Posted August 27, 2013

Offseason Grades: Houston Rockets

2013 Offseason Grades, Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets, Rob Mahoney
Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard signed a four-year, $87.6 million contract with the Rockets. (Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Point Forward will grade every team’s offseason over the next few weeks. Click here for the complete archive.

Additions: Dwight Howard, Omri Casspi, Reggie Williams, Marcus Camby, Isaiah Canaan (No. 34 in 2013 draft), Robert Covington, Jordan Henriquez, B.J. Young

Losses: Thomas Robinson, Carlos Delfino, Royce White, Tim Ohlbrecht, James Anderson

Other Moves: Re-signed Francisco Garcia, re-signed Aaron Brooks, acquired the rights to Marko Todorovic (No. 45 in 2013; plays in Spain), acquired the rights to Kostas Papanikolaou (No. 48 in 2012, plays in Spain)

What Went Right: Landing Howard. The pairing of Howard and All-NBA shooting guard James Harden is the unimpeachable basis of a potential championship contender — an efficient, high-volume shot creator set to play off of an elite defender, rebounder and finisher. The Rockets still have work to do to complete the roster around them, but the two stars should form an ultra-potent core for the foreseeable future.

The far-reaching impact of Howard’s free agency

That the Rockets were able to pick up Howard on a four-year, $87.6 million contract without sacrificing any of their best assets makes this an even more incredible offseason. To clear salary-cap space for this summer, the Rockets traded power forwards Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson during the season and Robinson after the season, along with cutting Delfino before his $3 million contract for 2013-14 became guaranteed (Brooks was waived for the same reason but later re-signed for less money). But otherwise, the Rockets will more or less return the same team they had a season ago — albeit with Howard, now a year and a half removed from back surgery, in position to make a huge impact on both ends. Keeping Harden was clearly a must, but holding on to useful (and tradable) players such as center Omer Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin while keeping low-salary contributors such as small forward Chandler Parsons and point guard Patrick Beverley helps Houston challenge the top-tier teams in the Western Conference immediately.

D’Antoni: Howard’s departure from Lakers ‘mind-boggling’

General manager Daryl Morey has done well in filling up the roster with potential bargains. Houston has 11 players on minimum or near-minimum deals worth less than $1 million each, including a handful of undrafted rookies signed to make-good deals. (Not all of those players will make the team; Houston has 18 players on its roster but can carry no more than 15 for the regular season.) Several of those players look to be quality rotation contributors, and if the Rockets hit on a few more they could soon have a deep bench of shooters with which to complement Howard’s post-ups and Harden’s pick-and-roll work.

Moreover, with such a group in place, Houston is flexible both on the court and on the books, giving Morey and coach Kevin McHale the freedom to go about maximizing the potential of this roster. Power forward is still a question (second-year player Donatas Motiejunas could end up being the best option to start alongside Howard) and how Houston executes its team defense remains to be seen, but the presence of Howard and Harden alone will open up so much for the Rockets and allow them to compete at a high level.

ROUNDTABLE: How good are the Rockets?

What Went Wrong: Not much. One could argue that Houston should trade Asik now in exchange for a starting-caliber power forward, but there’s not much harm in keeping an outstanding backup big man until the right deal can be found. Otherwise, the Rockets identified a high-level target, created the kind of roster that would entice him and successfully sold the appeal of their franchise in face-to-face meetings. Now they’re positioned to be one of the better teams in the West over the next few seasons, with the potential to improve through internal development and roster additions alike.

Grade: A+. The dependability of the minimum-salary shooters Houston signed could be nitpicked. But the pursuit of elite talent largely determines an NBA team’s fate, and the Rockets succeeded in that regard. More generally, they have done a splendid job of controlling their spending and minding their future ability to make moves without crossing the luxury-tax threshold.

42 comments
Yu-HsingChen
Yu-HsingChen

Poison Pill Contract : with regards to cap and luxury tax all 3 years count as 8.3 , the 5/5/15 thing only really matters for the owners writing the check, and if you trade for either of them now that means an extra 3M over 2 years which if any owner is seriously worried about he probably should do everyone a favor and sell the team.  (and the Rockets could easily cough up the difference anyway.)


Lin:  well I guess for some reason he doesn't get a pass for injury recovery unlike everyone else in the NBA, given that if anyone actually bothered to break down his splits it's super evident that his struggle all came in November and December, while he was actually very good by February and March.  In the normal logic where a young player comes off a major injury and you give him a bit of a pass for recovery, then you'd say Lin showed he could get to the basket and finish at a truly elite rate while his 3 pointers also look like they should be above average given that in February and March he shot 41% from the arc while increasing in volume , so the guy's probably going to be a pretty efficient scorer going forward, the only thing that's really still holding him back is the turnovers which he did manage to get under control but still need to improve further. 

But hey Lin obviously gets a different standard than everyone else in the NBA so we conclude that because he can't play against an elite team with a chest injury or come flying out of gate 5-6 months after major knee surgery he must suck.


LMA trade : it's not going to happen for a multitude of reasons, the one thing is the simple issue of usage conflict which would limit the effectiveness of Aldridge in Houston, Aldridge is essentially a somewhat watered down version of Raptor Bosh, thus he's likely going to be a somewhat watered down version of Heat Bosh on the Rockets,  being the 3rd option will suppress anyone's scoring total, and if LMA isn't scoring at a high volume his usefulness, especially at 14-16 m, is debatable.


The second issue is that the Blazers are trying to contend now, if they really want to trade LMA it would be to do a total rebuild, thus they would be seeking high ceiling guys still on their rookie deal to rebuild around, not solid players who can help them win games right away.  If I'm the Blazers I would almost certainly try to do a LMA for Charlie V + Drummond sort of deal,  it is not entirely evident if Detroit is willing to go that route, but that would be the type of deal they should look for.  Jones showed some flashes last year but it was very limited and it wasn't exactly super star flashes . 

The question for Houston now is really how this team can come together, and how quickly , though if last season was any indication one should have a decent amount of confidence in a good outcome, incorporating just Dwight isn't really more daunting that having a team randomly thrown together on opening day where the most experienced starter had about 50 total career start.



badnewz62
badnewz62

the real question is should Portland let Aldridge just walk away for nothing next year. It is his contract year you now.Portland will have to be crazy not to entertain the offer of Asik, Terrence jones and a first rounder. with one year on the McHale's coaching, Asik is regarded as one of the best defensive centers in the league. t. Jones Shows he has the upside of a starting 4. plus a first rounder on a rebuilding roster. neither player has reached his ceiling. Aldridge has made it known he doesn't want to play for Portland anymore. if I'm rebuilding this is decent talent to work with. let's face it Portland will not see 8th seed for a couple of years. people should stop hating because Houston is finally contending for championship. Plus Aldridge probably wants to play for a contender. you tell me who else has trading pieces without depleting their team? don't be biased, go rockets new age!!

AndrewJones
AndrewJones

"The pairing of Howard and All-NBA shooting guard James Harden is the unimpeachable basis of a potential championship contender — an efficient, high-volume shot creator set to play off of an elite defender, rebounder and finisher."  Replace "James Harden" with "Kobe Bryant" and tell me how well that worked out. Dwight wants to be the man on offense, only problem is his post game is TERRIBLE. The guy has no move but a bull rush to the lane. Hate to seem him go because of his defense, but guy clearly thinks he's something he's not.

SteveHampton
SteveHampton

I just wonder if Dwight's body is going to hold up. He's signed with Houston through his 14th year in the league, and much of his offensive game is predicated on his athleticism. Does he still have that bounce?


SirHacksaw
SirHacksaw

jeremy lin and omer asik are hardly bargains

Steve Moore
Steve Moore

Best move was dumping Royce White. Asik for Novak in 3 teamer would help.

ErikMedellin
ErikMedellin

i have a hard time seeing Asik happy as a backup role for the long haul. Great player, but the Rockets upgraded. I wonder if LaMarcus Aldridge will be available at the trade deadline...

BlazingDeath
BlazingDeath

everyone is gonna be real let down when the rockets suck next season

JohnKwag
JohnKwag

@AndrewJones heh. huge differences: 

1) Age differences of the entire teams. 

2) Houston has been smart with its spending and picks (Parsons, Beverly...etc) 

3) A coach that won't insist on using a system that doesn't fit its players. McHale has with Minnesota and Houston shown an ability to adapt to big man centric/ fast paced teams; post centric to run and gun. Wheras D'Antoni: see Knicks & Lakers system rigidity.

 4) Ownership quality difference ( Les Alexander vs. Jim Buss; one respected throughout the league and the other mostly a buffoon; see the entire Lakers coaching fiasco) ,

5) Overly rabid media/ entitled fans. Houston Chronicle vs LA times. heh. One actualy does journalism the other...*sigh*. As for fans? With all the bitter wailing; and the disgusting bandwagoning ( LA fans latching on the GSW as "theirs" too..rofl) coming out of LA. The only worse fans are Heat fans ( See previous finals where they started leaving in game 5) 

CâlinRâdulescu
CâlinRâdulescu

@AndrewJones I agree. Howard is a great young player, for all that he does on the court, but can really hurt the team because of his weaknesses. His footwork is bullish, and has been for 5-6 years now, and he lays bricks from the foul line. Put him on the same team with another brick-layer, Asik, and I'll bet you teams will be fouling Houston like crazy. Instead of taking a chance on a 40% 3 point shot, they'll take a 50% free-throw shooter for 2 at the line.

These are all basketball skills and can be worked on. But the glaring hole in Howard's game is that he thinks he's a lot better than he actually is (while still being top 10 in the league). 

Here's a wacky comparison: Antwan Jamison, for all he ever was, posted seasons around 25ppg. But he did while playing within his game, and his skills were maximized within a system. Yes, career-wise he was a bit over-rated, but he worked for everything he got.

I'd like to see Howard actually learn to play in a system. Let's say Orlando's scheme when they got to the Finals was 1, but that team was thin. We're all waiting...

ErikMedellin
ErikMedellin

@AndrewJones 

Hmmm....that is a concern. Well, at least he will be given the opportunity to post up more. he will have the opportunity to learn from big men McHale and Olajuwon. Even Shaq eventually learned one post-up move (baby hook from the left side). dwight will definitely be given the opportunity, but will he take it? maybe mchale will run a mix of pick-and roll and post-up offense, similar to what popovich does for Tim Duncan and the Spurs. i can see dwight rising to the challenge of adding a post-up to his game. go rockets!

mitoman
mitoman

@SteveHampton That's why they kept omer asik, neither of them have to play for more than 30 minute every game, and they can easily do the stretch during play offs.

Azeron
Azeron

@SirHacksaw Both have poison pill third years.  Houston can move Asik before year three with ease, but Lin will be impossible to trade.  

M20
M20

@SirHacksaw He didn't say they were. He said they were useful and tradeable, which they are.

Strat
Strat

@ErikMedellin  @ErikMedellin @JoelSmith Pretty sure a trade of Asik + Terrence Jones + 1st rounder for Aldridge will do the job. Asik is a starting caliber center, something any team would die for.... Terrence Jones has shown that he has the potential to be a starting 4, and next year's draft is going to be a strong one... Portland also gets rid of someone that doesn't want to be there. Pretty good return (proven starting C, potential starting 4, 1st rounder) for a disgruntled player, I'd say. 

Rockets get their 3rd star, and still have DMo to back him up... line-up would look like this:

C: Dwight/Camby

PF: Aldridge/DMo

SF: Parsons/Casspi

SG: Harden/Garcia

PG: Lin/Beverley


Strong starting 5 with serviceable backups at each position.

JoelSmith
JoelSmith

@ErikMedellin Not for anything the Rockets would give up - Asik straight up? Portland doesn't even bother hanging up before laughing out loud. Asik + Parsons? Houston says no, because then they lose their best value. Lin? Please. So tell me, which late first round picks are gonna be good enough to convince Portland to pull the trigger on THAT?

paulmichiederrick
paulmichiederrick

@BlazingDeath what makes you say that.... the fact that we have a top 2 sg thats only 23.... two of the top 4 defensive centers......... or is it that we have a another 24 year old sf that is also a great defender.... can pass..... handle the ball.... and can shoot

SteveHampton
SteveHampton

@mitoman @SteveHampton That will be interesting to see if they do that, because even injured last year he played 36 min/game. His rookie season was the only year he didn't average at least 35 min a game.

I think that's kind of the point though, if you're limiting the minutes that he plays, he is less effective on the bench than he is on the court. Asik is a good center, but his production is not in the same stratosphere as a healthy Howard.

Azeron
Azeron

@D. Darqwon @Steve Moore Not just no but...


Seriously?  Houston can get so much more for Asik and that's WITH the inflated year three salary he'll make.  Imagine if he had a normal deal.

Blazersfan7
Blazersfan7

@Strat @ErikMedellin @JoelSmith I feel like everyone is over selling LA wanting out a little to much. He is going to be playing next season with a legitimate (if only average) center in Robin Lopez, a fringe allstar in Batum, and a future allstar in up and coming damian lillard. I'd slow down the Ltrain talks until at least after this season. 

ErikMedellin
ErikMedellin

@Strat @ErikMedellin @JoelSmith 

I like this scenario. Les Alexander has said he'd be willing to surpass the cap if the "right team" came along. still, i wonder if beverly will be make enough strides to make Lin tradable. Then again, the Rockets do benefit on a global market by having a popular player around. What do you see as the PG situation for the Rockets?

badnewz62
badnewz62

the real question is should Portland let Aldridge just walk away for nothing next year. It is his contract year you now.Portland will have to be crazy not to entertain the offer of Asik, Terrence jones and a first rounder. with one year on the McHale's coaching, Asik is regarded as one of the best defensive centers in the league. t. Jones Shows he has the upside of a starting 4. plus a first rounder on a rebuilding roster. neither player has reached his ceiling. Aldridge has made it known he doesn't want to play for Portland anymore. if I'm rebuilding this is decent talent to work with. let's face it Portland will not see 8th seed for a couple of years. people should stop hating because Houston is finally contending for championship. Plus aldrich probably want to play for a contender

Azeron
Azeron

@JoelSmith @ErikMedellin Portlant should be able to garner a LOT more than Asik for Aldridge, but they WILL eventually have to part with him.  Or risk him walking via free agency.  Howard has proven that some guys will indeed walk away from that fifth year.

M20
M20

@JoelSmith @ErikMedellin Aldridge wants out. Portland isn't in a strong bargaining position. They could do worse than Asik.

ErikMedellin
ErikMedellin

@JoelSmith @ErikMedellin 

Good point. I don't think portland wants more picks. but aldridge does want out. tell me JoelSmith, do you think OKC would have even heard trade talks about James Harden if Harden did not want a change? aldridge has already made some noise about changing teams. that's how it starts...

Azeron
Azeron

@AndrewJones @M20 @SirHacksaw Incorrect. They could move Asik tomorrow if they were dumb enough to do so.  There is no need to be hasty.  They have until the trade deadline to make the best deal possible.  You ARE right about Jeremy Lin.  Houston could not have dreamed that they could get Harden and Howard else they never would have bothered signing Lin.  Add to that the attraction was mostly non-basketball reasons and his salary is an albatross that they will surely regret in year three.  

Blazersfan7
Blazersfan7

@paulmichiederrick @AndrewJones @M20 @SirHacksaw I think what he meant about Asik's contract being terrible is that it is one of those poison pill deals with the last year of his contract being crazy big compared to the earlier years of the deal. But what I don't think he realizes is that if Asik is traded, the contracts total value to redistributed evenly over the remainder of the years on his deal for the new team acquiring him, making his contract much easier to swallow for potential trade partners if Houston does indeed decide to trade him.

paulmichiederrick
paulmichiederrick

@AndrewJones @M20 @SirHacksaw asik is a very desirable center in this league..... it's not that his contract is terrible and he's untraceable... it's that we don't want to trade him. he's a top  defensive center...... you obviously haven't watched the rockets and asik carefully enough to make that observation if you really think asiks contract is terrible

Azeron
Azeron

@M20 @JoelSmith @ErikMedellin ...and they could do better.  A LOT better.  If they make it known that Aldridge is up for the highest bidder teams will beat a path to their door.  Don't be a Rockets homer trying to stack a fantasy team against your pre-teen cousins.

Azeron
Azeron

@ErikMedellin @JoelSmith Harden didn't want a change he wanted to be paid like Westbrook.  OKC's mistake was trading him a year too early.

paulmichiederrick
paulmichiederrick

@ErikMedellin @JoelSmith They already have Robin lopez...... While he's not as good as asik he's still a reasonable center..... portland could definitely get more than just asik.... also asik isn't young enough that you could sell him as a young up and comer.... don't see the aldridge trade happening.

ErikMedellin
ErikMedellin

@JoelSmith @ErikMedellin 

and besides, Asik is not a toxic asset. he's a real asset. perhaps the greg oden that portland never truly received. i thing there's legitimacy in this trade scenario. guess we'll see.


by the way, is it me, or do i not see much success if the rockets were setting up a twin-towers offense in the present guard oriented league?