Post-Raptors title fallout

  • I need to start by saying that the Raptors’ title was one of the greatest sports stories of the last decade. They traded their beloved franchise player for a rental, after years of frustration, and won a championship. That can only be described as amazing. But we need to scale it back right now with some of the narratives.
  • They didn’t “end a dynasty” as its being put. That Warriors team they took down was a shell of the actual team, minus Durant, minus Looney at full health, and minus Klay for five quarters. We don’t even know what would have happened had Klay not gotten hurt in Game 6. So this victory wasn’t exactly paradigm-shifting the way its being proclaimed right now. The only thing it proved was that the Warriors are easier to beat when they don’t have Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson.
  • You could also posit a strong argument that the reason Durant and Thompson went down was because the Warriors extended themselves to such a degree against the Rockets, playing only six guys at times.
  • Right now, the narrative on Kawhi is that he’s the best player in the league who ended two dynasties. That’s fair. He just came off a historic playoff run, with the most impressive part being, in my opinion, his defense against Giannis in the conference finals. That’s something no one in the league, especially James Harden, is capable of doing. That’s why with Durant out, I have him as the best player in the league. But conversely, the narrative on Harden going into next year is as a complete choker – you’re probably going to see him on preview lists as considered the 6th best player in the league (behind Kawhi, Davis (lol), Steph, Lebron, and Durant.) And that’s really interesting to me considering the numbers Harden put up vs. the Warriors, compared to Kawhi’s production. (Narrator: Harden averaged 34.8 points on 44% shooting, 7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.2 steals against the Warriors. Kawhi averaged 28.5 points on 43% shooting, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2.0 blocks in the Finals against a Warriors team without Durant and a hobbled Klay Thompson).
  • What’s the story right now if Austin Rivers went God-mode at the end of Game 6 the way Fred VanVleet did, or if P.J. Tucker could hit scoop runners like the one Siakam did to close out the title?
  • Now that we’ve had sufficient time to decompress, its actually even more amazing to me to consider what James Harden was able to do against that Warriors team in dragging them to 6 games. The Rockets got next to nothing from their second best player and their third best player was a total liability. Key members of their bench in Danuel House, Kenneth Faried, and Gerald Green became completely unplayable. It can be argued that Harden in that series essentially only had help from Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, and P.J Tucker, and the last of those three needed all of his offense created for him. Just incredible, and amidst all of the slander, something that completely will go unappreciated in the postseason analysis in this world of ours where nuance doesn’t mean a damn thing.
  • With Klay out next season, and it looking unlikely that the Lakers will be able to add a third max player to their roster, I still have Houston as my favorites out West next season. Now Milwaukee concerns me. But if they make the right tweaks, Houston is right there to contend again.

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On balancing aggressiveness with conservatism

In the Age of Morey, the Houston Rockets have always shown an aggressiveness to make changes and never stand pat. Daryl has illustrated time and time again a willingness to make bold moves, whether through headline-grabbing trades or aggregating players valued below replacement to build to something greater.

The Rockets, along with the league as a whole, are now in uncharted territory for the first time in five years. As Rahat wrote, the calculus has indeed changed for the Rockets’ offseason following the devastating back-to-back injuries of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. The Warriors are no longer favorites to win it all next year, a strange and unfamiliar reality for NBA fans accustomed to the team’s dominance since 2015.

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The Klay Thompson injury ramifications for the Rockets

A lot of you pushed back on the above this morning. Allow me to explain. When I say they should “run it back”, I don’t mean they shouldn’t seek to make improvements. I’m essentially commenting on my prior assertion, aggressively made, that the Rockets’ top priority this summer should have been moving Clint Capela for a viable wing option who could actually stay on the floor against the Golden State Warriors. That calculus changes now with the Warriors, for all intents and purposes, out of the picture for next season due to this Klay Thompson injury.

The call to trade Capela wasn’t made on the merits in a vacuum. It was a reaction in relation to his lack of effectiveness against the Rockets’ main perceived threat. Against the rest of the league, Capela is still a positive asset. He’s the reason they dominated Denver, considered a rising threat out West. He’ll be important against Portland and their slow-footed big men. He’s played Joel Embid well, and dominated Rudy Gobert and Karl Anthony Towns in postseason play. The Rockets shouldn’t look to trade him just to trade him.

Now, of course, if they can get a significant upgrade for him in a deal, all bets are off. For instance, one of you asked me if I’d trade Capela and two first round picks for Bradley Beal. I think the Wizards would laugh at that offer, but it would be a no-brainer for the Rockets. So I’m certainly not saying he should be untouchable. They should shop him around and explore the market.

But I no longer think the Rockets have to move him the way they would have had Thompson not gotten hurt.

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