Final 2014-15 Season Grades for Every Houston Rockets Player

Jake Lapin@lapin_62094Correspondent IJune 7, 2015

Final 2014-15 Season Grades for Every Houston Rockets Player

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    What is the final grade for each Rocket after the team's deep playoff run?
    What is the final grade for each Rocket after the team's deep playoff run?Noah Graham/Getty Images

    The Houston Rockets had a good run before coming up short against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. All season long, different players stepped up in different spots contributing to the team's success.

    Through all the injuries and roster changes, the Rockets had plenty of role reversals this year, making the grading somewhat tough. Some bench players fell out of the rotation while others were forced to step into the starting lineup.

    From top to bottom, each Houston player contributed at one point or another. However, when it's all said and done, some clearly stand above others on the final grade report.

The Benchwarmers

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    A few early contributors fell into obscurity by season's end.
    A few early contributors fell into obscurity by season's end.Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    Nick Johnson

    Johnson earned some decent playing time considering he was the team's second-round pick last summer. He appeared in 28 regular-season games despite spending a lot of time in Rio Grande with the D-League Vipers.

    Although he only averaged 2.6 points and 1.4 boards, he proved to be a solid defender and even hit a game-winner. Head coach Kevin McHale even let him chase around Steph Curry in the conference finals, but his offense is still a liability. If general manager Daryl Morey keeps him around, however, Johnson can be a solid backup guard for Houston one day.

    Grade: C+

    K.J. McDaniels

    Similar to Johnson, McDaniels' bright spot is his future potential. He is a freak athlete with a lot of upside, yet he didn't get a second of playing time in the postseason.

    McDaniels didn't play much as a Rocket after he was acquired at the trade deadline. He is a restricted free agent this summer, but Morey will do what he can within reason to keep his athleticism on the roster.

    Grade: D+

    Kostas Papanikolaou

    At the beginning of the year, Papanikolaou was one of the first players off the bench. Before Morey brought in the reinforcements for the second unit, K-Pap was a key part of the rotation. He certainly had his moments, including a poster-slam in Milwaukee and an appearance in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend. By the end of the season, though, he didn't see the floor much.

    Depending on Morey's plans this summer, Papanikolaou could be expendable in the hopes of bringing in another big-name player. However, the Greek rookie did average 4.6 points per game and could potentially be back in the rotation once again next season.

    Grade: B-

    Joey Dorsey

    Like K-Pap, Dorsey also fell out of the rotation by season's end. He started 17 games in the absence of Dwight Howard, averaging 3.2 points and 4.7 boards in those games. Ultimately, his role was taken over by Clint Capela.

    The only reason Dorsey finished the year as a Rocket is because he had guaranteed money on his contract, and Tarik Black did not. Dorsey contributed at times, but overall his performance was nothing special and he is not a big part of this team's future.

    Grade: C-

Clint Capela

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    Clint Capela was a pleasant surprise in the playoffs.
    Clint Capela was a pleasant surprise in the playoffs.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Points: 2.7

    Rebounds: 3.0

    Assists: 0.2

    Taken in the first round, Capela was supposed to be a project for the future. Morey took him at No. 25 with the hope of stashing him overseas and signing Chris Bosh. As we all know, Bosh didn't sign, and Capela ended up in the states for his rookie season.

    In his limited time during the regular season, Capela was a mess early on. He couldn't score a basket if his life depended on it, including an 0-for-15 start from the foul line. Yet he continued to wreak havoc in the D-League until it ultimately clicked.

    Capela surged late in the season and surpassed Dorsey in the rotation as Dwight's backup. He went from looking foolish in the regular season to throwing down alley-oops in the playoffs.

    The Capela project took a pleasant 180-degree turn at the perfect time. He still has to bulk up and work on his rebounding, but this guy has a bright future, potentially once the Dwight era comes to an end. Give Morey and the development coaches props for the find and the successful turnaround.

    Grade: B 

Pablo Prigioni

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    Prigioni had his ups and downs in the playoff run.
    Prigioni had his ups and downs in the playoff run.Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

    Points: 3.0

    Rebounds: 1.6

    Assists: 2.8

    (With Houston)

    Prigioni was another deadline acquisition for the Rockets. He played a minor role until he was thrown into the rotation following Patrick Beverley's season-ending injury.

    Prigs had an up-and-down playoff run. He could sway momentum for better or worse, depending on the night. In Game 7 vs. the L.A. Clippers, he led the charge with some nice three-pointers, dishes to Dwight inside and a couple of his signature, sneaky stolen inbounds passes. Other nights weren't as good, as he struggled to keep up with Curry and Chris Paul.

    Overall, Prigioni could somewhat facilitate an offense with pick-and-rolls, but he left a lot to be desired. It's fair to question Morey's decision to give up Isaiah Canaan to bring in another 37-year-old point guard, but Bev's injury came by surprise and hindsight is 20/20.

    Grade: B-

Patrick Beverley

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    Beverley's toughness would have been appreciated in the playoffs.
    Beverley's toughness would have been appreciated in the playoffs.Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    Points: 10.1

    Rebounds: 4.2

    Assists: 3.4

    As much as the Rockets would have liked to have Bev in the playoffs, the pesky point guard did not have his best season. Beverley is a hound on defense and a great emotional leader with mental toughness, but his skill set leaves plenty to be desired.

    Bev's shortcomings were apparent at times, especially when Harden had his off nights. He can't create his own scoring effectively and shot a mediocre 35.6 percent from beyond the arc this year. Even as an off-ball guard, Beverley has to be able to keep other teams honest with some sort of offensive skills.

    Even his defense wasn't up to par like it was the season before when he earned second-team All-NBA defensive honors. But that doesn't mean Houston wouldn't have loved him healthy, as the older point guard tandem struggled against the likes of Curry, a hobbled Paul and even J.J. Barea.

    Bev's restricted free agency makes his future with the team unclear, but I find it hard to believe he'd play anywhere else after Morey found him overseas and helped him realize his NBA dream.

    Grade: B-

Jason Terry

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    The Jet revived his career in Houston.
    The Jet revived his career in Houston.Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    Points: 7.0

    Rebounds: 1.6

    Assists: 1.9

    Terry was a good fit for the Rockets because of his veteran leadership and knock-down three-point shot. However, once he had to take over the starting role at point guard, he was in a little over his head.

    Jet struggled to defend the opposing point guards throughout the playoff run. His shot from outside also disappeared at the worst times. He dropped from 39 percent to 35.4 percent in the postseason, which was particularly frustrating.

    His contract expires this summer, but I think there's a decent chance he returns in a Rockets uniform, just in a different role. Morey will be looking for a major upgrade at point guard this offseason, but there's always room for a lights-out shooter in Houston's system.

    Grade: C

Terrence Jones

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    T Jones had a tough season plagued with freak injuries.
    T Jones had a tough season plagued with freak injuries.Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Points: 11.7

    Rebounds: 6.7

    Assists: 1.1

    T Jones had a difficult season to say the least. He missed half the year recuperating from a mysterious nerve injury in his leg, only to return to the sidelines after taking a shot to the lung.

    In the limited moments Jones did play, he was outstanding. He showed tremendous strides defensively and bulked up quite a bit. His rising confidence in the paint was very apparent.

    In the playoffs, however, Jones often disappeared in the moment. He could have a nice stretch in the first half and then not even score in the second. He was pivotal in putting away the Dallas Mavericks but nowhere to be found against the Warriors. Consistency was the main issue for T Jones throughout the postseason.

    The Rockets may want an upgrade at power forward, plus Donatas Motiejunas will be back next year. However, Jones clearly has a lot of potential and the right tools to succeed as a big man in the NBA. He just needs to focus on doing it on a nightly basis.

    Grade: B

Donatas Motiejunas

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    D-Mo had a career year before hurting his back.
    D-Mo had a career year before hurting his back.Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Points: 12.0

    Rebounds: 5.9

    Assists: 1.8

    I don't think anyone was upset as I was upon hearing the news of D-Mo's season-ending surgery. What at first appeared to be minor back discomfort turned into an abrupt halt to Motiejunas' career year.

    D-Mo is a much more crucial player for the Rockets than people realize. He is by far the best post player on the team, and he hit 48.5 percent of his threes after the All-Star break, which would have been a huge help in the postseason. When Houston's offense became stagnant, D-Mo was the answer. The Rockets didn't have that luxury in the playoffs.

    With Jones, Capela and D-Mo, the future is bright for Houston big men even if Dwight's prime comes to an end. All season long with Dwight hurt, D-Mo kept this team afloat and more. He deserves a ton of credit for the best season of his young career and hopefully he picks up where he left off next season.

    Grade: A

Corey Brewer

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    Brewer was a key guy off the bench for this team.
    Brewer was a key guy off the bench for this team.Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Points: 11.9

    Rebounds: 3.6

    Assists: 1.7

    (With Houston)

    Corey Brewer was a huge pickup for Morey and his Rockets. Brewer's greyhound mentality was a huge boost for the team defensively and in transition.

    No one is better on the fast break than Corey Brewer. Nobody.

    This guy sniffs out every passing lane and can even turn a missed shot into a transition slam. He can kick it into high-gear in the blink of an eye, which helped the Rockets' second unit play aggressive trap defense and force a ton of steals.

    Unfortunately, Brewer vanished at times in the playoffs when the Rockets really needed him. The team performed well when the bench played well, and it suffered when the bench struggled.

    Brewer is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but it seems like he wants to stay put, according to Jenny Dial Creech at the Houston Chronicle.

    Grade: B+

Josh Smith

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    Smith proved he could contribute on a winning team with Houston.
    Smith proved he could contribute on a winning team with Houston.Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

    Points: 12.0

    Rebounds: 6.0

    Assists: 2.6

    (With Houston)

    After all of the uncertainty surrounding the ex-Piston, Josh Smith proved the doubters wrong by helping the Rockets reach the conference finals.

    Even with his reputation as a selfish player who takes ill-advised shots, Smith's playmaking abilities as a big man made the Rockets' second unit one of the league's best. When the Rockets won in the playoffs, oftentimes Smoove had something to do with it.

    Throughout the playoffs, there was good Josh and bad Josh. Good Josh abused the Mavs in the 4/5 pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard. Good Josh led the Rockets from the cusp of death to brand new life in L.A. Bad Josh was the one who chunked up too many shots and showed frustration in the blowouts against the Clips and Warriors.

    Smith can walk this summer in search of more money, or he can take a pay cut and decide to stay. The Rockets let Smith shoot long balls all day long alongside his old pal Dwight Howard. With Smith, this core made a run all the way to the conference finals while missing two injured starters. Smoove is already getting paid plenty by the Detroit Pistons the next couple of years anyway. Is that enough motivation to stay?

    Grade: B+

Dwight Howard

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    Dwight silenced his critics with his playoff dominance.
    Dwight silenced his critics with his playoff dominance.Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Points: 15.8

    Rebounds: 10.5

    Assists: 1.2

    Can we stop hating on Dwight and give him credit yet? Sure, the Rockets fell short to a superior Golden State team, but Howard was magnificent throughout the playoff run.

    After missing exactly half the season due to various leg injuries, Dwight entered the postseason healthy and in full effect. He was a monster in the paint, blocking shots and hauling in rebounds. He averaged 16.4 points and 14.0 boards, shooting 57.7 percent from the floor in the playoffs.

    He faced some of the best big men around the league in Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and Andrew Bogut and still put up huge numbers. Even after taking a hit to his knee in Game 1 against Golden State, Dwight was the only Rocket to have a good series throughout the five games.

    The only real flaw in Dwight's game this postseason was his decision-making. His post game isn't too great either, but all the technical and flagrant fouls were the real issue. Dwight got hit with a one-game suspension for next season's opener as a result, according to Reid Laymance of the Houston Chronicle.

    The Rockets managed to win without Dwight for most of the year and then did well in the postseason when he returned healthy. So the question is: Do they try a similar formula next season?

    Grade: A-

Trevor Ariza

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    Ariza was the defensive leader for the Rockets all year long.
    Ariza was the defensive leader for the Rockets all year long.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Points: 12.8

    Rebounds: 5.6

    Assists: 2.5

    Trevor Ariza is the man. Without him, the Rockets would not be the team they are today. It was the Ariza signing that allowed Houston to transform into a stingy defensive squad.

    There's no longer any doubt whether replacing Parsons with Ariza was the right decision. Ariza's defensive prowess and championship pedigree pushed the Rockets over the top as they made their way to the final four.

    Ariza's defensive agility was the center of the Rockets' strategy throughout the postseason. He was able to keep up with J.J. Redick and Klay Thompson when defending them. He matched up with Paul and Curry. He even switched onto Dirk Nowitzki and Blake Griffin. He did it all on defense, and shot 38 percent from deep as a nice bonus. His shooting was streaky throughout the year, but it came around in the playoffs right on schedule.

    If the Rockets want to be big players in the free-agent market this summer, it could cost them Ariza. In my opinion, Ariza's value is priceless. His contributions on defense were a main reason the Rockets advanced as far as they did.

    Grade: A

James Harden

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    What a year for the Beard.
    What a year for the Beard.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Points: 27.4

    Rebounds: 5.7

    Assists: 5.7

    This year for the Rockets was the year of the Beard. James Harden nearly single-handedly led this team to a Southwest Division championship and the West's No. 2 seed. He led the league in win shares as a result.

    Harden came through for Houston time after time. He picked up his game across the board, always a threat for a triple-double, and even gave teams trouble with his defensive effort. He can hit from the outside or the mid-range with the step-back. He can attack the basket and get to the line at will. He also came up clutch in key situations.

    The playoffs were not ideal for Harden, however.

    He erupted for 40-point outbursts a couple of times, but he also dropped a few duds. He struggled to score consistently against the Clippers and Warriors, including a terrible outing in the season finale at Golden State. During the Rockets' epic comeback in L.A., Harden sat basically the entire fourth quarter.

    None of that should distract from the incredible season by the Beard. The MVP runner-up stepped into the national spotlight for good. I could go on for hours about Harden's push into elite company.

    Grade: A+

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