Well folks, here we are again. This Friday we talk about Daryl Morey, Marcus Morris, Courtney Lee, Goran Dragic, Marcus Camby, and our Europeans. We appreciate the suggestions and hope you guys enjoy this column. I want to remind everyone that submissions can be made in three ways. You can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, post in this thread with your questions, or tweet at me @VismundGarret. We encourage as many submissions as possible because this column is about you guys... and the Rockets, mostly you though. A bit of a disclaimer, trade proposals and what not, although fun to receive, are best left for the fanposts, you guys are better at it than we are and there's literally millions of ideas that can be tossed around.
This week we can send our thanks out to Dupax, Joshsm07, and mtl1986. We usually look to give 5 different posters an opportunity every week, so by all means, be as eager as you want to when submitting questions. Just to give you a heads up, in the coming weeks after the draft order is set we plan on doing a TDS Mock Draft where each writer has a group of teams to pick for and we even have a guest contributor for that week. Join us after the jump to see what was rattling around the heads of Pat, AK, and myself this week.
Are Goran Dragic, Marcus Camby, and Courtney Lee coming back? I'd love to see them back rather than those 3 guys above (Lowry, Martin, and Scola). - Dupax
BD34: Of the three of them, I see Camby as having the greatest chance to come back. He’s expressed interest and I feel like he would be willing to come back on the cheap and be the spiritual successor to Dikembe Mutombo. I think Dragic priced his way out of Houston and if he signs with the Rockets it’s for a sign and trade deal. I’m inclined to say Courtney Lee priced himself out of Houston as well and unless the Rockets agree to part ways with Kevin Martin, Courtney isn’t possibly satisfied with being the back up after his showing as a starter here. The Rockets have expressed far more interest in retaining Goran Dragic than they have Courtney Lee, so I don’t even think we’ll be able to get a worthwhile sign and trade out of him.
Patrick Harrel: If I were to put money on it, I’d guess Camby and Lee will remain in town while Dragic takes the money from Portland or whatever other point guardless team offers him a blank check. The Rockets have never liked to lose restricted free agents, and Courtney Lee doesn’t seem to be an exception. Arron Afflalo’s monster deal is frightening for the Rockets’ front office, but I’d expect Lee’s deal to fall well short of that. Look for Camby to sign a two year deal for reasonable money that includes a player option on the second year.
ak2themax: Daryl Morey has already said that Lee will be coming back since he’s a restricted free agent. There’s some politics in that, but either way Courtney Lee will probably be a Rocket next season. Marcus Camby seems likely to return as well. He’s tall. That’s really all it takes. But the real key I think is his leadership skills. Everyone knows Camby has been around. He knows what’s up. McHale said as much about him and Earl Boykins when the team was doing well. As for Goran, that comes down to him alone. I see Portland and Utah throwing the kitchen sink at him, and both franchises would love to have the guy and would improve immediately. I think he does leave because somebody is going to offer him Mike Conley money (5 years, $45 million) and I don’t think the Rockets will feel inclined to match.
When do you think our drafted players playing overseas will come over and what impact will that have on the team? - Joshsm07
BD34: Motiejunas is confirmed to come over next year to save the Houston Rockets franchise (if I believe what I read) but I think this question is aimed at guys like Sergio Llull. I’m going to blow your minds and remind you all that we also have Maarty Leunen, Brad Newly, and Lior Eliyahu overseas. Maarty Leunen is just a guy we have draft rights on, a floor stretching PF, he is not coming over. Lior Eliyahu was a guy I wanted to see brought over a couple years ago. He’s a smooth 6’9" forward and I felt like he could slip in to the SF spot in the NBA and work on his game over here. I like what he brings. Brad Newly is a 6’7" SG overseas. His game is predicated on hustle and athleticism but his consistency is lacking in a big way and I don’t see any room for the guy here. His game just isn’t good enough. As for Llull, I know I posted a fanshot a while ago about how there was room to work with a buyout but I don’t see him coming over either. Remember how Ricky Rubio said he was staying in Europe because there was more there for him? Yea, I said he was running from NBA competition (Which he has since done a good job proving me wrong) but with Llull I think it’s 100% legitimate. He’s one of the best players on a great team in Europe and he starts. I’m horrible at translating the European game to the States but I wouldn’t come over here to be a back up when I’m a starter in Spain. Especially at the money he makes and the fun he looks to be having over there.
ak2themax: Gotta agree with BD on this one. I think if Dragic leaves and the Rockets can’t find a suitable replacement for him, they might try to coerce Llull into coming over for training camp and the preseason. I’m not so sure that Quad-L is dodging the NBA, but he probably likes how his life is going over there. And remember the last point guard the Rockets brought over from Europe? Vassilis Spanoulis was his name, and V-Span is back in Greece. I’m sure Llull knows his story and may have even spoken with him. As for Motiejunas, he’ll come over and 9 out of 10 Rockets fans will be disappointed when he doesn’t take jersey 42 and try to be the next Dirk Nowitzki.
Patrick Harrel: There are really two guys the Rockets have the rights to who could make a difference: Donatas Motiejunas and Sergio Llull. Motiejunas is a big man who should come over for next season and immediately contribute. The Dirk and Pau Gasol comparisons are ridiculous, but I’d expect him to be a solid bench player from the start with the possibility of growing into a pretty decent starter. His rebounding has improved in the last year, and that has really boosted his stock in my eyes.
Llull is a different case altogether. He’s played fairly well and improved his NBA prospects in recent years, but the talk out there seems to indicate that he’s going to be looking for a chance to be a starter, a la Ricky Rubio. He’s not a Rubio-caliber prospect, but he isn’t chopped liver either. I would be shocked to see him in a Rockets jersey next year, though depending on how things shake out next year, he could be a candidate to come over for the 2013-14 season.
What do you expect from Marcus Morris this coming season?(whether it be him being traded, him seeing more time and being productive, no improvement or etc.) - Joshsm07
BD34: I expect Marcus Morris to benefit from an offseason, summer league, a year to take in what he could from the NBA, and more exposure to the Rockets development staff. Now, having said that, I still don’t know how that translates for him. He’s got minimal experience at the 3 in the NBA and in his limited time (After having some strong showings in the D-League) he looked lost and listless. He very well have all the raw talent and tools needed to make the leap to the 3 but he’s 22 and has been playing basketball for a decent span, all at the 4, and that is a lot of material to un-learn/replace.
I think he sees spot minutes because his game is in need of refinement to earn more than that at the position. We still have the draft and free agency to endure which will signal either boom or bust for Morris. If the Rockets can land a high caliber 3 in the draft or free agency that dislodges Parsons, I don’t see a reason (outside of injury) to give Morris much playing time. There was talk of PJIII and the Rockets and NBAdraft.net has him slated as a SF/PF, if some draft magic happens (doubtful) and the Rockets could get a Kidd-Gilchrist or Harrison Barnes do you really see Parsons retaining the starting spot over those guys? Much less Marcus Morris challenging for minutes? Parsons would make a great 6th man though (Yes, I came around to this feeling).
ak2themax: Morris hasn’t been a bust, but a he was a disappointment. He’s too much of a 3-4 tweener, and there’s not really room in the league for that unless you’re LeBron James, in which case you’re a 1-5 tweener. Just like all Rockets players, I expect Morris to be shopped heavily or maybe thrown into a deal. Clearly, he doesn’t fit in McHale’s system as it exists now, but there’s always room for improvement. He’s proven in the D-League that he can contribute. Now it’s time for him to use offseason workouts and training camp to improve his stock within the organization.
Patrick Harrel: I’d expect improvement, if only because his rookie season was bordering on an unmitigated disaster. Morris experienced tremendous difficulties in his rookie year, and thankfully a number of these problems can be remedied. The first major problem was that his shot simply was not falling. For a player of Morris’ offensive acumen, shooting below 30% for the season isn’t going to cut it. With more time on the floor to get comfortable, expect that to increase in his sophomore year.
The second problem is more worrisome. Morris transitioned from being the primary offensive option at Kansas to being a bench player for the Rockets. The bench can certainly use his one-on-one skills, but there is no doubt that he is going to have to find a way to contribute in other ways to stake a claim to his rotation spot. Even though it’s harder to be as effective of a rebounder at the small forward, a 7.4 rebound rate is very poor for a player lauded for his toughness.
With a full off-season to prepare and the likely thinning of the wings in front of him in the rotation, Morris has a great chance to stake a claim to a rotation spot and help the team as a sixth man. Unfortunately, I just don’t know if he’ll do it.
Is Courtney Lee a starting 2 guard in this league or is his offence too sporadic and unpredictable? - mtl1986
BD34: I think it depends on what team we’re talking about if you want specific instances. I mean, obviously he’s not starting in LA or Miami but I would happily estimate that Courtney Lee is a starter in over 50% of the league. Even on championship teams. Courtney is a two-way guard and I think if you’re looking for a starting 2 in this league you can do a lot worse. A team like the Bulls would see a major boost from a guy like Courtney. His offense is sporadic and unpredictable but he doesn’t shoot you out of games. Courtney’s ability to play intelligent basketball and defend is his major asset. When his offense is working he’s happy to take his shots and stuff the stat-sheet. If his shot isn’t working he’s content to run the offense and defend. His efficiency and numbers dipped a bit as a starter but I see that as a condensed schedule/more exposure issue than I do anything else. The major thing to remember is he gave us some great 20+ point performances and wasn’t a liability on defense, which is a major benefit for most teams in the league.
ak2themax: He’s a starting 2-guard unless you have Kobe, Wade, Eric Gordon, or that James Harden fellow (who doesn’t start, but let’s not kid ourselves). There are several other teams where he would compete for their starting job, but I think he could start for 20 teams in the league. That includes the Rockets. His offense isn’t really as sporadic as advertised. In fact, I find he consistently finds ways to impact the game on both ends of the court, even when his shot isn’t falling or he’s not being aggressive enough on offense. I can’t count the number of times Lee made a great play on defense and I thought, "Whoa, how long has he been in the game?" But in terms of defense, I don’t really want to know that he’s in because if I do it means he’s probably getting lit up. But I would like to see him become more assertive on the offensive end. He’s way too good to be the fourth option on offense.
Patrick Harrel: In a word, yes. Courtney Lee is a perfectly adequate starter, certainly an upgrade over the version of Kevin Martin that was playing for the early second half of last season. As a starter, Courtney Lee averaged 14 points on 43% shooting and 40% from behind the arc. For a player that is also a pretty decent defender, those numbers are about what you’d hope for from your starting two guard.
On the assertion that his offense could be "too sporadic," I don’t really see that. Once he entrenched himself in the starting lineup, his offense became pretty consistent, even if he had a few off nights. My bigger concern would be that his defense was a bit sporadic. Most people accept defensive value to be somewhat constant from game to game, and Courtney Lee is one player that puts that concept to shame. Overall, he’s a good defender, but far too often Lee got beat early from a longer opponent and backed down to easily, giving up the battle too soon. We saw this against the Lakers a few times (when the Rockets were forced to guard Bryant with Parsons almost exclusively), and other teams with long wing players might look to take advantage next year.
Is Morey on the hot seat and if so, how long before he gets fired? - mtl1986
BD34: This is a question I’ve had to put a LOT of thought into. Is Morey on the hot seat? From the fans I would bank on it. From the owner? I feel relatively certain he’s safe for another year or two at the max. Morey, I believe, bought himself some time in Alexander’s eyes with the failed Pau Gasol trade (Since it was out of his hands). If we’re being 100% fair, I don’t even think Oklahoma City or San Antonio’s GM would be safe in Houston. I say this because Alexander refuses to go through the draft and that eliminates some of your best options to build this franchise up.
Morey has done a great job at assembling role players and he proved that no contract is too large to move (McGrady) but without a high draft pick or a major player worth trading around he hasn’t been able to deliver the home run everyone wants. I don’t hold that against him, honestly. If you’re going to a gunfight and you are only given access to a spoon, you’re going to be hard-pressed to come out alive. Morey has gouged out a lot of eyes with that spoon but whoever the next GM is will be presented with the same problems. Do I think he could stand to take more chances? I am very vocal on that. Morey does need to stop playing it safe and really should offer more in a trade to deliver anything because middling talent (We draft 14th, complain all you want but our results are middling and you win with talent) will yield middling talent but a LOT of middling talent could yield something more than that, which would be a step in the right direction. I think Morey is the right GM to have if you greenlight him to blow the team up or tell him "don’t be stingy, spend big" but under his current constraints? I don’t see him here in the next two years and I’m not a fan of that feeling.
ak2themax: Nope, not on the hot seat. Right now he’s kicking rocks and it’s driving the fans crazy. But there’s a saying when it comes to coaches and GMs. "Listen to the fans enough and soon you’ll be sitting with them." Morey got here on advanced statistical analysis and measured "risks." Les Alexander knew what he was getting with the Boy Genius, and I don’t see him giving up on the experiment any time soon. As long as Morey doesn’t outright fail with a move (which is unlikely), he’s safe. I’ve said before that Morey is like the LeBron James of GMs: arguably the best, but hasn’t really closed the deal yet. But then again, I’d take LeBron James over anyone else in a heartbeat.
Patrick Harrel: He’s not on the hot seat. Some fans are pissed off at the lack of progress over the last three years, and Morey and Alexander know that. Still, Alexander fully trusts Morey and that has not changed. There was talk from the front office that the "veto" had set the Rockets back three years, and some were quick to dismiss that as hyperbole. Watching the Rockets struggle last season, that appears to be an apt remark.
Because I expect Morey to be around for the long haul, It would be silly to put a time frame on his departure. Crazier things have happened, but I would be shocked if anybody but Morey was the GM in a few years.