Houston Rockets: First-Half Grades for Every Player

Logic Johnson@@TheRealLogicJayContributor IIIFebruary 22, 2012

Houston Rockets: First-Half Grades for Every Player

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    We're exactly 33 games in, and some people are dying to take stock of the Houston Rockets' season so far.

    Who's playing good basketball, and who could be doing more to help the team?

    The following list, ordered approximately according to importance within the rotation, will put a magnifying glass (if only briefly) on every man currently suiting up for the Rockets.

    Not appearing on this list by virtue of having played fewer than 10 games thus far—and thus being impossible to gauge reliably—are Jonny Flynn, Terrence Williams, Greg Smith and Hasheem Thabeet. It's probably for the best, as I prefer not to hand out any F's.

    Your thoughts are welcome.

10. Jordan Hill: D

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    Once upon a time, Jordan Hill was a lottery pick.

    I felt obligated to point that out, since you'd never guess it from his production thus far in his young career.

    Not that he's been terrible, he's just been terribly plain, and he has yet to give anyone reason to expect a change in 2011-12.

    On a team with only two other full-fledged big men (and a few serious works in progress) you'd think Hill would be justifying his draft status at least a little by now.

    All relative shortcomings aside, Hill's rebounds per-48 are more than respectable.

9. Patrick Patterson C-

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    As a slightly undersized but built-tough power forward, sophomore Patrick Patterson is hopefully the answer to one of the Rockets' sore spots from top to bottom: a low-post presence off the bench.

    He's already displayed a nice range for his size, yet at the same time one gets the feeling that he hasn't fully found that low-post groove he was in at Kentucky.

    He does have the potential to become a worrisome force on the blocks, but it seems it will take a little time to cajole it out of him.

    Patterson's field-goal percentage is a far cry from where it was last season, but he's still serviceable offensively.

    I, for one, am interested in seeing how he develops on D, where the main concern is once again how quickly (or slowly) he develops some stopping power.

8. Goran Dragic: C

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    The backup point guard has been a model of consistency in the last few years, basically producing seven points and three assists per game year in and year out, and that includes this year.

    This is either a good thing or a little bit of a letdown.

    On the one hand, he's a solid contributor with the ability to turn on the jets when needed, and he provides quality relief when Kyle Lowry needs to sit.

    On the other hand, there are some who expected more our of Dragic by this point after the way he impressed in the 2010 playoffs. Some people might consider his consistency a form of stagnation.

    All expectations aside, however, Dragic isn't leaving the Rockets wanting as their second-string point, except for the way his three-point shooting has plummeted this year.

7. Chandler Parsons: C-

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    Rookie Chandler Parsons makes a pretty nice budding (no pun intended) two-headed three alongside Chase Budinger, and if the two youngsters follow even an average developmental curve, they'll be an offensive duo other teams will have to actively plan for.

    We know what Parsons does, and that's shoot the pill.

    His range, length and fluid shooting form make closing out after leaving him open a futile endeavor.

    He also has an endearing penchant for getting up close and personal with the rim from time to time, and he's got potential on the glass.

    The Chandler Parsons Project is a relative success so for in Houston.

    I say relative because there's a world of growing left to do. For instance, he's going to need to do something about all those 0-fers from the charity stripe.

    He's a more-than-decent shooter from the floor—his field-goal percentage is rising—but dear God, that free-throw percentage. Avert thine eyes.

6. Chase Budinger: C

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    Chase Budinger is most definitely a keeper on this team so far, while at the same time not quite knocking anyone's socks off yet.

    He's generally known to be a highly usable piece on the floor in that he does more or less everything from more or less everywhere.

    He's the owner of some rock-solid percentages from all ranges, and he's been able to push Parsons in the depth chart.

    At the same time, an energetic, versatile weapon like Budinger might make great value to the team off the bench while keeping expectations under control.

    One complaint on Chase is his playing time has been erratic lately—with four games in February below 10 minutes played—as has his production. It just follows naturally, and at the same times when nothing went right even with a decent amount of time to burn.

    Overall, Budinger is doing alright for himself, but you'd like to see less of those lulls he has over long stretches, and maybe that full-time starting job might be his right now.


5. Courtney Lee: B-

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    Sixth man Courtney Lee is another healthy offensive player for the wing-heavy Rockets this year.

    He's completely at home either launching threes—at a more-than-respectable rate—or flashing to the basket off the dribble.

    He's just another guy that keeps defenses on their toes.

    He's been on somewhat of a surge in the month of February, and the only reason he's not starting is that's Kevin Martin's job. His numbers are exactly what you'd expect from him, and his percentages are exemplary for a player of his mould.

    Lee won't set the stat sheet on fire as long as he's backing up the alpha scorer on this team—although he could try making a dent in other areas—but he's a quality two-guard with a good deal of upside still to his name.

    The Rockets owe their terrific backcourt situation to the fact that they can't find more than 25 minutes per game for a guy like Lee.

4. Samuel Dalembert: C+

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    I wanted to give Sammy a C-minus for his continuing struggles on offense, but then something caught my eye: he's shooting upwards of 83 percent from the free-throw line.

    Seeing this, I promptly picked my jaw off the keyboard and backspaced that minus sign into non-existence.

    One could even muster a B-minus for the very sizable difference he makes on defense, but at the same time, this might belie the fact that Dalembert's impact on the glass could be a bit greater right now.

    Still, for a guy averaging less than a game's worth of minutes, it's nice to see a two-block average.

    By and large, Dalembert is doing the job he was brought in to do, and yet, even knowing Kevin McHale's penchant for odd lineups, you can't help but notice that he isn't warranting top minutes on a team with a shortage of alternatives at his position.

    His production reached its zenith from mid to late January—un-coincidentally, the Rockets went 10-2 in that span—but it's gotten much more modest since February started.

3. Kyle Lowry: A-

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    If there was a statistic called bang-per-buck (or BPB) as of this writing, Kyle Lowry would be a league front-runner.

    Fifteen points, five boards, eight assists and two steals a night for under $6 million? Yes, please.

    Lowry is welcoming the starting job, and he's been steadily increasing his numbers, all while flying under the league radar, since the Rockets are just now starting to break into the playoff picture out west.

    One has to wonder what Lowry might pull from his sleeve with a series-worth of national TV time at his disposal.

    Not that he's Chris Paul, but Lowry is a guy who doesn't leave you wanting for much at the point, and that's been a major bright spot for Houston all season—all two months of it.

2. Luis Scola: B-

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    First of all, while his scoring and rebounding presence are nothing to sneeze at, Luis Scola's big five stats are down across the board, That's what's up with that B.

    Half the season has gone by, and a guy who nearly averaged a double-double last year has a total of two this year. That's what's up with that minus.

    On a team so bereft of true big men—where Hasheem Thabeet is just one ankle sprain away from being a rotation guy—the fact that Scola is responding to the increased load by posting the most paltry rebounding of his career (5.8) can't help but jump out at you.

    He commands his share of respect on the floor no matter what his averages are, but you'd think he'd still be the guy on the boards even with a handful of other guys chipping in four or more each night.

    Then again, he's north of 30 years old, coming off a poorly prepared excuse for a preseason, so this plateau could be a perfectly normal symptom. The jury's out on Scola this year.

1. Kevin Martin: B+

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    Kevin Martin continues to be the epicenter of the Rocket's offense, and with good reason.

    He's another one of those guys whose overall talents would make him a household name if only he didn't feature on mediocre teams his entire career.

    This year, hopefully, that changes with a little playoff love.

    What's a little unfortunate is that his once downright gawdy scoring average has tapered off more than a smidge, so he simply doesn't leap off the stat sheet like he once did.

    Heck, he even had himself a *gasp* scoreless game a week ago.

    The Rockets are hoping that teams look at this and forget that Martin can and will flat-out murder your behind if you let him get comfortable with the ball. Then again, any scouting report worth the paper it's printed on will tell you that Martin is shooting the same percentage he has for years, and that he's simply taking fewer shots.

    They'll go on to explain that this is due to the Rockets' balanced scoring with guys like Lee, Budinger and Parsons plying their respective trades on the wing opposite Martin.