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Rockets point guard is a position in constant flux

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Despite everything Patrick Beverley brings to the table, sooner or later, the Rockets need a major upgrade to a historically in-flux point guard position.

Patrick Beverley
Patrick Beverley
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Rafer Alston, Bobby Jackson, Bob Sura, Aaron Brooks, Isaiah Canaan, Scott Brooks, Sam Cassell, Sleepy Floyd, Kenny Smith, Rod Strickland, Moochie Norris, Tyronn Lue, Jeremy Lin, Kyle Lowry. The Rockets seemingly never-ending search for a floor general has stretched name after name and generation after generation.

This far-and-wide hunt has resulted in only three truly ultra-talented point guards in the franchise's history: Calvin Murphy, John Lucas and Steve Francis.  Lucas was only elite for a small window.  Not exactly a stellar track record for a franchise fast approaching it's golden 50th anniversary.

Sure, Kenny Smith and Sam Cassell played wonderfully in big games, but they were merely good, not great. Kyle Lowry belongs in the elite conversation today, but he too, was merely good, not great during his time with the Rockets. The rest were a mix of shots in the dark, former solid names looking for a final NBA fling and serviceable guys meant to bridge the gap until a more suitable replacement could be found. A long and sordid history with the position, to say the least.

Which brings us to the current cadre of Rockets point guards: Patrick Beverley, Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni, with a smattering of Nick Johnson thrown in for good measure. When at full health, you can expect the customary 30 minutes per night out of Beverly, with Prigioni the primary backup once fully acclimated at 10-14 minutes per night. Terry will split time at both the point and shooting guard, depending on the lineup, earning minutes likely in the teens potentially up to 20.

Nick Johnson brings youth, athleticism and shooting, but will likely only be used if one of the other three is not at full health or is completely ineffective.

This is a versatile and solid, if unspectacular, group that fits in well with the Rockets drive and kick system. But watching the team play night in and night out, one can't help but to be left wanting more out of the position, and the numbers seem to back up that feeling.

Looking initially at Beverley's numbers, you see 10.4 points, 3.3 assists and 4.4 rebounds, which are all increases from last season. But a closer look sees his field goal percentage down from 41 to 37 percent percent, his three point percentage dipping slightly from 36 percent to 35 percent, his free throw percentage plummeting from 81 percent to 73 percent and his free throw attempts dipping by over half an attempt per game. His turnovers are also up slightly this season. His assists per game, despite being up over last year, still rank just 60th in the NBA.

His advanced offensive metrics look even worse, with his true shooting percentage down from 54 percent to 50 percent, his offensive win shares almost cut in half from 2.7 to 1.4 and his offensive plus minus down from 1.9 to 0.6.

Even the vaunted Beverley defense has dipped this season. His steals are down from 1.4 per game to 1.1 and his defensive win shares have dropped.

By most measurements, Beverley has regressed. And, although there is certainly no questioning his heart, desire or his place on this roster, their is room to question whether or not he should be playing 30 minutes per night on a team with legitimate championship aspirations.  His numbers don't suggest the team is capable of winning a title with him at the primary helm.

Beverley would be best served coming off of the bench or, at the very least, serving in a time-share scenario much in the same role Kenny Smith and Sam Cassell served on the last Rockets title squad. The problem is, instead of a young, fearless Cassell coming off the bench, the Rockets have a pair of 37-year-olds in Terry and Prigioni who, while still occasionally effective in small bursts, have clearly left their best days behind them.

Neither player has had a positive defensive plus minus season in their career, and with 21 NBA seasons between them, that's quite a negative achievement. Both men, while still capable of getting hot and bombing from three-point range, should be mostly offering up veteran wisdom, not playing key minutes on a potential championship rotation.

Nick Johnson, despite some flashes, has shown nothing yet to suggest he's in any way the long-term answer. On an admittedly small sample size of of just 18 professional games, Johnson is shooting just 34 percent from the field, 31 percent from three point land and has overall win shares and plus minus levels in the negatives.  He's hardly set the league ablaze.

So where do the Rockets go from here? Regardless of the outcome of this season's playoff run, it's clear the team needs an overall upgrade at the point guard position. Despite not pulling off a major move at this year's deadline, we've already covered the assets GM Daryl Morey has left himself for next season, and there's plenty of potential moves to be made.

If the Rockets decide to keep the pick obtained from the Pelicans, two names scream out as potential Rockets draftees likely to be available in the mid to late lottery: Jerian Grant and Delon Wright.

Snagging Grant would be an absolute coup for the point guard-starved Rockets. He's not only been successful in the Notre Dame pressure cooker, helping to lead the Fighting Irish to a 24-5 record and the current No. 9 ranking in the country, he also has the numbers to back it up.

Grant is 7th in the country in assists at 6.6 per game, is shooting 49 percent from the field, including 75 percent at the rim (highlighting his fit for the Rockets drive and dish system), is a solid enough three-point shooter (34 percent) to make teams pay, leads the NCAA in win shares (5.4) and has both the physical size (6'5") and maturity (he's 23) to be an instant fit, matchup problem and potential star in Houston.

Wright brings many of the same traits as Grant, including similar size (6'5"), age (he's 22), driving ability (shooting 51 percent from the field, including shooting 67 percent at the rim) and averages 5.3 assists per game. He's also second in the NCAA in win shares behind Grant and has lead the Utah Utes to a 22-6 record and No. 13 ranking. He would also be a fantastic fit in Houston, most likely behind Beverley initially, with designs on the full-time gig in a season or two.

Other potential options include Terry Rozier from Louisville, Isaiah Taylor from Texas or Tyus Jones from Duke. None of them are quite as seasoned as Wright or Grant, but all carry potential at the next level.

If Morey decides to trade the pick forward in order to uncover a deal for a veteran, long-time Rocket target Rajon Rondo could potentially be available if his Dallas flame out continues. Still young (23) Brandon Knight becomes a restricted free agent in 2015, offering up a fantastic offensive compliment to Beverley's defensive-centric approach. Damian Lillard and Mike Conley could potentially hit the market in 2016. And if there's one thing we know about Morey, it's that he has no problems trading assets for more assets with his eye on a future mega-prize.

There are options plenty for this organization to address their long-running point guard issues, whether through the draft, trade or free agency, and if the Rockets wish to maintain their current position among the best in the NBA hierarchy, they would do well to utilize their ammunition to obtain one.

I love what Pat Beverley brings each night as much as every Rocket fan, but there's no denying he's yet just another place holder in a long-time organizational search at point guard.