Welcome back to the 3-on-5 Roundtable folks! This week we’re joined by our new addition, Xiane. The reason it’s not 4 on 5 yet is that one of our intrepid contributors has one of those "real life" things I read so much about. He’ll be rejoining us next week and we’ll be playing with only one man down from a legitimate game! We had a lot of fun with your questions this week. You asked us to pick a side in the battle of the point guards, to look at what this team needs to pull off to consider the offseason a success, and we even go out on a limb to pick a starting lineup on opening day!
We want to encourage everyone to continue the submissions because this column lives for you guys. This week we owe a special thanks to mtl1986, makinmajik, joshsm07, Irish Thrasher, and Tisbee. We want to remind you that you can submit questions by e-mailing email@example.com, tweeting your question to @VismundGarret, or posting the question here.
BD34: I come down on the side of Lowry in this but can I pick the "political" answer and say it doesn’t matter. Point guards are emerging as the "dime a dozen" commodity in the NBA right now. Point guards are putting up big games across the NBA and the quality of competition across the board is getting close to parity. I think Dragic brings more length than Lowry but that’s about it. Kyle is the more disciplined point guard but he comes across as more vanilla to me. Dragic struggled in the half court as a starter and made strides towards improving it but I’m still not 100% sold. I think the reason we talk about trading Lowry is because he’s got a known price tag. They’re about the same age and Kyle is on a known cheap deal. It’s a push but they’re both replaceable.
Xiane: I think either one could push a team towards a title. That is, a team with either all its players in the caliber of Lowry, or what we think Dragic is capable of long term, or a team with a marquee player of some sort. The current iteration of the Rockets doesn’t fit that, because Lowry for most of this past season, and half of the last one, was the Rockets best player.
When it comes to choosing one or the other I learn towards Lowry, simply because I think he’s less emotionally volatile than Dragic. I think Dragic brings a couple of skills that are pretty special across the entire NBA, namely finishing on the break and increasing the tempo until opponents implode. That is worth a lot, as I believe we’ll see in free agency. Even so, the element that has consistently held Dragic back is his outlook, or emotional state. When signing him to a big deal its important to consider whether he will be the revelation of the end of this season, or the basket case he was in Phoenix. The delta is much higher for Dragic than Lowry, and Lowry’s now-established level of play is essentially equal if not better. So, Lowry.
ak2themax: For me, the biggest thing is the health of Lowry. I think that’s going to be the key for the Rockets as they ponder whether or not to sign Dragic to a huge contract. All things being equal, I like Lowry a little more than Dragic but it’s more of a gut feeling than an actual stance.
I don’t think Dragic was necessarily "playing for a contract" or anything like that at the end of the season. He’s clearly quite good. But knowing that Lowry starting taking his steps into stardom after he signed a contract with the Rockets makes me feel like he’s more like the real deal. I hope he’s healthier, because the fact of the matter is that his return may have cost the Rockets the playoffs. But I do think he can be the point guard on a championship team, no question.
BD34: Pick a direction. Any direction. Please. Every year Rockets fans say "We’re one piece away." or "If not for injuries then..." or "We shouldn’t make a change for change’s sake." or any other of a battery of excuses that come up CONSTANTLY and where are we left for it? Picking 14th, just outside the playoffs, and peddling out the same tired lines. I, for one, am sick of it. This front office has shown no problems in moving large contracts (Tracy McGrady) or players (If they broke your heart moving Carl Landry they don’t care about player loyalty) and manufacturing other excuses that can be untangled by those won’t hold water with me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting the futility on Daryl either, he only has the resources his boss gives him. If the team got gutted for draft picks, perfect! Successful offseason in my books. If the team gets gutted for a *long term* star? Successful offseason. If we pick another 6’9" or low ceiling player, I will personally tweet a photo of my buttcheeks to Leslie Alexander and Daryl Morey.
Xiane: A lot of changes. I’m working on a piece on this, so I don’t want to rehash it all here, but I’d say that this offseason will tell the tale of future direction. I think if the Rockets manage a big-time signing (Pau Gasol is very available) then they go towards building a team that gets to the second round every year, and could dream of the WCF. If they don’t, I think the party line in media remains exactly the same, but the reality shifts to a new five year plan for Red Nation, one that involves the "T word", but will be called "playing the young guys".
ak2themax: For it to be "successful," the Rockets would need to make a splash in the offseason. And when I say splash, I mean pull off some kind of coup that lands us Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. That would be a success, in my mind.
Thinking a little more realistically, it would involve landing at least one player in the draft who can be part of the rotation or part of a trade for a starter. We’ve got young players, good contracts, two first round picks, and a GM who is always wheeling and dealing. It’s time to go get something.
Oh, and signing Courtney Lee is a must, unless you need the cash to sign someone better.
BD34: I don’t think it impacts the signing of Goran Dragic or Sergio Llull’s coming over at all. Primarily because we’re not going to resign Dragic for anything other than an S&T deal and Llull isn’t coming over. If the Rockets draft a guy like Marshall, I’m happy because I floated the idea out in early mock drafts. A pure pass point guard in this league? I’d be happy. He’s another example of the fact that you can draft a point guard who can eventually move into the starting position eventually but doesn’t really have any star potential.
Xiane: I don’t see the Rockets going PG with an early pick. They’d rather lure Llull. All Llull has to do is look at the past couple of seasons to realize that chances to log big NBA minutes are abundant with the Rockets. No one in the the NBA would promise Sergio Llull a starting job. The sooner he realizes it, the sooner he comes over. He doesn’t have Scola’s track record. He’s not a high pick like Rubio. Euroleague stats per 40 are like 16pts, 6 assists. But he doesn’t play 40 minutes, he plays about 24. Why a guy who can’t crack 30 minutes in Spain thinks he needs an NBA starting job is beyond me. In my opinion getting about 24 minutes a night as a backup and as a combo guard is about what he’s doing now anyway. Maybe he really is scared. That’s all speculation of course, I don’t know what Llull is thinking.
I have a feeling the Rockets think that even if Llull stays in Spain (and that’s about 65% I’d say) that they can find a good backup fairly easily, or later in the draft. PGs are thick on the ground in the NBA at present.
ak2themax: Point guard is too easy to replace in the NBA. It’s a guards’ game right now, so there’s tons of available talent. Llull will almost certainly stay in Spain, and Morey will almost certainly take the best players available at 14 and 16 in the draft, regardless of position. Stockpiling assets is what he does, and he isn’t going to change that strategy now.
BD34: Well, there’s the obvious throw-away, Yao Ming. I’ll also give some love to Chuck Hayes, Shane Battier, and you know, even Tracy McGrady. I feel like all of those guys are the safe picks. If I’m going out on a limb, two guys I’d like to see find success (in general, if it’s rings, awesome) are Jermaine Taylor and Donte Green. Taylor because I think he lost as odd-man-out in Houston and he should have been kept and Donte Green because he was, for a fleeting summer, a Rocket, and I think he could have solved a lot of our problems with our training staff and player development.
Xiane: Yao. Also, Yao. I’ll say a bit more. Yao Ming.
It’s really a shame he’s not firmly enshrined as Mr. Rocket, like Hakeem (and for the sake of being from Houston, Drexler). Yao did everything to be that except win a title.
A couple of Yao facts for those who only think about the end of Yao’s career: In his first three seasons Yao logged 144 out of 146 possible regular season games (so enough with the Oden comparisons already). From 2002-2009 Yao played in 481 out of 574 possible regular season games (84%). Let’s see Andrew Bynum do that before anyone considers him to be in Yao’s league. Bynum’s logged one good season, and is about as reliable as a Trabant.
ak2themax: Gotta go with Yao. Very few players in the NBA made me care about them as a person, but Yao was the exception to the rule. It’s a damn shame that he didn’t get a ring, even as a veteran ring-chaser with another team.
Thinking outside the box, Chuck Hayes, Carl Landry, Moochie Norris (the hair!), and Shane Battier come to mind. All were tireless workers who helped the team at any cost. And if we’re looking at current players, I hope that Scola and Lowry one day get a title. Preferably with the Rockets, of course.
BD34: Alright, opening day, I think the starters will be:
Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons, Luis Scola, and Samuel Dalembert.
I have little to no faith in the idea that an impact move will be made to dislodge any of these starters. In my heart of hearts I want Kevin Martin and Luis Scola gone and, although the cap savings are tempting with Dalembert, I can’t see his contract going to the wayside unless we land a Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, or JaVale McGee. Best case scenario on opening day (If my lack of faith gets punished) I would go with:
Kyle Lowry, Tyreke Evans, Chandler Parsons, Donatas Motiejunas, Brook Lopez.
Xiane: I think this is more open than people might suppose. You could say Lowry, Martin, Parsons, Scola, Dalembert but I think that Morey’s seat is at least warm, and he probably knows that won’t really work without perfect luck. (Which the Rockets never have.) So there will be changes. Here are two possibilities.
Lowry, Lee, Parsons, Patterson/Motiejunas, Gasol
Trade: Scola and Martin for Pau Gasol This gives LA a center who’s a center and a PF who is a PF. It gets Kobe some rest, and what the hell would defenses do about a small lineup with Kobe going inside and then kicking to Martin for 3?
Dragic, Lee, Perry Jones, Patterson, Gasol
Trade: Lowry to Portland for first rounders, and make the Gasol trade with LA. Draft PJIII with PDX pick. Sign Dragic, Lee.
Incidentally, I think Jones is a SF, and his results are about what you’d expect if Kevin Durant had been stuck PF for two years, well worse, obviously, but similar. I think he’s either a star or a complete bust though.
The hitch is Patterson. He’s really an ideal complement to Gasol if we see Good Patterson and not Bad/Hurt Patterson. Gasol’s game has been basically wrecked by ceding the low block to Bynum. In Houston he could go back to center, and Patterson could deploy his deadly short jumper in the high post. There’d be three outside shooters to contend with, and Gasol’s really good on the break, so that’d be a nice mesh with Dragic. It’s a good bench if you draft a SG, with Motiejunas, Dalembert/Camby, Parsons, Budinger and maybe Llull. If Patterson isn’t good, perhaps Motiejunas is the starter.
ak2themax: Lowry, Martin, Parsons, Scola, Camby.
Meet the new lineup. Same as the old lineup. But wait! With Camby patrolling the interior, Martin’s terrible defense gets hidden. Parsons takes the best perimeter player anyway. We know Lowry is a bulldog. The real issue is Scola. But in this group having some post offense is nice. If the team wants to go defensive, Patterson can come play the 4 and Lee can step in for K-Mart. If more offense is what you desire, Motiejunas and Budinger can come in and start popping threes. It actually doesn’t sound too bad on paper. But paper doesn’t win championships.