We've been especially critical of Patrick Beverley this season, and for good reason. Despite his night-in-night-out intensity, effort and solidified role on this squad, there's no denying Pat has regressed on both ends of the floor.
His league-wide reputation, as Ethan pointed out yesterday, is equally in the dumps. While he's arguably the heart of the Rockets emotionally, most of his measurable metrics leave a lot to be desired.
That being said, the Rockets title aspirations are in a world of hurt if it's decided Beverley needs to shut it down for the year after the 7-10 day re-evaluation period.
So how does a potentially season-ending injury to a starting point guard squarely in the bottom third (or worse) of league starters have the potential to wreck the Rockets championship hopes?
It starts and ends on defense and the complete inability of both Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni to contribute much, if anything, on that end of the floor.
Defensive plus-minus is defined as the amount of points per 100 possessions that a player contributes above the league average, and Terry has been in the negatives his entire career, including this one. His cumulative number for his career is minus-1.4, which is very poor.
While Terry is at -0.4 this year, actually the best of career, it comes with the caveat that he's played with bench units that feature Corey Brewer and Josh Smith that have blitzed teams on that end.
Prigioni, while slightly better for his career than Terry at -0.6, is still a below-average defender and has been especially bad since coming over to Houston at the deadline. Prigioni's defensive plus minus of -2.5 as a Rocket is absolutely atrocious. He's been one of the 40 worst defensive players in a league that's seen almost 500 players take the floor in some fashion this year.
This would help explain Kevin McHale's reluctance to give Prigioni heavy minutes until now.
By comparison, Beverley was at 0.4 before his injury and has a career mark of 0.7, making him an above-average defender despite a slight step backwards this year.
Both Terry and Prigioni rank behind Beverley in defensive win shares as well, with Beverley at 1.8, Terry at 1.4 and Prigioni at a minuscule 0.1. Win shares is largely a team stat, and Terry's been able to contribute to his with some timely steals and playing with elite defenders, but Prigioni appears completely overwhelmed.
Overall defensive rating favors Beverley as well, though none of the three have been particularly great in this department. Beverley's 105, Terry's 106 and Prigioni's 108 rank 214th, 225th and 364th, respectively.
All of these combine to give Beverley a significant value over replacement advantage over both Terry and Prigioni, with Beverley at 1.3, Terry at 0.5 and Prigioni actually worse than the average replacement player at negative-0.1.
Terry and Prigioni are aging, offense-first point guards who have never been extremely effective on the defensive side, and we've already seen this play out in the Rockets first game without Beverley. Tyreke Evans torched them for 28 points on 10-16 shooting, and it could have been much worse had the Rockets not moved Trevor Ariza over to guarding Evans.
Sure, Evans makes for a huge size advantage at point guard, especially compared to the diminutive Terry and Prigioni, but did their performance against New Orleans inspire any confidence they could remotely handle Chris Paul, Mike Conley, Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry or Russell Westbrook in the postseason? Ariza's not always going to be available to help once the defensive assignments at small forward raise in intensity as well.
And while the Rockets have additional versatile defenders to mix and match in Smith and Brewer, having a massive defensive black hole at the point is certain to be exposed and exploited in the post season by the Conference's top teams and strategists.
The Rockets do have a big unknown in the youth, athleticism and size of Nick Johnson, but in a limited game sample, Johnson's defensive metrics match up more closely with Prigioni's than Beverley's.
The positives and negatives of Rockets GM Daryl Morey's moves (and lack thereof) at this year's trade deadline have been discussed ad nauseam here at The Dream Shake, and I personally even went so far as to praise Morey's prudence in holding on to some pieces for the future.
But now that the worst possible leak has sprung much too late in the season for the Rockets to address with additional personnel, despite the 20/20 hindsight of it all, one can't help but wish for a trade deadline mulligan.
The Rockets are now staring down a potential post season run without it's best point defender in a conference littered with elite opponents. As a result, they could also be staring down yet another short-lived playoff appearance. And for that, unfortunately, there simply is no defense.
We'll find out in 7-10 days.