The Red94 2017 Houston Rockets Trade Deadline Diary – Part 3

  • In case you missed parts 1 and 2, they can be found here and here.  As is common knowledge now, Houston emerged from the trade deadline adding Lou Williams and shedding the salaries of K.J. McDaniels and Tyler Ennis, with the latter act serving as a vehicle to open its cap sheet for the buyout market.  The former move, of course, served to take one of the league’s already most potent offenses to even greater heights, as was witnessed Thursday night in New Orleans.  Williams very well may not ever hit seven 3’s again in a game during his Rockets tenure, but what he represents, in all seriousness, is the presence of a player who is not Corey Brewer.  I quipped the line Thursday night throughout the sparkling debut, but it was really meant in earnest.  It’s not true to say Corey Brewer brought nothing to the Rockets – the chaos he created and his energy in transition undoubtedly contributed to winning.  (Lineups with Brewer had a positive net rating).  But every time the Rockets worked the ball around the perimeter to find Brewer open in the corner, every time a closeout necessitated Brewer creating his own shot, a once promising possession died in futility.  As we saw Thursday, that is no longer the case.  Set the shooting aside (Williams hits 39% on 3’s overall, and over 50% on corner 3’s), Williams’ ability to put the ball on the floor simply represents another weapon, whereas this time last season the Rockets only had one in James Harden.  When D’Antoni rolled out the Harden-Gordon-Williams three-guard sets in stints against the Pelicans, one wondered how any team could possibly ever match up.  The duo of Harden and Gordon have been enough of a handful already for opposing teams this season.

  • As we saw Thursday night, Mike D’Antoni has all sorts of combinations at his disposal now to make opposing defenses miserable.  He’ll start games with Harden, Beverley, Ariza, and Anderson, but then look to three-guard lineups including any three of Beverley, Harden, Gordon, and Williams.  Those trios will be flanked by a stretch ‘4’ at almost all times in either Anderson or the newly-converted Sam Dekker, and an athletic roll-man in either Clint Capela or Montrezl Harrell.  (For all of the attention given to Anthony Davis and Boogie Cousins in anticipation of Thursday night’s match, Harrell and Capela looked pretty damn good, didn’t they?)  Again, this is not intended to stomp on Brewer’s grave, but Morey just replaced his worst rotation piece with a player in Williams who is second among all shooting guards in RPM and offensive RPM.  D’Antoni can now have at least two playmakers on the floor at all times, and even three during the minutes shared by the glorious Harden-Gordon-Williams lineups.
  • In spite of all the hand-wringing from critics regarding the defensive ramifications of this deal, Morey has determined his team’s best chance is to build upon its strengths.  Its not like the Rockets were bad defensively to begin with, as the narrative suggests.  (They are 13th entering tonight).  Its just that he likely feels the implications can be stronger if adding upon the league’s second best offense.  The critics may point out the dangers in needing Williams defensively against Golden State; I counter citing the doom in needing Brewer to do anything offensively against them.
  • K.J. McDaniels is now the latest in a long list of Rockets who failed to realize the potential imputed upon them by imaginative minds, eager to transform athletic gifts into fine-tuned substance.  I was among that group of dreamers, as I envisioned McDaniels in a Shawn Marion role upon the hiring of Mike D’Antoni.  When he failed to crack this rotation, that was it, not just for his Rockets tenure, but his overall career.  If you’re a jaw-droppingly athletic wing and cannot beat out a man shooting 20% on open 3’s, under the player’s coach of all player’s coaches, you will very likely amount to nothing.  We will never know what did McDaniels in.  Maybe there was something behind the scenes, some attitude issues, as we speculated.  Maybe he just wasn’t good enough.  We will never know and the Rockets had seen enough on their dime to cut bait.
  • Its also interesting to note that Houston held onto all of its young pieces in Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, and Clint Capela, not that there was ever any serious suggestion any of them would be dealt. While such an outcome might have been indicative of there being no deal on the table necessitating any of those players’ inclusion, it also very well could have been born from a vote of confidence from Morey.  Do you see now how youthful bench depth is the life blood of a team?  Without these three gobbling up minutes, perhaps Morey is less eager to deal the first rounder required in the acquisition of Williams?  And as deep as the Rockets are, this leads me to another greedy realization – had the Motiejunas trade to Detroit not been rescinded, and had the Rockets not made the playoffs (the outcome I’ve referred to as the dumbest opinion I’ve ever held), they’d have even two more first round talents on this roster, or those players’ return in trade.  Oh, what could have been – an embarrassment of riches.
  • Now armed with somewhere between $3million and $4million in cash (from the deals of McDaniels and Ennis), Morey turns to the buyout market to equip his team with veteran help.  Reports indicate Andrew Bogut would seem to be the primary target, but any other players shaking free from now until later will have a handsome offer awaiting them from Houston.  Older fans will recall the most significant late-season pickups in team history as being Eddie Johnson and Sedale Threatt, prior to the 1997 Western Conference Finals run.  Johnson lives on in infamy after hitting the Game 4 shot that tied the series with Utah; Threatt is famous as a reminder of Carrol Dawson’s negligence in not signing an actual point guard for the stretch run that season.

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The Red94 2017 Houston Rockets Trade Deadline Diary – Part 2

Check out Part 1 if you have time to kill where I discuss everything from Pat Beverley's role on the team...