Player: Francisco Garcia
Position: Small Forward
Acquired: Trade (with Thomas Robinson) for Toney Douglas, Cole Aldrich and Patrick Patterson 2/20/2013
Contract: 1 year guaranteed
If you've been following our coverage of the preseason, you could be forgiven for forgetting that Francisco Garcia was still on this team. Hell, you might have forgotten about him even if you've watched the games. Cisco has been spectacularly unspectacular.
And that's fine. Garcia doesn't project to be better than the fourth scoring option on any second unit combination I can think of (he hasn't averaged six points per game in a season since '10-'11). His job will be to keep the ball moving on offense, sink some threes, and to defend the opposition's wings. When Daryl Morey re-signed him in August, he was slated to once again serve as the primary backup wing, this time to Trevor Ariza. But a key factor has changed in the preseason, and Garcia may fall victim to that change.
After getting re-signed in the offseason following his trade to the Rockets, Cisco had a solid start to the season, but wore down significantly beginning around Christmas, leading to a prolonged series of DNP's in the second half of the season. He didn't see the floor in the final four games of the Rocket's playoff series against the Blazers. It's hard to argue with McHale's decisions with him either - from December 23 on, Garcia's Player Impact Estimate (PIE) according to NBA.com's player tracking was 3.7%, meaning he contributed to a lower percentage of meaningful plays while on the floor than any Rocket besides Ronnie Brewer, who, I guess, was a Rocket at some point last year.
Garcia's contributions while on the court boiled down to his perimeter shooting. Over 63% of his points came from three pointers, which speaks to how well he implemented the Rockets' game plan. 0% of his points came from mid-range jumpers, which is impressive. His 35% rate from deep is good, but for such a specialist, it could honestly be better.
Defensively, Francisco went from being a plus defender in his previous half-season with Houston (99.3 Defensive Rating) to average, but still better than most Rockets before Christmas (100.3 DR), to a train-wreck after that fateful day (106 DR).
Still, he contributed off the court. He was the oldest Rocket last year, and according to Jenny Dial Creech's Media Day reporting, he was often a veteran sounding board for younger players.
Morey brought Cisco back for just over a million bucks on a guaranteed one-year deal, so he'll continue to be a locker-room presence at the very least, but in that role, he'll have company. From the man himself in the aforementioned Creech piece:
"I think Jason [Terry] and Trevor [Ariza] are going to help me a lot with that. And James, Dwight and the other guys are more mature now. We'll do better as a team."
Both Jet and Ariza have experience on championship teams, so they should take the "veteran leader" role to the next level. And Terry's presence means that Francisco is no longer the oldest Rocket, so there's that. But another key acquisition is more relevant to Garcia's changing role this year.
Kostas Papanikolaou has been THE story of the Rockets' preseason. Sure, nothing's set in stone, but all of the buzz has been that Big Papa has played his way into the rotation. Papa's an inch taller and roughly 40 pounds heavier, so his defensive responsibilities might be a little different from Cisco's, but he is clearly a more dynamic playmaker (which is to say, he can make some plays sometimes). Garcia has continued to be a non-factor in the preseason while Kostas has turned heads. The writing may not be on the wall quite yet, but...wherever the writing goes before the wall, that's where it is for Cisco.
Depth has been one of the biggest concerns for the Rockets coming into the year, along with their lack of an obvious Big Third. Garcia was presumably plugged in as the obvious backup for Trevor Ariza, which makes sense, even if it didn't inspire enthusiasm, or even confidence. Cisco projects as a poor, older man's version of Ariza this year - a steady 3-and-D wing who doesn't require touches to be effective. However, as noted above, his defense has slipped dramatically, removing the supposed advantage he would provide over Papa.
The best-case scenario might be this: Big Papa's emergence pushes Cisco to the end of the bench, keeping him fresher for the stretch run and the postseason, or until injuries hit. Then, boom - veteran ready to step back in. The playoffs always have a few surprises, and maybe Garcia has some more threes in him when the Rockets need them most.
While this may not paint the rosiest picture for number 32, I honestly hope he's still got something left to contribute on the court this year, because by all accounts he's a wonderful teammate, and basketball's more fun when players have cool nicknames. Say it with me (phonetically): ssssssssSSSSSISKO!