This week on our TDS Tuesday roundtable, we’ve gone from 5-on-5 to 4-on-4 to mix it up a little. Also, given the fact that the Rockets have been so injured recently, it might behoove them to maybe go 4-on-4. LOL. Only kidding. And it’s April 4th, 4/4, so 4-on-4. That’s cool, right?
This week, we discuss the newest victim of the injury bug, Sam Dekker, the newest gift from the D-League gods, Troy Williams, and first ballot Hall-of-Famer Tracy McGrady.
If you have a question you would like us to answer in next week’s roundtable, post it in the comments and continue the debates!
This week’s panelists are Jeremy Brener (JB), Xian E (XE), Darren Yuvan (DY), and Max Croes (MC).
1. On a scale of 1-10, how concerning is Sam Dekker's broken hand?
JB: I’m going to put it right at a five. It isn’t the worst case scenario, but it certainly is not ideal. Dekker is the only person this season to play in every single game after Harden and Ariza sat in Sunday’s win. Even if he is the ninth man, he is still a very important part of the rotation. This will give Harrell some more opportunities at the four, and maybe a little action from Troy Williams though, which is the only positive out of this situation.
I think they could certainly be a lot worse, but we can’t pretend like Dekker hasn’t been a big contributor to this team all season long. It will be interesting to see how the last few games play out and the first round series. There’s a chance that this is the last we’ve seen from 2016-17 Sam Dekker, and if we don’t see him again on the court this season, he should be satisfied because he showed flashes of a solid NBA player and a Rocket rotation guy for the foreseeable future.
XE: 7 - It’s quite concerning, but we saw some good things from Troy Williams, so it’s not quite as bad as it could be, though there are currently close to zero PFs on the roster. I guess Kyle Wiltjer-berlain is a PF, as is Harrell. Small ball is the beach the Rockets will live or die on. The inability or unwillingness to sign another true big of any description got a little less clever-looking.
DY: I'd say it's a 5 right now. The Rockets are going to need Dekker's athleticism and versatility to play match ups come playoff time, and despite the fact he's been struggling some lately, his ability to backup Ryan Anderson as an effective stretch four has been key at times for the Rockets. Plus, with the team really hurting right now -- Anderson and James Harden are also nursing injuries -- the last thing Houston needs is to be down another rotation player. Troy Williams showed some great shooting Sunday night against Phoenix, but who knows how much he can contribute to a team with title aspirations. A long-term Dekker injury really hurts the Houston depth.
MC: Very unfortunate, but I'd rate it as a three. Dekker was not going to be in the playoff rotation and the length of the season has clearly been wearing on him to this point. The Rockets will miss Dekker's size and rebounding for eight minutes a game.
2. Who, if anyone, should take Dekker's place in the rotation granted he won't be able to play in the postseason?
JB: I’m going to just say it. Troy Williams. Yes, that Troy Williams, the one who most people hadn’t even heard of before Sunday night, when he dropped 21 points in his Rockets debut. Williams matches Dekker’s size and build, and he’s possibly a better shooter than Dekker, at least right now. The Rockets have a history of adding guys late in the year and plugging them in immediately. Another Troy, last name Daniels, played just five regular season games for the Rockets in 2014, only to crack the playoff rotation and hit the clutchest three in Rockets history since Steve Novak.
That was the Kevin McHale era, but it wouldn’t surprise me if D’Antoni decides to try Williams out for a little bit. He can play the backup three and move Ariza to the backup four, which would change things, but not too drastically. He doesn’t need to have too many minutes in the playoffs, probably less than ten per game, but it’s important to give Ariza some rest given that he has played so many minutes, and Anderson too, especially with him coming off an injury. I see the Rockets going nine deep in the playoffs, with Troy Williams as the ninth guy.
XE: Assuming Dekker cannot return for the post-season, I’d imagine we just see more guards, and some Troy Williams and Harrell, I guess. But if he does return, Dekker should be given his spot in the rotation back.
DY: I think Montrezl Harrell deserves some time at the four, but I just don't think that's going to happen. Mike D'Antoni wants long-range shooting at every position but the five, which leaves Monstatrez as the third center and not much else. D'Antoni is notorious for short playoff rotations, so if Dekker can't go, we could just see the starting five, plus Eric Gordon, Lou Williams and Nene come postseason time. But if he's going to call on anyone with Dekker out, we might actually see Troy Williams get an opportunity. He has size (6'7") and the guy can shoot. We all know that can take you places on the Rockets.
MC: Capela and Nene were going to platoon at center with Anderson playing four and Ariza filling in there when Anderson sits. Dekker's playtime had fallen to single digit minutes before Anderson's injury. I think the Rockets were going to go to eight men in the playoffs, so Dekker won’t need a replacement as he was the odd man out all along.
3. Who had the more impressive career-high Sunday night? Troy Williams (21 pts, 6-9 3PT, team debut) or Pat Beverley (26 pts, 11-19 FG)?
JB: This is a rough question. When I wrote it, I thought it was more clear-cut, but now I’m struggling to make a decision. I’m going to go with Patrick Beverley. You really can’t ask for a better effort from Williams especially because he didn’t realize he was going to make his Rockets debut later in the evening when he woke up Sunday morning.
However, I was very impressed with how Beverley took the reins and lead this team on Sunday night. Sometimes, Bev gets lost in the shuffle with Harden and Ariza, but with them out of the picture, he showed how talented he really was. He could have looked at the situation and took the night off, but he didn’t, because the Wolverine doesn’t take nights off. Even when the odds were stacked against him, he thrived. Sunday night was reason #290837430198 why Patrick Beverley is my favorite Rocket of all-time.
XE: Troy Williams, as he’s not exactly an established NBA player. Beverley has a good offensive game, when he attacks, but one he’s sublimated to be a designated defender and spot up shooter. D’Antoni has him acting a bit more like Steve Nash earlier in the season, going on forays under the basket, keeping his dribble alive, passing or scoring. They’ve gone away from that, but Lou Williams and Pat have the ability to facilitate a lot of scoring by doing that, and I’d like to see it happen.
DY: I think it's got to be Troy Williams. We all know how skilled Beverley is. Though his strengths obviously lie in defense, hustle and intangibles, the guy did win the NBA Skills Competition once, so I don't think it's a huge surprise that he can fill it up a little when he has the opportunity. Williams, on the other hand, was a complete unknown after coming up from the D-League and only having 24 games with Memphis to his NBA credit. He looked comfortable and oftentimes, some guys just need a change of scenery to do well, and there's no doubting that the Rockets' system is kind to just about everyone offensively. It was just one game, and nobody knows if he can keep it up, but I think it was a huge surprise to all that he played so well.
MC: Williams. We expect Pat Beverley to get 26 points when he's called on. We all had to learn who Troy Williams was, and we learned on Sunday night.
4. Were you surprised that T-Mac made the HOF? Were you surprised Rudy T did not?
JB: Tracy McGrady coming to Houston really jumpstarted my Rockets fandom, so I’m incredibly excited that he got the call. Ever since T-Mac became a Rocket, I’ve followed and understood the history of the Rockets, and have come to appreciate Rudy T as well. At this point, Rudy T will get in at some point. It’s not a matter of if, but when. I thought it would be this year, but it wasn’t, and that’s disappointing.
I am also a little bit surprised that T-Mac got in automatically. Maybe it is because I didn’t realize how dominant he was in his heyday or I underestimated how good he was. The stat that goes against him is the fact that he never played in a Conference Semifinal. He never had any type of playoff success. I thought that would dock him this year. He’s without a doubt a very deserving member of the Hall of Fame, and he was one of the greatest players in the 2000’s, and I always knew he would be a Hall of Famer, but I didn’t think it would be this soon. That’s a pleasant surprise.
XE: Not at all surprised TMac made the HOF, he earned it, and it’s a nice departure to recognize greatness without resorting to “RINGZ” as an answer to a question that wasn’t asked. Also not surprised that Rudy T didn’t make it. He has been sort of disappeared from the NBA consciousness, except in Houston. If the Rockets were to make a deep run with an MVP, he might get recognized, odd as that sounds.
DY: I'm not too surprised that T-Mac made it... despite the lack of postseason success, the guy was one of the most talented players of his era. But I am very surprised that Rudy T did not. In fact, you can make the argument that Rudy T deserves it more than McGrady. The guy was a multiple-time All-Star as a player and though he wasn't elite, he was very, very good. But his coaching career, which has two NBA titles to his credit, should put him over the top. I think when you combine both careers, he undoubtedly deserves to get in, and his total body of work should have him as a no-brainer. At least he is in my book.
MC: No and no. The Basketball Hall of Fame is more lenient than some of it's contemporaries. I love me some T-Mac, but he came short from being an all-time great. I always theorize that McGrady could have been Kobe Bryant if he wanted to be. His seven All-Star Game selections and seven All-NBA selections put him right above contemporaries who will not be Hall of Famers, Jermaine O'Neal and Shawn Kemp both have six All-Star selections.
Rudy Tomjanovich has unfortunately been forgotten outside of Houston over the years. Even seasoned basketball fans often forget he coached the Rockets title teams. His playing career and coaching career certainly make him Hall of Fame worthy and the Rockets front office needs to wage a PR campaign (or additional one) on his behalf.