Fatal Flaws That Sunk Houston Rockets' Season
Any good relationship, basketball or otherwise, is built on the pillars of communication and trust.
Under the leadership of Daryl Morey and his crew, the Houston Rockets have leaned heavily on both pillars. Since his absorption of the GM mantle, Daryl Morey has preached patience. The Rockets have improved by picking nits, embracing the statistical revolution and making shrewd deals for top-flight players and coaches.
Patience has worked perfectly. With an NBA free agency devoid of traditional big spenders and plenty of cap space, the Houston Rockets are in prime position to challenge for NBA supremacy.
The Houston Rockets have earned our trust.
That’s not to downplay their feisty finish in the NBA Playoffs, losing to a bereft Thunder squad in six games. This team has legitimate problems and is in search of worthwhile solutions.
To help Daryl, Coach Kevin McHale and the Rockets, let’s winnow the problems that plagued Houston, grab the analytical abacus, and find a way to create more win shares next season.
All stats are gathered from NBA.com/stats and Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Flaw #1: Hire Help for Harden
Check out James Harden’s first year in Houston: 25.9 points per game (5th in NBA), 2,023 total points (4th in NBA), 792 free throws attempted (led NBA) and 179 three-point field goals made (6th in NBA).
Not bad for a recent Thunder grad in his first crack at running his own franchise.
Finally, Daryl Morey found his franchise leader. James Harden even looks the part of a bearded boss, hosting All-Star weekend like a Dad claiming the big chicken leg at family dinner.
Still, Houston fought hard for the eighth seed, and was a dead (under)dog until Patrick Beverley made his acquaintance with Russell Westbrook’s knee. Harden needs help and Houston has the cap space to get it for him.
But who? Dwight Howard is available, but he’s a spoiled Hollywood prodigy. Andrew Bynum would come cheap, but he hasn’t played a game since the strike season. Josh Smith is a nice bonus for a contender, but Houston is still a pretender.
Perhaps Houston’s best option is to wait for 2014. Lebron James?
Flaw #2: Where's the Beef?
Whenever you can get the touted fifth pick in a draft for fringe rotation guys and a bag of chips, you do it.
Houston did just that, scoring Thomas Robinson in a trade that looks more lopsided than the Tower of Pisa.
But in order to snag Robinson from the overwhelmed Kings, the Rockets gave up almost their entire phalanx of big men. Other than Omer Asik, the only rotation power forwards left in Houston were a couple minted rookies (Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas) and the unproven Greg Smith, along with the athletic but undersized Robinson.
As expected, Houston got owned on defense during the playoffs. When starting center Omer Asik sat, Oklahoma City posted an offensive rating of 130.0, which stood as the best rate among playoff teams by a mile, per Basketball-Reference.com.
If Houston’s going to improve, they’ve got to find some more beef.
Carl Landry and Robin Lopez are a couple names that jump off the sheet. Both are talented rotation bigs who can play defense, grab rebounds, run the floor and finish at a high rate.
Flaw #3: Matador Defense
Houston was a below average defensive team entering the second season, and continued to prove its ineptitude against Oklahoma City. As mentioned by the essayists at Red94, the Thunder scored almost 1.5 points per Asik-less possession as compared to 1.016 per possession with Asik on the floor.
Jeremy Lin and James Harden weren’t much better defending the perimeter. Some blame should go to the duo’s heavy offense workload, the team’s breakneck pace (first in NBA) and a penchant for volume three-point shooting (second in NBA in three-point attempts), but both need to step up their responsiveness on the opposite side of the court.
GM Daryl Morey should look for offensive help to alleviate the backcourt’s work and defensive help to complement Asik and his high-octane guards.
Flaw #4: Where's Jeremy?
Regular Season Per-Game (82 games): 13.1 points, 6.1 assists, 44.1% FG, 34% 3FG, 2.9 TOV.
Playoffs Per-Game (4 games): 4.0 points, 2.0 assists, 25% FG, 17% 3FG, 2.0 TOV.
"I’d say I’ll definitely remember a lot more my subpar performance and my injury…I think that’s one of my biggest motivating factors going into the offseason was how it ended the way it ended and it just doesn’t sit well with me.” – Jeremy Lin, Comcast SportsNet Houston.
Last year, Lin had bad knees. This year, Lin caught chest pain (which was only worsened by Kevin Durant’s revenge timeout ball swipe.) And it looks like Lin’s starting spot just got took by a rook.
Will Jeremy Lin ever play at the level of LINSANITY again?
Jeremy Lin (Linsanity numbers): 12 games, 22.6 points, 8.7 assists, 48% FG, 34% 3FG.
Man, those were the days. Now Jeremy just needs a cold bath and a good masseuse.
Basketball Reference’s similarity scores equate Lin’s three year existence to a handful of NBA vets, most of who fail to adequately compare circumstantially to this young point, given Houston’s investment.
Still, would you pay a Bimbo Coles facsimile $14 million in the year after next? Me neither.
Flaw #5: The Chandler Parsons Free Throw Struggles
Who is this Chandler Parsons dude?
Chandler Parsons was a late second round shrug from Billy Donovan’s squad in Florida, a system stretch big with a bleak NBA future.
Fast-forward: Houston drafts him, Parsons finds a sweet three-point stroke, and suddenly Parsons has a hope and a future in professional basketball.
|Chandler Parsons - NBA Career|
|GS||PPG||RPG||3FG Pct.||FT Pct.|
|Year 1||57||9.5 ||4.8 ||33.7 ||55.1|
|Year 2||76||15.5||5.3 ||38.5 ||72.9|
|2013 Playoffs||6||18.2 ||6.5 ||40.0 ||64.3|
Parsons had a great NBA playoff showing, despite having to help guard the second-best scorer in the NBA. This, along with the bright lights of playoff hoops, probably led to Parsons' free throw shooting drop.
Next year, Morey and the stat pack should stack the perimeter with more interchangeable jump shooters. Even though Houston declined Francisco Garcia’s option, the NBA still has plenty of stretch shooters.
Grab a few, teach them how to run with the homies, and watch records get broken.