After years of splashy moves at the deadline, Rockets' fans were a bit disappointed the last two years when all Daryl Morey did was make a pair of relatively minor deals involving free agents to be. Goran Dragic seemed to be just another backup point guard, Hasheem Thabeet was (is) trash, and this year the Rockets landed a pair of men old enough to run for President.
After hearing for weeks about the Rockets' pursuit of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, the acquisitions of Derek Fisher and Marcus Camby were a huge letdown. Most agreed that they liked the deals in a vacuum, but wondered what the point was on a team that seemed to be slipping out of the playoffs.
Houston Press' Sean Pendergast may have captured this sentiment best:
Yeah, stop if you've heard this before -- the Rockets made a trade where they dumped some useless "assets" and were able to ever so slightly upgrade one position while positioning themselves to make a big move down the road
that will never, ever happen.
The general consensus has been that Daryl Morey's trades have, by and large, been wins for the Rockets. Most of the time they have been. To use a baseball analogy, Daryl Morey has had a bunch of base hits, but can't hit the home run.
And yet, if Camby keeps up his recent play, he could threaten to stretch Morey's latest hit into a cheap double. Read on as we examine Camby impact and his future with the club.
When Marcus Camby was acquired, he was brought in for two main reasons: rebounding and defense. The Rockets had been destroyed on the boards for weeks as Dalembert's game began slipping and Kyle Lowry's tenacious ball-hawking had been stuck in a New York hospital.
At the same time, little was expected of Camby. He was 37 (now 38), had been slipping statistically since 2008, and had been acquired for Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, and a 2nd rounder. For two years in a row, Camby had failed to reach 5 PPG, and some expected Chuck Hayes and with five more inches to show up (phallic joke here).
Still, fans were happy to replace Jordan Hill with a competent backup for Samuel Dalembert. If Camby could come in and give the Rockets 15-20 quality minutes off the bench, it would be a boost to a bench defense that struggled immensely. Little did we know, but Camby would entrench himself in the starting lineup in just six games, a spot that he appears unlikely to relinquish any time soon.
As was mentioned earlier, he was brought to the Rockets to do two things: rebound and defend. Camby is a throwback player who prides himself on getting every board and kicks himself when he's scored on, and it shows. At the ripe old age of 38, his motor still runs high.
Since joining the team, Camby has led the club in rebounding, posting an impressive 14.1 rebounds/40 minutes. In the Rockets' first five contests with Camby, the team out-rebounded their opponents, their only such streak of the season.
They've slipped in recent games against stronger teams, but the team's rebounding percentage is 2.0% higher with him on the court, a relatively small difference that translates to a significant uptick over the course of a season.
Defensively, the team is succeeding with him in the middle instead of the goaltend prone Dalembert, allowing 46.8 eFG% instead of the 48.9% with Camby off the court. To be fair, Camby is not the one-on-one stopper that he used to be, but his length and positioning remains an asset in the post.
Considering that Camby has managed all of this while playing with essentially one hand tied behind his back, Rockets' fans are witnessing a Herculean effort from the big man.
To say that the upgrade from Dalembert to Camby has been enormous would be a gross overstatement, but with the Rockets seemingly playing every game close, the marginal improvement between the two might end up being the difference between making the playoffs and not. Certainly, having two seven footers to throw at teams like Los Angeles or San Antonio will be a tremendous advantage in the playoffs.
So what does all that mean for the Rockets' future? A few months ago, Rockets fans all but assumed that Samuel Dalembert would be a Rocket in 2012-13, as the Rockets would have to pick up his option. Dalembert was playing well, and the team had little hope for an adequate replacement with Jordan Hill and Hasheem Thabeet floundering.
Now? The picture isn't so clear. With Camby supplanting Dalembert in the rotation and limiting Dalembert's minutes, the Rockets could decide that his salary would be better spent on signing other free agents. As little as he's played recently, he still has value, and the Rockets might elect to exercise his option and trade him for cap relief and young assets.
Despite the fact that Dalembert is significantly younger than Camby, they're both stopgaps, and Camby is clearly the superior player. Add in the fact that he'll likely come cheaper than Dalembert, and there is little reason for the Rockets to retain Dalembert instead of Camby.
In the end, Camby's presence won't preclude the Rockets from swinging for the fences once again on Dwight Howard or another young center, but he'll be a great backup plan to have if they whiff again. Acquiring Camby may have been just another minor move for Daryl Morey, but it will pay dividends well past this season.