Houston Rockets upgrade offense with Saturday’s acquisitions

Jan 29, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon (10) signals against the Los Angeles Lakers during the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as it became clear that Dwight Howard would no longer be a part of their future, sometime back mid-season, the Houston Rockets’ plan had been to pair Al Horford and Kevin Durant together using the expected $46 million of cap space they would have had available to them this summer.  After suffering the grave indignity of not even being granted a meeting by Durant, Houston quickly moved to Plan B, securing meetings with Horford and swingman Kent Bazemore.  Then, after being shunned by those Hawks, they came to terms with Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon.

With the signings, the Rockets are improved.  They’ll have a top-5 offense.  (They were 7th last year featuring a lineup that included essentially just James Harden).  But at a thematic level, the predictable outcome represents the difficulty inherent to attempting to build a team through free agency.  By its very nature, free agency is a crap shoot.  Each summer, there are only so many free agents, most of whom typically stay with the same team; and in a summer like this one, most everyone in the league has cap space.  Those aren’t exactly optimal market conditions for a buyer.  A popular outcry among Rockets fans is that “no star player wants to come play in Houston, with Harden [and Howard].”  While that may be the case, that it hasn’t happened doesn’t make the statement necessarily true – it just seems that way because the Rockets always put themselves in a position to try each summer.  And just by the sheer odds, they are likely to strike out each time, as would any other team.  Dwight Howard was the exception, not the rule.

You want to supplement through free agency–and Anderson and Gordon are supplementary pieces–but build the backbone of your team through the draft and trades.  And Houston didn’t get much return from its previous drafts this past season.  After early success in the form of Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry, there have been a lot of misses for Daryl Morey.  2008 was Joey Dorsey, Marty Leunen, and Nic Batum, the latter of whom turned into Ron Artest by way of later trade.  In 2009, Jermaine Taylor and Sergio Llull (to date) were misses, though Chase Budinger later turned into Terrence Jones.  2010’s Patrick Patterson essentially turned into cap space (Thomas Robinson), as did 2011’s Marcus Morris.  In ’11, they also got Donatas Motiejunas, by way of Nikola Mirotic, but the former wasn’t a contributor this season due to injuries.  Chandler Parsons that year also indirectly turned into Trevor Ariza who himself drastically declined.  In 2012, Jeremy Lamb was one of the key pieces to acquiring James Harden, but Royce White and Terrence Jones (via Budinger earlier) were both virtual non-contributors this season.  2013’s Isaiah Canaan became K.J. McDaniels, who barely broke the rotation.  In 2014, Capela was gold struck, but Nick Johnson was a whiff, as was Ty Lawson who was acquired for Johnson and this year’s pick.  And lastly, neither Sam Dekker or Montrezl Harrell, last year’s draft picks, had any impact at all.

A team, of course, cannot hit on every draft pick.  But you need at least three or four to pan out to build a lasting infrastructure under cheap club control over a certain duration of time.  That continuity in turn engenders chemistry and growth.  For the Warriors, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, and Festus Ezili were all homegrown products.  Bogut was acquired in trade, and Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala were supplementary free agent additions.

More than hoping for the best in 2017 free agency, Houston now needs internal growth more than anything.  But the avenues are limited.  Harden will be Harden, a top-3 offensive player, in the prime of his career.  But Clint Capela will have to prove capable of filling the void left by Dwight Howard’s departure.  If he’s (hopefully) brought back, Motiejunas will need to regain his 2015 trajectory.  And perhaps most importantly, two from the group of Dekker, Harrell, and McDaniels will have to crack the rotation and provide meaningful minutes if the Rockets want to ascend.  Ariza, Beverley, and Brewer all have maxed their respective ceilings – one can only hope that their contributions at least revert closer to career norms from last season.

Houston’s offense will be magnificent, with Dwight Howard out, and Ryan Anderson in, creating more room for James Harden to operate.  We will finally see James Harden playing next to pure shooters.  And aside from his shooting, Eric Gordon can serve as the secondary playmaker the team has lacked since Chandler Parsons’ departure.  The injury history is a major gamble, but Gordon’s is a very reasonable pricetag for a player of his abilities.  I was downright giddy yesterday evening when that particular signing was finalized.  Unlike Ty Lawson, who was brought in to create for James Harden, Eric Gordon can be useful in allowing James Harden to create for him.  While I used Bradley Beal as my example, I said last year that I envisioned a lineup where James Harden actually was the point guard (as opposed to just the de facto point guard), with an actual shooter playing next to him.  To that end, just putting an actual shooting guard next to Harden (Gordon is just a year removed from hitting 45% on 3’s) ends the charade of needing to find a point guard who can shoot, maximizing Harden’s abilities.  While they probably won’t start together, I expect the pair to close games as a tandem.  But of course, the question is whether Gordon can stay healthy.  The Rockets, in desperate need of talent, weren’t in a position to turn their nose up at that risk.

I wasn’t as bullish on the Anderson signing because of his defensive limitations.  Jeff Bzdelik will have his work cut out for him, and there will now be more pressure on Clint Capela than ever to make up for others’ mistakes.  Can a team go far with Ryan Anderson and James Harden occupying 2/5 of its starting lineup?  Under Mike D’Antoni, I have my doubts.  On the face of it, the Houston Rockets look like a team with a 45-win/first-round-exit ceiling.  But with Dwight Howard gone, why can’t the Rockets re-create the chemistry that won 56 games in 2015?  The personnel across the board is improved, with the key actors returning.  The offense will be so good that it will carry the Rockets on most nights.  And perhaps, with a more involved, distributive offense, effort at the other end will improve, as D’Antoni himself theorized at his welcoming presser.  We can only hope.  One thing is clear: simply having Harden alone assures at a bare minimum 40 wins.

The collective reaction to this weekend’s outcome is naturally one of disappointment.  Houston and its fans were holding onto hope for something far greater, that would help thrust them back towards the upper echelon.  That outcome was unlikely, and it didn’t happen.  But the Rockets improved as a team yesterday.  Now, they’ll need internal growth if they want to climb more and build something lasting.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of www.Red94.net.

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  • Jatman20

    Jamal Crawford wants to walk from the Clippers. Is it too late to do
    a D Jordan move? Sign Jamal and back out of the Gordon deal.
    I know the Rockets rep would take a huge hit. Gordon DRtg 113
    while Crawford DRtg was 109. I know it is not the tell all stat, just a
    basis….lots of factors and intangibles in judging individual defense.
    Anderson was 112 (I believe). I like how both Gordon and Crawford
    are slotted as both PG & SG. My understanding is the Rockets have about $16 mil left. So signing llull (PG) and Gentile (PF) is probably
    not happening. Both might take $8 mil a piece, but I doubt it. We can pass on llull for a year now. I’m just not sold on Gordon avoiding injury.
    I cant believe the contract length and void of team options.

  • redninetyfour

    I would much prefer Gordon’s spot up shooting to Crawford’s need for the ball in his hands. Not to mention the age difference.

  • Jatman20

    I would take either. Might show that the Thornton deal may have been a financial move only. Thornton DRtg dropped
    to about 105 with Washington. Again my fear with Gordon
    is like the Mercedes that’s always in the shop. Hey it’s a
    Mecedes; but it has never gone past 65 games in any season.
    Hope less minutes works for Eric and his body. I due feel he can get close to that 44 3P%.

  • redninetyfour

    Something was pretty odd with Thornton last year. For a guy who filled it up pretty well, he didn’t get many minutes. I wonder if there was something more going on behind the scenes.

  • Jatman20

    I totally agree with you. It was reported that he was not happy with his mins/rotation when JBB took over. Jason Terry also questioned the rotations. I believe Thornton
    was moved to get under the luxury tax threshold. The D-Mo (nixed) deal forced the Rockets to remain over that tax at seasons end. The Rockets must feel Gordon can co-exist with Harden without much adjustment….since Gordon had
    to share the ball with Tyreke Evans. I haven’t looked into
    it with much detail; but just off the top of my mind it was
    a failure. Mainly because both kept getting injured.
    Hope Gordon can stay healthy.

  • john tran

    Agreed. Whether KJ, Capela, and DMO can have breakout years will determine the ceiling of this team this year.

  • Davion Watts

    BRANDON JENNINGS point guard goals if we given out chances plus we still need a center

  • Jah

    Llul and Gentile……what did I tell you the other day?? And you act like you was being color-blind and just looking at the numbers and fits.

    You are not! You looking at SKIN COLOR, you racist, Pagan Gentile clown! You accused me of being such but it’s clearly YOU. In my case, Black Talent is a proven and superior commodity in the NBA than with White players.

    Say I’m wrong now, motherf***er……say I’m a liar. Say it!

    I got all kinds of proof to show why you’re looking at the Rockets with RACIST COLOR LENS just to get your White Nationalist-high to see the Rockets bring in a bunch of DEADWEIGHT whiteboys will almost surely make Harden bolts when his free-agency comee up.

    No legit, Black Superstar talent want a bunch of sorry-a** Whiteboys as their Soldiers on the battlefield because they not as gifted and not as good as quality Black players.

    Look at the Championship game…..how many White boys did you see get significant minutes helping the Warriors and Cavs in the final Championship game???


    Kevin Love was DISMISSED for Tristan Thompson. And K.Love got a 100 million dollar contract and didnt have worth to stick in the biggest game of the season: the Championship game. Tristan Thimpaon is the one that should have K. Love’ contract. It’s a travesy and White GMs are doing this on purpose when they know they deadweight Whiteboys hardly hage any worth to be in the NBA.

    Their skills and level of play fits more with the Euroleague than the NBA. And you’re talking about adding Llul and Gentile. Of all the more dominant BLACK NBA TALENT, you think Gentile is better…who never played a single NBA game.

    Nevermind the failure of Gentile’ brethren that came here and FAILED just the same:


    That’s all I know off the top of my head. Luis Scola is one and he was never a solid fit either. These are Euroleague GARBAGE players from thr weak Euroleague, and exactly where guys like K.Love, Tomofey, Parsons and J.Lin should go play for where their skill level is appreciated.

    But don’t insult our intelligence by suggesting we bring in Llul and Gentile as if European Players are greater than the superior, Black dominant NBA players.

    The only reason I can think of as to why you would suggest those euroleague garbage players is because of your White Nationalistic Pride. In other words, you’re a JEALOUS RACIST BAST**D to see Black Players so dominant in the NBA and making big money that you rather it be White players whom are so boring to watch and are nothing special to watch that they truly just SUCKS. Just like Euroleague ball SUCKS.

    Gonbe a fan out there and leave our NBA alone, Racist.

  • Jatman20

    Again not racist. Their rights are owned by the Rockets and probably come cheaper than the entitlement minded American.
    I asked for the Rockets to go after Gerald Henderson, Gerald Green, Sessions, Mo Williams last summer. This summer how much will it cost? With llull I was trying to look for a backup
    or replacement to Beverley while Gentile is telling his teammates he may have played his last game overseas. Capela is unproven…..I want a big thumper of a center to give me 20 mins. Capela has some foul trouble issues. I don’t care if players are black, white, purple or green….if they can play sign them up!! Now I misjudged the going rates of the bottom tier free agent this year. I posted they would get $8 mil. That would be +/- $2 mil. I would have gone as high as $10 mil for Mozgov & Pachulia; but no higher. I would have gone $15 mil for Mahinmi & Biyombo and up to $20 mil for Whiteside or Batum. The owner of the Rockets paid $2 mil for the rights of llull. That was an investment he might want to see in a Houston uniform. That’s not Monopoly money. If it was you; you would probably want to do the same. No I’m sure you would just have AA men playing on a team you owned. Reverse racism.
    Now if they want more than $10 mil, then forget llull and Gentile.
    I guess you didn’t read that I wanted Crawford. What color of skin does he have??

  • Jah

    Good insight, there. There was something going on behind the sense. McHale and JBB (and Morey) insisted that J.Terry take those minutes when Thornton was better suited and posted better overall numbers (scoring) than Terry did.

    Me personally, I think Harden doesn’t like it when a shooter comes in that can rival his shooting percentage. Thornton was up. He was hitting critical shots in the 4th and game-winners when that’s Harden’ job.

    With Harden, I learn two things about him:

    He don’t like athelic players that pleases the crowd because it takes away the spotlight from him.

    Two, he don’t like it when a PG or SG comes in and stroke the ball better than him. It’s a reason Thornton and Troy Daniels are not with us, and K.J. can’t get minutes over an over-the-hill in J.Terry when he very much warrants those minutes.

    Until Harden checks himself and his maturity and be a Leader, quality free agents will see that and not want to come here. All in all, we need Harden. I just hope he get over those elementary things and be grateful he got guys that can put the ball in the hole like he came…even at his position, too. He’ll still be our leader so no worries.

  • Jah

    “Entitlement Minded” is a code-word by White Racists to sling around at Black People for not being more poor and destituted by White Supremacy as most of you White men would like to see.

    And just to correct you, there is no such thing as “entitlement minded” black Players in the NBA. The MARKET set their value, not their mouths.

    Which circles back to my point, and exposes the White GMs and racist white fanboys like you. White players like Tomofey Mozgov, Chandler Parsons, Kevin Love, Jeremey Lin (though he’s Asian) and Ryan Anderson, does not justify the pay they get.

    Take Mozgov. Last season he average 6ppg and 4 rebs. Yet, getting a 65 million dollar contract for 4 years. So, the question is, did Mitch saw no other dominant Black Player worth that?

    I do recall Boyombo still being on the market that they could have had but never fielded a call to them. Granted, no legit talent want to play for thr Lakers right now but the GM screws up the market when they dueling out undue contract numbers to below-average White boys.

    Parsons was injured most of the season with the Mavs and yet, gets a 4 year/94 millions when his performance does not warrant that kind of contract. A Black Player is far more warranted for a contract like that.

    The problem is these White GM, just like these white fanboys trying to put money in the pockets below average white players who have strong history of UNDERPERFORMING in the NBA in the short term and long term.

    Remember Bargani? I remember the Knicks signed that joke to a huge contract that he couldn’t live up to and now, no longer an NBA player if Im correct.

    These White GMs are this on purpose to keep unskilled whiteboys in the NBA when they should go to a lesser league and make a career out of basketball…like the Euroleague.

    Let me show you something though…..in the Euroleague, they have the SAME racial mentality to look at Black players as if they are far better when they are clearly not! They are far inferior to Black Players but in the Euroleague, they treat their own Black Players as if they aren’t quality when they clearly are.

    When those Black Euroleague players comes to the NBA, they excel better their Eurolewgue counterparts. Case in point:

    Serge Ibaka
    Nene Hilario (before he go to the downside of his career)

    And Capela is a solid player. He will do far better next season. Just that, Howard was a BAD, BAD influence on Capela as a Mentor to look up to. Howard didn’t carry himself as a Leader on the Rockets and there was nothing for Capela to learn from Howard, from watching him.

    I kept tabs on Capela because that boy can be very good….in the mode of Serge Ibaka without the 3 point shot, though. But in and around the basket and defense snd shot-blocking, he can be something of a hybrid between Dream/Motombo/Garnet.

    This is why I wished we had gotten Horford so Capela can have someone to look at in thr game at his position and learn how to play the Center role.

    Capela can excel because of thing: He has the Black Dominant Genes just like Black American Boys. Someone here just have to “bring it out” of him because he clearly don’t know how dominant he is because of where he come from (Euroleague and that Pagan, White culture that don’t put value on Black People as they do in America).

    Now, when you bring a White Euroleague guy here, you can expect to compare him to a dominant Black Player because they will NEVER be able to do the things Black players do. They suck and very limited in their skill-sets which is why you don’t see to many on them on the upper-exhelon NBA teams like:


    and soon:


    The more your team is dominant-black in squad, the best success you will have in the NBA. The more your team is half and half between Blacks and Whites, the more average your team will be in the NBA.

    That’s FACTS! From simple observation and proof!

    And Daryl Morey is towing the line along with other White GMs in keeping a steady flow of deadweight Whiteboys when they just flat out sucks! These GM should be encouranging these White boys to go to the Euroleague instead of trying to make it in the NBA.

    And the Euroleague should encourage many of their Black plauyrs to go to the NBA where they will realize their greatness and supriority over their White euroleague countrymen.

    The NBA will be better off that way and the Euroleague will be a little better with White American whiteboys playing over there than here.

    There are exceptions though….like the likes of Dirk Notwitski but too far and in between to see greats like that come around. Regardless, LLUL AND GENTILE need to stay in the Eurolegue. They have NOTHING to offer the NBA or a team as Black Players are more dominant than anything they got to offer unless they’re a Dirk Notwitski or some type.

  • Jatman20

    If you ask people in Europe or most foreign countries to sum up Americans. Many if not most have us stereotyped as a nation of spoiled brats that think they are entitled to any and everything. Poor in the U.S. is a TV in every room. In Mexico and other countries you may be lucky to have one TV in your house. Now the agent for Llull may tell him how much money is being spent…..so he may be a no go. Now Gentile is telling his team he is done. So $8 mil might get him. The rest of your comment I can’t answer. I can’t control who Morey and the Rockets pursue. I can only speak for myself. I saw us getting one Max guy and hoped for 2 or 3 mid to bottom tier free agent. If Bazemore had excepted our offer. He would have been the max guy.
    He would have been the starting SF and backup to Harden.
    That would have been deserving of $10 mil per position he could cover. I believe the offer was $19 mil. Unproven guys I would have taken a chance on: Bazemore, Whitehead,Biyombo (depending on cost). So when I mentioned Augustine, Mozgov, Courtney Lee, those were bottom tier guys that fill a position of need. You sounded like the Rockets could get Whiteside/Horford/Batum/Conley.
    You have to make the money work Jah. In a fantasy world that works. They all accept the vet min. Heck they all play for $1.00. The NBA doesn’t work like that.

  • Jah

    Jatman, do you honestly think we should give a damn about what the outsode world think of us? I mean, really dude. Even when they emigrate here, they act worst than us. They immediately think they’re better than us now that they’re in America.

    Even the Mexicans have the biggest entitlement minds along with the Chinese so, I don’t give a “F” what they think of us. If they think so ill of us why are they here among us?? The Euroleague guy, Prozingis, was caught bragging that he can do the Dream Shake and think he can play like Dream.

    I mean, all these Euroleague Whiteboys come here with an ego and think they’re some “great sh*t” to happen on the NBA hardwood but as their history will attest, they all burn out quick in the NBA and become irrelevant as quick as they flame out.

    That’s totally besides the point here though. Im trying to get you to see your own racial sentiments in how you see the need for us to bring in Llul and Gentile when the Euroleague is several notches below the NBA level.

    It’s like the the Rockets drafting someone out of the D-League than from College. I don’t understand your rational for wanting Llul and Gentile —— how do you even make that jump to skip over all the talent already in the NBA among proven Black players that you’re looking over to the Euroleague to bring in that garbage.


    As I stated, the only logical reason I can think as to why you suggested Llul and Gentile is racial reasons, or White Nationalistic sentiments.

    Admit it, dude. Admit it.

    Otherwise, no real fan of the NBA would be looking over at the Euroleague to draft a whiteboy. And this is despite the fact for the last 5 NBA championships, Whiteboys have shown no capability to hang with Black NBA players except one: Dirk Notwiski.

    So, for you and Morey to continue to see “hope” that white players can be like Black NBA players is nothing more than Racial White Nationalist Pride to see more Whiteboys in the NBA when they simply can’t dominate nor last, nor be a crucial piece on an NBA championship team.

    We haven’t seen a whiteboy like that since Dirk. So, the history is clearly not there to support more whiteboys in the NBA but the likes of you and these White GMs keeps givng them contracts as if their play and performance equals that of Superstar-levelx Black Players.

    You need to just admit you are racial-friendly with strong White Nationalist pride to want to see White players more than the dominant Black Players. Just admit it.

    And when you do admit it, it is the reason why I HATE Morey picking these players because his White racial pride gets in the way of us getting that dominant Black squad that can most certainly win us a chnapionship than one with half of the roster being White and keeping us from greatness or ever reaching the Finals with Whiteboys having a big role on the team.

    We will suck, plain and simple until we get a GM like the Hawks havex like the Celtics have, like the Raptors have, like the Warriors and Cavs have.

    Not this Utah Jazz model and shit.

  • Jlew

    Sometimes,its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. This conversation isn’t about race,no matter how hard you try to make it be so. YOU’RE the racist here. The moderators/officers of this site should block you. Skin tone has no direct correlation to hoops ability. Any one can be good at this game,just as any one can be awful. You’re making an ass of yourself.

  • Jatman20

    I would like to apologize to everyone including Jah. Saying Entitled Americans was over the top. I was trying to show a difference in cost of living between America and where other players reside. After thinking about it, its more about competing with the team that they are currently with. If they want to play against the best players in the world. Perhaps they might settle for $8-$10 mil. It’s not like a Cuban defector in baseball where all teams bid and drive up the salary. Rockets own the rights to the players. It’s up to the player to say yeah or nay.

  • Jah

    Ahh, you want cry and run to the Mods now. Go join TDS if you’re not thick skinned, whinner! Everything I said is BACKED UP BY FACTS….not opinions.

    I laid out the recent history of Whiteboys in the NBA. You just have no counter-argument to make to refute the FACTS.

    So, take your own advice and,

    “remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”


  • Jlew

    Your only facts were skin color, bruddah. Melanin ain’t got no correlation to winning. Also, learn to spell. I’m not running or crying to anyone,simply pointing out that,by and large, this forum/site has been a haven of intelligent, thoughtful dialogue on a great game. But you spew hate-based invective and little else, which I think has no place here. Super clever to just use by witty rejoinder in response to me,since you’ve no thoughts of your own worth including. Anyhow, I hope you get a clue soon. Trying to discredit my views by impugning my character is an old and sad method called ad hominem. I’ll wait while you look it up. Go Rockets!

  • Jatman20

    How does Dawayne Dedmon sound. Center the Rockets are looking into. 6’11” 240 lbs. About 4 pts 3 rbs per game.

  • TheJohnnyGold

    Hello. Mod here. I recognize that threatening you will do no good as I have little doubt you are no stranger to moderator threats–so let’s move past that.

    We work hard to keep Red94 free from vitriolic negativity and focused on Rockets basketball-related issues. If you want to discuss racism as part of the NBA paradigm I have no doubt there is a great place for it, but this is not it. We talk basketball here.

    Your post history here indicates that you are far more interested in vomiting negativity everywhere rather than insightful discourse–my favorite being the personal note you wrote to Rahat a while back. This website has rules and standards for its users. You have violated many of them.

    Please, choose to respect this site, its rules, and its members or choose to ply your trade elsewhere.

  • wendytindys8555

    Gordon is rated high as the ball handler in PnR action with
    0.94 ppp. Anderson is rated highly as the roll man in PnR action
    1.07 ppp. Good for D’Anton https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/357f219d025d9fe7fd3d3407aa20bae1f46de98669e96aa96e0263990e63875d.jpg

  • Jah


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