We can't pass judgement on the 2014-2015 Houston Rockets season until the playoffs. Rockets supporters are pleased with a third place ranking, a healthy 43-20 record and the bearded guy who deserves the MVP trophy.
As the Rockets continue to grind out wins and elbow for playoff position, here are four bullets the Houston Rockets dodged, each of which could have dramatically altered their season.
Signing Parsons Instead of Ariza
Chandler Parsons is doing good things. Several interpretations of several versions of the Parsons-subscribed "bro code" keep Houston fans from hating on the part-time model. But it's still an extraordinary fact Parsons is the highest-paid player on an NBA team.
As the 2014-2015 season progresses it's clear the Rockets needed Ariza's defensive presence more than Parsons' slashing. Ariza regularly picks up the trickiest defensive assignment, bombs three from the corner and barks up at Timofey Mozgov.
Parsons' most vital role on the Rockets was to keep the offense moving when James Harden was off the court or putting forward a sub-par performance. That role now falls to the Rockets' bench, rendering Parsons officially replaced.
The biggest upside to signing Ariza and dropping Parsons is the money. Parsons is getting over $15 million a year to the tune of three years and $46 million. By comparison, Ariza is bringing in $32 million over four years. That's value and cap flexibility.
Signing Chris Bosh
This is a tough call to make. More important than power rankings or playoff seeding is Chris Bosh getting healthy and an opportunity to return to the court. There was no way to know blood clots in Bosh's lungs would end his season and threaten his career.
The Rockets dodged a debilitating season-ending injury combo here. Dwight Howard's "no timetable" timetable coupled with a Chris Bosh injury would have left a "Big Three Rockets" with a single leg: Harden. True, that's partially what the Rockets deal with now. But they're currently constructed to be a James Harden-led attack.
Having Bosh would consume a max contract, leave the Rockets with less cap flexibility and a heightened level of uncertainty about the coming years. Chris Bosh would look great in a Rockets jersey, but the question now appears to be "how often would he have been in one?"
Trading for Rajon Rondo
When the entire league calls a player "mercurial," it's traditionally the polite way of saying there's brilliance behind an unreachable wall of defiance. That's Rajon Rondo.
The Mavericks traded for Rondo in December. They've now seen their monthly offensive production drop by more than 10 points a game while their shooting percentage has fallen off a cliff. It was highly expected Rondo woudl rebound after spending a few lackadaisical years with the Celtics mired in frustration. The talent, energy and ferocity could be flipped back on as son as a new environment inspired him. Turns out, not so much. Like at all.
Turns out trading for Rondo wasn't the expected sure thing. Not what you want to hear when the cost was your entire bench and draft picks for a potential rental. The Rockets spent nothing. Gained nothing. Lost nothing.
Using The 2014 Bench
Daryl Morey did Daryl Morey things and it's proving vital to the Rockets success. Morey's attempt to cobble together a bench before the season proved untenable quickly: Kostas Papanikolaou, Francisco Garcia, Troy Daniels, Isaiah Canaan and Tarik Black.
Standing firm on that bench would have left the Rockets even more reliant on the over-worked James Harden.
Now the Rockets are more playoff ready with Josh Smith and Corey Brewer. The loss of Dwight Howard hasn't debilitated the Rockets because of the bench moves. Even more positive, the Rockets still have a few pieces we don't understand, but could be positive contributors in Pablo Prigioni and K.J. McDaniels.
Morey deserves praise for moving pieces that didn't work. Alexey Shved was justly brought in and shipped out. Canaan and Daniels proved talented but didn't fit the Rockets system.