Breaking Down the Pros and Cons of Each Houston Rockets Offseason Move
To say the least, the Houston Rockets have had an eventful offseason.
Putting all of their eggs in one basket, the Rockets were able to cash in with the biggest prize of the offseason in the form of Dwight Howard.
Not only did the Rockets receive the league's best center, they managed to keep Omer Asik. They will also have Howard running alongside one of the league's most talented up-and-comers in James Harden. Virtually overnight, the Rockets have become championship contenders, joining the ranks of West elites such as San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
Obviously the centerpiece of Houston's offseason is obtaining Dwight. Anytime you put together two of the league's 15 best players, you're going to shoot up the ranks. While that may not have worked for a team like the Los Angeles Lakers, the Rockets are in possession of young players who are willing to adjust their games for the greater good of chasing rings.
Add in Dwight actually being healthy and, you know, becoming the guy that was the runner-up MVP in 2011 and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, and the Rockets could be making some noise over the next few years.
Believe it or not, the Rockets were up to other moves as well. While they weren't nearly as significant as bringing in the league's best center since Shaquille O'Neal, they were moves necessary to fill out a roster that's going to potentially be competing for a title as soon as this coming June.
We take a look at those moves, including their sole draft pick, and weighed the pros and cons of each.
Signing Dwight Howard
Isn't it obvious? The Houston Rockets now have the best center in basketball.
Dealing with a bad back last season, Dwight Howard put up numbers that only so few players can put up in today's league, posting 17 points on 58 percent shooting to go along with a league-leading 12.4 rebounds per game and a shade under 2.5 blocks.
Dwight only missed six games last season. He should be back to his Orlando Magic-type dominance next year with a healed back, but he would still be allowed to rest because of the Rockets' depth at the center position, which includes defensive-stalwart Omer Asik and 2007 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby.
The Rockets now possess two former Defensive Players of the Year, with Dwight winning three in the past four years. He was a severely underrated defender last year, ranking 26th in PPP given up, including eight when it came to defending post-ups.
Dwight held opponents to 32 percent shooting on post-ups. Needless to say, I can't wait to see him and Marc Gasol go at it four times per season.
Per SynergySports, there were few teams that averaged less points per possession than Houston when it came to post-ups last season. The Rockets ranked 26th with 0.73 PPP, shot a paltry 41 percent and only relied on it for four percent of the offense.
However, Houston's offense was heavily reliant on its spot-up shooters, relying on those types of plays 23 percent of the time. With Howard set to start, the Rockets are going to be a volatile shooting team with the likes of Jeremy Lin (34 percent 3-pt shooter), James Harden (37 percent) and Chandler Parsons (39 percent) surrounding Dwight.
Unlike Orlando, Houston has talent that can do far more than surround Dwight and shoot on kick-outs.
If things don't go as planned, it could get ugly.
No team wants an unhappy superstar, and that goes double for a Houston team that just signed a perennial All-Star who tore down the Orlando Magic and was disgruntled throughout his time with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Both those teams went through such turmoil because of the frustration of their centerpiece.
The entire team will have to adjust to Dwight's presence. James Harden will be satisfied to be able to share the ball with another player who can score, but he'll also have to find his game coming more from the outside, as opposed to being able to drive it on every possession.
The playmaker that he is, Harden should still be able to flourish being able to drive and dump it off to the waiting center under the basket. However, he will also have to adjust to sharing the ball with another player looking to get at least 10 shots per game.
It's going to be quite the difference from Asik, who was taking less than eight shot attempts per last year.
Also, the Rockets primary ball-handlers, James Harden and Jeremy Lin, rely heavily on their work as the pick-and-roll man. Dwight is far more reliant on post-ups, while his work as the pick-and-roll man is a far decreased part of his offense, being only 11 percent of his total offense last season, per Synergy.
However, Dwight was an 80 percent shooter when utilized as the pick-and-roll man.
Still, this is a significant move for the Rockets that should bring nothing but positive results. They were a No. 8 seed last year and have become immediate contenders without playing a game.
But having a great team on paper is a different story than having a great team on the court.
Signings of Aaron Brooks and Omri Casspi
Aaron Brooks signing
Brooks is familiar with the Houston Rockets, as he played his first three-and-a-half seasons with the club before being shipped off to Phoenix. He re-joined the Rockets in early March of 2013, got waived in late June and then re-signed three weeks later.
Brooks was among the league's most efficient scorers, according to Synergy. He ranked second, garnering 1.46 PPP, on spot-up opportunities and shot a staggering 54 percent on 45 attempts from beyond the arc on those types of plays, per Synergy.
Even more impressive were his pick-and-roll numbers. On 97 attempts, Brooks shot nearly 51 percent from the field and ranked ninth in the league in PPP when having his offense generated as the pick-and-roll ball-handler.
Brooks can shoot the rock, which will work well if he is in lineups with Dwight, but he can't play a lick of defense.
Per Synergy, Brooks ranked 443rd in points per possession given up, and allowed his assignment to shoot 47 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond the arc. He allowed pick-and-roll ball-handlers to shoot 54 percent on 37 three-point attempts and also ranked 380th defending spot-ups, allowing opponents to shoot 44 percent from the field.
The starter at his position, Jeremy Lin, ranked 195th in PPP given up, leaving the Rockets with a pair of point guards that have will trouble defending the league's elite guards.
It makes you wonder what will happen if Houston ends up in a potential Western Conference Finals matchup with teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs. Who do they throw at Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker?
Plus, Brooks just hasn't been the same since winning Most Improved Player in 2010. He's played for three teams since 2011, recently playing seven games with Houston and averaging five minutes per game last year.
Omri Casspi signing
Omri is a solid backup at the small forward position and is a streaky shooter, as evidenced by a 4-of-4 performance from three in a contest with the Miami Heat last season.
Contrary to popular belief, Casspi isn't that great of a shooter. His percentages have declined significantly over the past two years, most recently shooting 33 percent from beyond the arc last season and 39 percent from the field overall.
Casspi has shot well in the past, when he shot 37 percent from beyond the arc in his second season with Sacramento, but he hasn't been able to consistently put the ball in the basket at all in the two seasons he spent with Cleveland.
He ranked 173rd last season on spot-ups, shooting 39 percent overall and 35 percent from beyond the arc, per Synergy.
His defense? Casspi ranked 380th in points per possession given up, allowing his assignment to shoot 44 percent from the field overall and 53 percent from beyond the arc, per Synergy.
Houston has solid backup defenders in the likes of Patrick Beverley and Francisco Garcia, but Casspi and Brooks are liabilities on that end of the floor.
Signing Reggie Williams and Re-Signing Francisco Garcia
Signing Reggie Williams
Reggie won't be utilized too much, since he's currently third on the shooting guard depth chart, but he was once one of the league's top shooters.
In his second season, Williams shot 42 percent from beyond the arc on 241 attempts.
The year before as a rookie, Reggie played 24 games, starting in 10, and averaged 15 points per game on a shade under 50 percent shooting from the field to go along with 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
He shot 37 percent on spot-up opportunities last season, per Synergy.
And then Reggie went to Charlotte. And everything sort of just fell apart there.
Reggie has shot 31 percent from the land of three the past two seasons and could barely get playing time last year on a struggling Bobcats team that was giving any reason to play young guys. Instead, the 26-year-old spent the majority of the season on the bench, only playing in 40 games.
On the defensive end, Reggie ranked 256th in the league in PPP given up, allowing spot-up shooters to to score 1.08 PPP and to shoot 42 percent from the field.
Re-signing Francisco Garcia
He's the type of player who's going to leave it all on the floor. He can shoot the ball well on offense, while also providing tenacious and focused defense on the other.
Bringing Garcia back was one of Houston's more underrated deals of the offseason. He was one of the league's top spot-up threats last season, ranking 24th in PPP and shooting 46 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc, while holding opponents to 38 percent shooting last year, per Synergy.
His spot-up defense was top-notch. He ranked 47th in PPP given up, holding opponents to shoot 35 percent from the field overall and 38 percent from beyond the arc, although on only 29 attempts, per Synergy.
He shot 37 percent from beyond the perimeter in between stints with Sacramento and Houston last year, mostly in a role where he was featured off the bench.
Garcia is going to be one of Houston's top bench players. Is that a good thing?
He's a solid role player to have off the bench, but having him as a potential sixth man leaves Houston with little answers to rely on outside of the starting lineup.
His shot has also been known to disappear. In 49 games with the Kings in the 2010-11 season, Garcia's three-point percentage dropped from 36 percent the year before to a paltry 29 percent.
Letting Carlos Delfino Walk
Carlos Delfino leaving for Milwaukee
Taking Delfino off the team takes away one of Houston's worst defenders. Delfino ranked 380th in PPP given up last season, allowing his assignment to shoot 42 percent from the field and 38 percent from beyond the arc.
As seen by the Rockets other subpar defenders off the bench, evidenced by Williams and Brooks, taking Delfino off the squad gives Houston more room to have a stronger defender come off the bench in place of the Argentinian.
In his place there will be more time for a far better defender in Garcia.
While Houston may be dropping Delfino, he was one of their best shooters, making over two three-pointers per game on nearly 38 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Suddenly, the Rockets are without arguably their best shooter off the bench. In fact, he was their best three-point shooter, leading the team in three-point percentage.
Losing your deadliest spot-up threat with Dwight Howard now in the picture? That's got to hurt a little.
It was one of Delfino's best seasons of a career that started in 2004. His 13.3 PER was the highest it's been since 2008.
Signing Marcus Camby
Having Camby as the third center on the depth chart, behind Howard and Asik, is good insurance for a Houston team that's going to need all the defensive help it can get from its bigs.
The Rockets' backcourt isn't exactly known for its defensive work. A lot of quick guards are going to be getting into the lane against Houston, and they're going to need guys like Dwight, Asik and Camby there to deter them.
They will be an absolute necessity come playoff time when they get to see the likes of Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker for up to seven games.
Camby was a member of the Rockets in the later stages of the 2011-12 season, where he played 19 games, starting in 13, and averaged 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game as a 38-year-old.
Houston actually traded Camby to New York last offseason for Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan and two future second-rounders. While none of those players stuck around, the Rockets did manage two picks out of moving a 38-year-old who just came right back.
He was abysmal last year. There's no other way to put it. Marcus Camby's second stint with the New York Knicks was depressing.
Playing in only 24 games, Camby put up the worst numbers of his career, posting only 1.8 points on 32 percent shooting to go along with 3.3 rebounds and less than a block per game for the first time in a professional career that dates all the way back to 1996.
If he's healthy, Camby is a resourceful big to have in reserve. However, he hasn't been healthy in a while and hasn't played more than 60 games in a regular season since 2010.
Drafting Isaiah Canaan
Isaiah Canaan is a quick, athletic guard who can dominate a defender with his drives to the rim, even more than he can shoot the rock from anywhere on the floor.
The 6'1" point guard out of Murray State was among the NCAA's top shooters, hitting at least 37 percent of his three-pointers, including an incredible 46 percent on nearly seven three-pointers per game.
In his final season with the Racers, Canaan's three-point percentage slipped to 37 percent, but he managed to average a career-high 21.8 points per game to go along with 4.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds per.
Like Jeremy Lin and Aaron Brooks, Canaan struggles on the defensive end and it's questionable as to why the Rockets would take on another point guard who won't stand a chance against the best the West has to offer.
Houston has plenty of shooters and scorers to currently go around. Canaan's scoring touch could earn him some minutes, that is if Brooks and Beverley falter, but he'll have to be hidden on defense.
Once again, it's another member of Houston's backcourt that's going to cause a defensive burden on the likes of Dwight Howard and Omer Asik.
Then again, maybe the Rockets are taking these players because they recognize they already have Howard and Asik waiting for any slasher to come their way.
Trading Thomas Robinson
Why, the cap space to clear for Dwight Howard of course!
Robinson being moved to the Portland Trail Blazers was purely a move to obtain some extra funds for the risk of gunning for Howard's services. Fortunately for Houston, the loss of Robinson did not go for naught as Dwight did in fact join the squad, in case you missed it.
Thomas Robinson is an all-pro talent looking for a landing spot, and Houston passed up the opportunity to maximize the former No. 5 pick's potential.
This is the second time Robinson has been traded, as he was originally drafted by the Sacramento Kings.
While Houston may be loaded at the center position, there is a huge vacancy at the power forward position.
Yahoo.com currently has second-year forward Terrence Jones as the starter at the four, third-year forward Greg Smith as his backup and Donatas Motiejunas, who averaged 5.7 points and shot 29 percent from three last season, at third-string.