Finally that debacle of a series is over with it and I’m ecstatic that I will not have to see those same players together ever again in my life. By the end of the series I found myself empathizing with Harden because he was the only consistent scorer on the team even with his ole defense followed by a deadpan stare at a teammate who he think should’ve helped. It’s obvious Dwight and Harden have their issues but a lot of it can be placed on JB Bickerstaff barely playing or not playing Capela at all this series when the numbers have backed up his productivity.
For being such an analytic driven team you would think JB would be paying attention to the numbers especially a staggering one like that. He would also play Harden for long stretches of time without a break, as evidenced by him playing 40 straight minutes in game 4. During the first quarter last night Harden went 6 for 6 and the rest of the season went 0 of 15 which is a perfect microcosm of their season. After the conclusion of last night’s game the Rockets were granted permission to interview Luke Walton for the HC job which would be a phenomenal improvement.
Moving onto next year with Dwight out of the picture along with most of the role players except for Harden, Capela, Beasley, Beverly, Harrell, McDaniels, D-Mo (going to keep him on a cheaper deal too) and Dekker. Harden is a exceptional offensive talent but he has to become more interested on the defensive end with his effort and not fall asleep on D like he is known to do.
Part of the non effort is due to his teammates clanking their shots not like never before this season and even more so during the playoffs. Dwight and Harden never really fit they only played around 2 seasons worth games together in 3 years because of Dwight’s injury problems. It was no coincidence Harden had his MVP worthy season in 2014-15 when Dwight missed the second half of the year. He also led the league in points in back to back years which hasn’t been done since his old teammate Kevin Durant did it 3x in a row from 09-12′. By the way the person who scores the most total points is my scoring champ not the one who averages the most.
There will be a number of free agents to go after this offseason and they will need to get another creator to go alongside Harden , with a center and a 3 & D guy to replace Ariza. Ideally I would like them to go after Al Horford, Pau Gasol to shore up the frontline. I don’t want Whiteside even though he’s elite defensively because he just strikes me as a knucklehead and its very hard to win with those. For the 3 spot that Ariza used to occupy I would go after Durant first then then Nic Batum who is coming off of his best season ever with the Hornets. The Rockets would be fools to not go after him when Durant ultimately spurns them. The last guy is Kent Bazemore , another underrated guy like Batum who has quietly had his strongest season. Now for the piece that has been missing longest during Harden’s tenure a player that can create shots alongside him. Mike Conley is my first choice followed by Rondo and Jeremy Lin.
PS. Finals Prediction , Cavs in 6 over The Spurs
As the trade deadline came to a close this afternoon the Rockets roster looked somewhat different but not what many predicted with Dwight Howard still around. The moves they did make were sending out Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to the Pistons in exchange for a 1st round pick that is Top 8 protected (if the Pistons get inside the top 8 of the draft the Rockets lose the pick and receive the following year’s pick). Pretty good haul considering D-Mo has only played 14 games this year. With Thornton on the way out it opens up some minutes for KJ Mcdaniels. He’s a multi tool guy so it will be interesting to see what he can do with the opportunity.
I was stunned to see no one want Dwight Howard though, especially with the season half over and how Dwight has played the last two postseasons. They did receive some interest from a few other teams but the Rockets wanted more in return than what they were getting.
So it wasn’t for want of trying a deal didn’t get done. The Rockets tried to deal with a 25% of the league but ultimately they all fell through because Howard would not want to opt into the final year of the deal , instead becoming a free agent this summer. No team wouldn’t want to give up anything for a rental of Howard just for to him walk in 40 games. You cant blame him either because the cap will be rising this summer thus meaning a bigger deal for him if he waits. One potential that came out was the Charlotte offer of Al Jefferson and Spencer Hawes for Howard. Not bad but its better than nothing which is exactly what the Rockets will be left with when Dwight walks this summer. Its unfortunate that Harden is so hard to pair with a big man, ultimately it comes down getting a better point guard so Harden can relenquish a lot of the ball handling duties to play more off of the ball. I hope that is where this team is headed. In Dork Elvis we trust…
Since the start of the year the Rockets are 9-3 with a pair of win streaks mixed in. Compared to the month of November when they lost 8 and December when they lost 7. It finally looks like the team is hitting their groove and they can’t be seen from their play. Also having recently traded for Josh Smith (Dwight’s childhood friend) who was a catalyst last season for them in the playoffs in the Clippers series. The Clippers basically gave him away for nothing most likely because there was friction between Doc Rivers and him about playing time. Josh has been in the dog house and hasn’t payed more than a couple of minutes since December 19th. He gets traded on Thursday and goes out on Sunday for the Rockets then drops 16, 3, 2, 2,2 in 20 minutes. Smith is one the true 5 pts, 5 rb, 5 stls, 5 blks, 5 asst type of players. He can do it all and has the size to go with it. This was a very important move to make with D-Mo dealing with his back injury and trying to rehab and get back out there. Dwight has also been taking off more this year so the Smith trade couldn’t have come at a better time for the Rockets. Look at this move he had on the Mavs this past Sunday
Even Hakeem would smile at that.
Now onto Harden who has been dogging at times this season but lately the guy is playing superb and putting up numbers very few have managed to do. In just his past five games he has been averaging almost a triple double with 28.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 9.6 assists with a PER of 31.7!!! And just like that all the chatter about him goes away when he starts playing like he should. Look at his splits
Looking even better this month than last year in his MVP caliber season. Ty Lawson has also shown signs of a pulse which is a step in the right direction. The trade deadline is coming up and I know Morey is working the phones, I have heard that Lawson and Jones are available.