston’s three games this week), and after starting the season as a solid help defender who seemingly sparked a fastbreak or two with some sneaky play from the backside every night, Garcia may be this team’s weakest link on the perimeter (Harden and Lin not included, of course).

More than once, the Mavericks chose to isolate Vince Carter on Garcia. The results weren’t great for Dallas, but still, the mere thought that they could get away with such a thing is disrespectful and striking. How bad is Garcia’s reputation as a man-to-man defender around the league? It must be terrible.

8) Donatas Motiejunas (Last week: N/A)

Meet Houston’s most talented low post scorer. Motiejunas is awesome down there, with touch, great footwork, and a nice combination of size, agility, and pure strength. His spin move already looks like something he can count on any time he needs a basket, and he even flashed a Euro-step in the open court early on against Denver.

Where Motiejunas’ development is most concerning, at least to me, is in his defense of the pick-and-roll. Whenever he’s in the game, teams immediately attack him there (Evan Fournier’s treatment was especially unkind), and regardless of the situation or personnel, Motiejunas always hedges. Why is this? He hasn’t been particularly reliable recovering back to his man and it’s detrimental having him so far out on the perimeter. Why doesn’t he sag back? Maybe give that strategy a shot.

7) Patrick Beverley (Last week: 6)

An interesting note this week about Beverley: only 23.1% of his made field goals were unassisted. I don’t expect that number to consistently rest above 50% (he’s at 39.4% on the season), but it’s still interesting for a decent shooter—speedy ball-handler who can knife into the paint at will—to be used as a spot-up option.

Comparing Beverley with Lin, 90% of the backup point guard’s made field goals were unassisted this week (he’s at 60.9% for the year).

Houston has a lot of mouths to feed, and part of Beverley’s duty is to make sure enough food is on the table. But it’d be nice to see him increase his scoring effort a bite-sized bit, especially with screens from Dwight Howard and The Turk Who Shall Not Be Named.

6) Omri Casspi (Last week: 5)

Casspi stayed doing Casspi things this week, but one play I hadn’t recognized as a “Casspi thing” happened twice. Racing the ball up court in transition, Casspi shook a defender in the open court with a super quick crossover dribble. The first victim was Andre Miller (56 years old, but still a point guard), and then last night he put Dirk on skates.

5) Jeremy Lin (Last week: 1)

After scorching planet Earth with some of the best play of his career last week, Jeremy Lin’s minutes were stunted over the past three games, and his production suffered.

He played six second half minutes in Dallas on Wednesday night, and that’s most likely because of his questionable pick-and-roll defense against speedy guards. Throughout the second quarter against Denver, Lin and Ty Lawson basically went back and forth scoring on each other with zero defense involved.

But you know what was really awesome? This pass. There’s probably half a centimeter’s worth of space for the ball to travel through. And it does.

4) Terrence Jones (Last week: 7)

Wrote all about Jones on this site yesterday. If you haven’t already read it, I kindly ask that you do. (Perhaps, now?)

Jones has become a major talking point on this team, and deservedly so. He’s versatile, quick, and has shown some quality range as a spot-up threat. I ended yesterday’s column with the suggestion that in addition to Asik being dealt, Jones could be traded too. This isn’t likely, but the general manager is still Daryl Morey, and moving a young player with upside for a fully-realized finished product is something I’m almost certain he’d do in a heartbeat.

3) James Harden

This week was far from the best Harden has to offer, with a consequential missed free-throw in Dallas sitting as the rotten cherry on top. His overall numbers were below average, but 80% of Harden is still better than 100% of almost everybody in the league.

He threw some beautiful pocket-passes (including a gorgeous dime to Terrence Jones) and made an effort to defend on the ball.

2) Dwight Howard

Remember last season, when Harden spent more time at the free-throw line than in his own bed? It was almost comical how easily he navigated through the paint, and the numbers he put up once there made him one of the most efficient players in the league.

In five fewer minutes per game over the course of Houston’s last three outings, Dwight Howard nearly tripled Harden in appearances at the free-throw line. (The big man attempted 15 free-throws to the bearded man’s six.)

It’s only a three game stretch, but Howard made 66.7% of those freebies. Combine that improvement with numerous reports that he’s basically Ray Allen in practice, and we might be onto something.

Anyway, here’s his shot chart from this week.

Yada, yada, yada, nothing to see here…except violent lob dunks at the rim, a restraining order from Samuel Dalembert prohibiting Howard from going one-on-one in the post, and half a dozen put backs that were flat out impossible to stop.

Good week from Howard, even if it came against three of the least threatening defensive front-courts in the league.

1) Chandler Parsons

So, yeah, now that his three-pointers are falling, Chandler Parsons looks like an All-Star. You’re damn right I’m going there.

He averaged 17.3 points, 6.7 assists, and 4.0 rebounds this week, on a shooting split of 61.3/60.0/80.0.

Doing an impressive LeBron James impersonation on numerous drives to the basket, Parsons had several and-1’s this week. While other players will use their pump fake to get free for a jump shot two feet inside the three-point line, Parsons uses it as a launching pad to attack the basket.

His offensive skill-set is quickly becoming one of the most elastic in basketball—there just aren’t any glaring weaknesses. I wrote that last week, but it’s even more true now! He’s incredible with the ball, and even better cutting off post-ups and pick-and-rolls from the weak side.

Parsons finds space in an offense that creates a TON of it. He maximizes every touch and is finally completing well-timed lob passes to Howard. The dude is fun.

Michael Pina is a writer, with bylines at Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Bleacher Report, Sports On Earth, and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.

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