Tag Archives: Houston Rockets

Lessons Learned From the West’s Round One Losers

Only eight teams remain in the NBA playoffs, and the teams that lost in the first round are left searching for answers, and wondering what might have been. Let’s take a look through the lessons we learned from their losses in Round 1.

Houston Rockets: Chemistry, You the Real MVP

This dysfunctional Rockets team had a promising season derailed by infighting, laziness, and a bad attitude overall. Last season, they were a top-ten team in DRtg, but this season their ranking has fallen all the way down to 21st.

During these playoffs, for the first time ever, the NBA is tracking hustle stats. In other words, it’s capturing the little things that players and teams do that don’t show up in the box score but are still valuable nonetheless.

Over their five playoff games (a sample that can’t be trusted due to its small size and the Rockets’ opponent being solely Golden State), the Rockets’ hustle stats were abysmal, showing up in the bottom quartile of playoff teams for over half of the statistics tracked.

Combining that overall lack of enthusiasm with the toxic locker room (rumors surfaced that Harden and Howard each tried to get the other traded away a couple of years ago), it’s no wonder that the Curry-less Warriors were able to dispatch these Rockets with ease.

Memphis Grizzlies: Don’t Start Jordan Farmar in the Playoffs (Or Ever)

Jordan Farmar was Memphis’ starting point guard during their four-game sweep at the hands of the Spurs. With Marc Gasol and Mike Conley injured, Jeff Green traded, and other absences, there’s nothing that the Grizz could have done to avoid their defeat against a historically great team. Let’s move on.

Dallas Mavericks: Get a Few Decent Teammates For Dirk 

Two of the guys who suited up alongside Dirk for the Mavs’ Game 5 loss to the Thunder were Justin Anderson and Raymond Felton. That’s not good.

Yeah, Chandler Parsons and Deron Williams were both out with injuries, but neither of them is likely to be back next season as each has a player option. Even worse, Dallas doesn’t have a first round pick this season thanks to last season’s disastrous trade for Rajon Rondo.

At this point, Mark Cuban has very few avenues through which to acquire talent to pair with Nowitzki. No wonder Dirk opted out of his contract next season. He says he doesn’t plan to leave, and it’d be a major surprise if he did, but he’s making a point to his franchise. Unfortunately for Nowitzki, Cuban won’t be able to learn this lesson from this season’s playoff defeat, even if he wanted to.

Los Angeles Clippers: Sacrifice More Cattle to the Injury Gods

Everyone thinks that injuries are part of the game, and that they’re often unavoidable. But really, it’s clear that the Clippers could have easily prevented the injuries their two stars sustained. They just didn’t sacrifice enough cattle to the Injury Gods.

You’d think that this kind of cheapness would have disappeared after notorious cheapskate Donald Sterling was removed as owner of the team. Steve Ballmer is the richest owner in the NBA–he shouldn’t have any problems with buying enough animals to give over the Injury Gods, but somehow, he did. It’s surprising that the obscenely wealthy Ballmer keeps on sustaining major injuries in the playoffs, while Sterling rarely had any playoff runs adversely affected by injures. Admittedly, the Clippers under Sterling almost never got to the playoffs, but still.

All jokes aside, just like Memphis, there’s little Los Angeles could have done. It’s not like Derrick Rose’s torn ACL, where Tom Thibodeau left him in the game, as the first seed in the playoffs, up by twelve points with ninety seconds left in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs. These injuries seem to keep on happening to the Clippers, but without any problem they can solve (past encasing Griffin and Paul in bubble wrap), they’ll just have to wait until next year and hope that no one gets injured.

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Trade Grade: Motiejunas to Detroit

Earlier today, news broke that Houston had traded Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to Detroit for Joel Anthony and a top-8 protected 2016 first round pick. Houston then sent Anthony along with Denver’s 2017 second round pick to Philadelphia for the rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons should have just stopped while they were ahead. After ripping Orlando off in Tuesday’s trade for Tobias Harris, Detroit had long-term starters at all five positions and adding in Motiejunas only creates a logjam in the frontcourt.

Furthermore, Motiejunas is coming off a serious back injury and is a restricted free agent after this season. At that point, after only two months of playing for them, the Pistons will have to decide whether or not to shell out a significant amount of cash to keep Motiejunas around for years to come.

It’s not like Motiejunas is a bad player. The seven-footer is capable of shooting threes, having shot nearly 37% from downtown last season on 1.9 attempts per game. He’s a useful player to have around as he provides flexibility as a stretch big man.

The problem isn’t Motiejunas; it’s the price the Pistons had to pay for him (and also Thornton, who was a throw-in, even though he had some nice moments early in the season).

That first rounder would have been another cheap player to add to their core, but instead, they’ll likely be forced to pay a ton of money to keep Motiejunas in restricted free agency after the season.

It wasn’t an awful idea for Detroit to acquire someone like Motiejunas, but there were certainly cheaper ways to do so.

Grade: C-

Philadelphia 76ers

Sam Hinkie has done it again. Hinkie managed to insert himself into yet another trade, allowing him to acquire his one-hundredth second round pick, an important milestone for him.

Maduabum isn’t an NBA prospect, so the trade is really just Philadelphia taking on Anthony’s salary in return for that second round pick. Even better, the Sixers save about $1.5 million because they’re now over the salary floor thanks to Anthony.

The best thing of all is that Anthony’s $2.5 million salary in 2016-17 is fully unguaranteed, giving Hinkie flexibility that will allow him to make advantageous trades in the offseason.

This deal isn’t important enough to warrant effusive praise for Philadelphia, but it did a good job in using its excess cap space to scoop up extra assets.

Grade: A

Houston Rockets

This trade was a coup from Daryl Morey. He managed to turn a couple of unused players he was unwilling to pay into a first round pick. Sure, it’s not going to be a high pick, but even a pick in the teens is plenty valuable, especially since the draftee will be on a dirt cheap rookie contract.

The Rockets also managed to escape paying the luxury tax by giving the Sixers a second rounder, saving them millions of dollars.

Foisting a couple of unwanted players onto Detroit and receiving a first round pick and millions of dollars in savings in return is a job well done by Houston.

Grade: A+

Which Games Should You Watch on Christmas?

On Christmas Day, us fans of the NBA have a serious conundrum. There’s basketball for thirteen hours straight, which is great, but we also have familial obligations and the like. For those of you who can only escape your family for a game or two, here’s a guide to determining which games you should watch and which ones you shouldn’t.

Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Watch if you like: Freakishly long arms, all-lefty lineups, aging stars,  unibrows, imagining what Young Kristaps will be like in three years, having a quick snooze before the good games start.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Chicago Bulls

Watch if you like: Teams still finding their identities, power struggles, Enes Kanter’s bushy eyebrows, discontented players, Steven Adam’s fake-looking mustache, ex-college coaches in their first season in the NBA, Bobby Portis sitting on the bench, Dion Waiters hoisting up awful shots that miss by a mile.

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Watch if you like: Games with history behind them, unstoppable pick-and-rolls, superduperstars, injured players returning, going small, raucous home crowds, great basketball, ridiculous displays of shooting from Steph Curry, ridiculous displays of athleticism from LeBron James, Iman Shumpert’s hair, JR Smith hoisting up awful shots that somehow go in.

Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs

Watch if you like: Spectacular wing defense, Hack-a-Howard, intra-state rivalries, Spursgasms, foreign players, beards, dazzling sequences of passing, free throws, lefty shooting guards with Eurosteps.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Watch if you like: Kobe Bryant missing shots, thunderous dunks, Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan alley-oops, young studs against in-their-prime superstars, brutal blowouts, watching the last quarter and a half played by scrubs.