This is a game the Rockets should have won.
Here's the story in a nutshell - Kyle Lowry lead a bench comeback and 26-4 run against the Sixers. The Sixers looked like a beaten team, like they had given up. Lowry twisted his ankle, gutted out two free throws, left the game. The Sixers chipped away, then got hot in the 4th just as the Rockets were getting sloppy. Iguodala hit a big three at 1:37 left in 4th to put the 76ers up 6 and basically seal the deal.
This is the sort of loss that annoys me. Houston had a somewhat typical flat start to the first. Philly shot about 70% on mostly open looks, the Rockets, with all of 2 effective offensive players in, shot about 35%. Philly built a big lead, as we've seen so often. Then the benches came in and the Rockets got within 4 by the end of the quarter. Here's my beef - play Battier, Ariza and Hayes all at the same time, as starters, but if they're not defending you've GOT to get more offense on the court. When the Rockets did this, the tide turned, of course it helped that a very hot 76er team stopped moving the ball and getting open looks as they had for most of the first. The second unit, or higher offense unit at least, seemed to defend just as well.
The second quarter rolled around and the Rockets stepped up their defense, and their offense as well, ending the half up 57-47, lead largely by Lowry and Brooks operating in tandem. At this point the 76ers appeared to have broken. It may seem odd to say that, but it certainly appeared that way.
The third quarter seemed almost desultory, with the 76ers appearing to effectivelyt lose interest in the game. The Rockets, too, seemed unfocussed, but appeared to be well on their way to winning. The crowd was subdued, especially for a weekend game, and the lower section looked about half full. As usual, the upper section was well-attended, but TV viewers can't see that.
At any rate, it appeared that the 76ers were content to play sloppy basketball, and accept a split of back-to-backs on the road. Then, with seven minutes left in the 3rd Kyle Lowry turned his ankle on a drive. The Rockets called a timeout and Kyle, tough guy that he is, walked out and drained 2 FT. He then headed straight off the court and immediately started hopping, putting no weight on his injured ankle. Hopefully this is not one of those lingering ankle sprains, and Kyle will rejoin us soon.
The loss of Lowry changed everything, in my opinion. The 76ers couldn't contain the tandem of Lowry and Brooks, and Landry, too, feasted off the chaos the two PG created in the Philly D. With Lowry, and his tough D, out the 76ers started chipping away. Mainly they did this by turning up the defensive pressure, making it hard for Brooks to move the ball, and with Budinger as the secondary ball-handler. The loss of Lowry showed very prominently here, as Brooks finally appeared to tire in a game - with 43 minutes played on a back-to-back its understandable.
he Rockets responded to the pressure by turning the ball over on sloppy passes, and missing easy shots. Suddenly in the 4th the game was tied. Philly got hot shooting again, the Rockets couldn't get stops, couldn't buy a shot and it was game over with a bad taste lingering with some bad memories. This was the Rockets game to win and they let it get away, and they let it get away mainly because they were outworked. This hasn't happened often this season, but it did tonight, and against a team that we simply have to beat.
Now to the objects of our affection: Andre Iguodala and Sam Dalembert. Trade talk is at a fever pitch right now, and I think the #1 player everyone wants is Iguodala. It's easy to see why - he was the difference in the Philly win - he put up 13pts on 3-8 shooting, going 6-6 on FT, and added 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. He's a very effective player, in that his advanced stats show a high value despite a usage rate that is much lower than his similarly rated peers. That is because he fills the scoresheet every night, with a very high rebound and assist rate to go with efficient scoring. Is he the guy we need? If we trade for him, he'd better be, because he's not cheap at $12 million a year for the next five years.
Going by the Wins Added stat, Iguodala is a 7.1 win player - according to this measure he adds 7 extra wins a year over an average player at his spot, good for 26th highest in the NBA. The highest Rocket is Carl Landry, and he's close, at 6.9 wins. Think about that - Iguodala a high-minutes/big money player will add as many wins as Carl Landry - that's what you'd be getting for the big trade. The league's highest player by wins, no surprise, is LeBron James at 20.3, Wade is next at 15.5. Of guys "in play" the highest on the list this year is Bosh at 13.1 wins, slightly better than Kobe's current rate of 12.3. (I don't believe Wade is going anywhere this summer, btw.) It's an interesting measure. Although not perfect, I think it offers good perspective on what a guy can do for your record by coming aboard.
I'd say it puts Iguodala in the category of 2nd tier star. Is he a guy who will put a Yao-led Houston over the top? I have to say, I'm not sure he does. He seems to me to be an ideal "2nd star" on a contending team with a top 10 player. Yao must be used as a top 10 player to make that work, and history makes me nervous about that happening for several reasons. It may be that Iguodala's the best available player, and 7 wins is nothing to sneeze at, but there's another piece in the deal.
That piece is Sam Dalembert, by all accounts a wonderful guy, who adds about 4 wins, slightly worse than Nazr Mohamed so far this year, and comes in at number 18 amongst centers. He'd be a great backup to Yao - mobile, defensive minded, able to move to PF in the right situation to present a big front court. The problem is he's paid well beyond backup money, adding another $12 million in salary, with a year left after this one. Twelve million here, twelve million there, pretty soon it starts looking like real money...
So in this hypothetical deal, the Rockets (after all its not my money) would be adding $24 million in salary for the next two years to buy about 9 wins (as I think Dalembert's a half-time player at best with Yao back). These salaries, along with Elton "Lazy" Brand's $15 million are a big reason the 76ers are so interested in a colossal expiring deal like McGrady's. Evidently Philly wants more than cap relief though, they want talent. Good for them.
If I'm the Rockets, I'm not sure I do send Philly any talent back for this cap relief. If they want another year of paying $45 million for the services of Brand, Iguodala, Dalembert and Kapono, I say let them have it. If they want out of $24 million of that, they know what to do.
So, is McGrady for Iguodala and Dalembert worth it, assuming its even possible? Would it be better to try to open the checkbook for Joe Johnson, for example? It's hard to say, given that he's less of a spring chicken that you might think at 29, and aging SG with big contracts have been somewhat troublesome for us of late.
Anyhow, I saw the objects of our current trade affection in person, and they both played a typical game. I like Iguodala very much, but this didn't convince me he's the guy to take us to the promised land. If he's the best on offer, though, you have to think seriously about getting him, and his $60 million/ 5 year deal. What do you think?