Alright, so I figured, since I'm accused from time to time of "contributing nothing but a game thread and trolling comments" that why not give back to the board I have so lovingly been bashing the last few weeks. That's not to say I don't appreciate any of you, just most of you. I figured with this fanpost I would open up comments for people to respond to the trades that the Rockets have completed today and give their analysis. There is bound to be plenty of griping about "saving all these assets and only getting Thabeet and Dragic" but I'll address that in a piece by piece manner because I'd rather resolve it here than listen to the two weeks worth of complaints.
This post will consist of a bit analysis of the following:
I.) The trades as they stand and their impact.
II.) Dispelling concerns surrounding these moves.
III.) The what if trades.
IV.) Overall evaluation
I.) Trades as they stand:
Analysis: We worked on decongesting the backlog on the wings that we have and add a draft pick into the equation for 2013. The quality of the pick is contingent on whether or not Memphis can keep their core together and continue to improve. Heinsley has a reputation as a cost slashing owner but with the Rudy Gay paycheck he's showing more willingness to spend. This draft pick could be used as incentive over the summer, or, if the Grizzlies don't improve, next season.
Thabeet is raw, as raw as they come. People knock him on work ethic and general attitude but let's face facts, if you were in Memphis, buried in a rotation, and overall just frittered away, you wouldn't be all that good. The revisionist outlook that many people take on the Rudy Gay for Shane Battier trade applies here. Is Rudy better than Battier offensively? Clearly. Is he a better player now? Yes. If you're competing for a title do you swap out a rookie for a proven veteran with great defense? Yes. Every. Single. Day. Rudy saw drastic minutes in Memphis and it forced his development quickly. Thabeet arrived in Memphis and was shuffled down the ladder and eventually ignored since the team found synergy somewhere else. The upshot is that he is 7'3", a shotblocker, and coming to a team that sorely needs a center. Today's trades hint that we're looking at a full tilt rebuild. Under these circumstances Thabeet very well could find his way into relevance. He could also solidify his role in obscurity but that's a risk you have to take because you can't teach 7'3".
The elephant in the room is that our beloved Shane Battier was moved for a guy most see as a bust, a pick of questionable value if the Grizzlies don't get contracted or build on their success, and a guy with a funny name no one has heard of. Let's face facts. Shane had a 6.8 million dollar expiring contract and he was on a team that is stuck in mud and spinning its tires. The Celtics weren't going to give up much for just Shane Battier and the Lakers weren't going to offer anything worthwhile for a rebuilding team for him either. The only club knocking on the door with something remotely resembling a player of use was Memphis and we got what we could for him. It's on us, as fans and as decent people, to wish him the best of success in Memphis.
The loss of Ish Smith is a bit tough to take as a wiry pass first point guard with speed to match Aaron Brooks but in the grand scheme of things this loss is mitigated by Goran Dragic. It also signifies, to me, a movement by the front office to seek to slow the pace of the game down, which really only builds more of a case for Rick's retirement and the team heading in a new direction of half court oriented ball with fast breaks at all possible options (but not a primary option.
Analysis: I have to admit facts first. I was not excited to see Aaron go and I felt like he could be something extremely useful for the Rockets in a rebuilding mode. The prevailing attitude was that the Rockets are scared to pay him and this trade is evidence of it (Dragic has a team option next year for 2.1 million). What this trade also emphasizes, however, is that there was more to the bench versus start issue than was evident on the surface. Dragic has been a career back up behind one of the best point guards in the NBA, Steve Nash, for quite some time. Dragic brings some defense, a pass first facilitator mentality, and a semi-reliable jump shot. He should fit smoothly into the rotation as Kyle Lowry's back up and solidify possible defensive lapses at the point guard position. In all the action I've seen Dragic in, he's been a reliable back up and managed to steady Phoenix's offense while spelling Steve Nash. This pick up strengthens our backcourt as a more traditional one.
What we lost, essentially, was points in this trade. When it comes to points the Rockets score them in buckets, so we really did not lose much. I am going to miss Aaron and in Phoenix he will be a spark plug no matter what they're looking to run. He fits the style of sprint and fire. The pick that came in the trade is guaranteed not to be in the lottery and will vary depending on whether or not Phoenix makes it into the playoffs. If they do not, we get the Orlando Magic's pick (Acquired in the Richardson/Gortat trade earlier in the season). If we're lucky we'll see them stumble into the playoffs in the 8th seed and get a semi-"lottery" pick. This year's draft is significantly weaker than in years past however, let us not underestimate the kind of draft gold Morey has managed to find.
II.) The Concerns:
We compiled all of these assets for a big trade and this is what we got? D-Will, Perk, Wallace, and Anthony all found new teams!
That's fine and good for those teams. Williams was had for a guy who would go number one this year in the draft and a former all star point guard known for his ability to push the ball. We had nothing similar to that.
Kendrick Perkins is a great defensive center but he's not an impact player. He openly expressed he wants to enter the free market this offseason and Boston moved him knowing that the price tag he'll demand is more than they could rightfully pay. He's not a franchise player and you're fooling yourself if you think otherwise.
Gerald Wallace is the kind of guy who is an impact player only if you have yet another impact player on your roster to magnify the quality of the player. This trade would have taken a second trade to pair him with to be effective. In order to garner much of anything out of the trade in general management would have had to think we're closer to competing than rebuilding and by their actions today, management thinks we're closer to rebuilding.
Carmelo Anthony would have been a half a season rental at the cost of rebuilding pieces and assets. If you think we could have matched the haul that New York sent to Denver you really need to stop overvaluing our players.
Why do we pick up other team's first round rejects? They're clearly not worth it!
This would be in regards to Jordan Hill, Terrence Williams, and Hasheem Thabeet. All of these players come with various skill sets and levels of polish. Of them Williams, in his brief glimpses on the court, shows the most promise of being a bona fide player worthy of a starting position on an NBA team eventually (His athleticism, passing ability, and ability to slash opposing defenses is rare). Hill is re-living his rookie year with a position change and starting to get consistent minutes. He's frustrating with how inconsistent he is but with experience comes regularity. Show him some patience, it will be needed for a rebuilding squad. Thabeet is the biggest question mark but we lost a phenomenal basketball player when Yao Ming went down. Thabeet is 7'3" with a 7'6" wingspan with the ability to block/alter shots and rebound. At the end of the day, isn't that what this team needs? In the earlier section I reviewed where Thabeet could have gone astray. It's documented he's put in time with Olajuwon so questions regarding his drive, I feel, should be mitigated in that when he has an opportunity, he is willing to take it. It's a question of relevance and playtime, not so much skill. The coaching staff here has the ability to polish and improve big men, we have historically. If one wishes to give up on Thabeet because the Memphis Grizzlies were not keen on them, I have to question your allegiance to basketball sense since the Memphis Grizzlies are not known as a model NBA franchise. They are, after all, the team that gave up Kyle Lowry in preference of Mike Conley and Lowry has shown brilliance (as well as mediocrity and plain horrible ball) this season, but regularity will come as the reps do.
Why are the Rockets giving up on the playoffs? They need to give it their all and get some experience for the young players!
The Rockets look at the playoffs and look at our current position as incongruous. We're 28-31 as it stands right now with a two game win streak but you can be guaranteed the rest of the schedule has trap games, challenge games, and the Rockets have shown this year that wild inconsistency is the only thing you can count on us for consistently. As it stood we were a franchise player and an upgrade or two away from competing for anything this year. Rather than be first round fodder by getting a couple of second tier veterans for young players and financial flexibility why not go ahead and rebuild? There's no added bonus to getting into the playoffs that will make a reasonable impact on the organization (increased revenues are divided amongst the NBA teams and the increased exposure isn't worth it considering no one will recall the first round losers unless there is a truly legendary series of it).
What duty does management have to get this roster in to the playoffs? The roster is most likely getting reshaped further this summer or next season (Pray to God we have a next season). I've gone on at length about the difficulty of moving Luis Scola to rebuild this season due to his Base Year Compensation (BYC) status, so his being moved was a practical impossibility. Kevin Martin is the kind of player that teams looking to compete would love to have and teams on the fringe of competing are convinced could be the difference between 2nd round and championship contention. I don't foresee Kevin being on the team for more than one more season. Let's face it, he's got a larger contract and Chicago wasn't looking to do something more drastic than Courtney Lee. The difference maker arises when we consider that after this season all the teams in the NBA after the Summer of LeBron will have a more fully developed picture of what they need to compete and at that point, Kevin Martin will be getting some serious intrigue and offers. The same goes for Luis.
III.) The what ifs:
We'll all pour over these when we consider the trades the Rockets were labelled "could have beens." Most notably of the list of could have beens were a list of veteran centers and Maurice Speights. Of the veteran centers, none of them would have made sense for a team looking to reshape the roster in a youthful way. Maurice Speights, on the other hand, would have been an interesting prospect depending on what it would have taken to pick him up. We already have a jam at our PF position that did not get addressed today. Scola, as stated earlier, is most likely in a new area next summer, Jordan Hill and Patrick Patterson are most likely a duo we'll go forward with at the power forward position. Arguably, you could place Speights at the 5 behind Thabeet and pray to God it works though Speight's frame makes him as close to a Center as Chuck Hayes's height does for him. I think, overall, the what if trade scenarios that never left home were trades worth passing up. Management did proper to not go too deep into their reserves to pick up players without much left in the tank, more relevant to contending teams, or filling logjammed positions.
IV.) Overall Evaluation:
Our net results are an additional pick in this year's NBA Draft, an additional pick in the 2013 draft (bound to be deeper/better than our current draft), a project center on a rebuilding team, a guy whose name gives us a DeMar(re) to talk about, even if fans wanted DeMarcus Cousins, and one of the better back up point guards in the league. The trades cost us a man who will one day be President of the United States (Shane Battier), and our MIP from last season riding a break of tough luck this year. When you look at the trades in that light, we come out in an iffy place. When you factor in the information just as important to what you DID do, our positives come to light.
Financial flexibility is still there, as is the entirety of our youth. We retain Yao's (18 million dollar) expiring contract, we will most likely be buying Jared Jeffries out within the week (7.3 million dollars), and Dragic is a wash with his contract being off the books if we choose after this season (2.1 million team option). We retain the much sought after Courtney Lee, open playing time for Terrence Williams (It's been said all along that after the trade deadline he'll see time once we get rid of a SF, it's time for that to happen so the Free TWill crap can stop), hold on to the more well rounded point guard (Kyle Lowry), retain our pair of young big men (Patterson and Hill), and actually get a legitimately sized center in a Rockets uniform again.
Our team does have questions to address in the summer given the propensity to rebuild (Let's face it, not many teams will bite on Thabeet and Dragic in a trade package to entice some top level talent). First, what to do with Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Brad Miller? My guess is that Kevin and Luis have one more year with the Rockets, tops. Brad could have some value on the open market considering how much Chicago has clenched on to their bigs and Boston's newfound need to have a big man (Losing Perkins will hurt them and they have a penchant for picking up veteran bigs who will foul or at least induce someone into striking him (shitty quality: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqJt_2BXPzc ). Either way, I don't count on players above the age of 28 or so sticking around on the Rockets too long. Tom has made the case that Martin can be a part of a rebuilding effort but I am not convinced because Martin will be taking development time from guys like Courtney Lee and Terrence Williams when their development will be more integral and have a longer lasting impact on the team than Martin's presence/contribution long term.
If we're talking grades because people like them:
Moves alone: B-
Direction for a team: Priceless