Making a return to the blog is our TDS Tuesday Roundtable. This week, our five panelists, Max Croes (MC), Ethan Rothstein (ER), Kelly Iko (KI), Xian E (XE), and Jeremy Brener (JB) play teacher and give our Rockets offseason report cards.
Feel free to give your grades and analysis in the comments below.
1. Grade the Chris Paul trade.
MC: A. Challenging the Warriors requires big moves. Patrick Beverley will be missed, but it's in the name of trying to win the Western Conference. Not ceding the league to the clear favorites.
ER: A-. Any trade in which Patrick Beverley goes from Houston to the Clippers can't be perfect. But the fact that the starting 5 remains intact except for the Pat-CP3 swap, Gordon and Capela are still in Houston and CP3 was in town before free agency started to help recruit a couple of other pieces were brilliant side benefits. But the main takeaway: a still-in-his-prime Hall of Fame-level player, and inarguably one of the five greatest point guards of all time, is in Houston playing alongside James Harden, a man who very well could be a two-time MVP right now if things were different.
KI: Is there anything greater than A+? Cause we need it, this was a home run for the Rockets. Anytime a future Hall-of-Famer is up for grabs you go get it. Except if you're the Brooklyn Nets. Initially, I thought we gave up a bit much. But after seeing the rest of the offseason play itself out, Daryl Morey and the gang were able to make up the losses and then some. The efficiency is about to go through the roof, and Houston already had an all-time top 10 offense last season. I'm still in the camp thinking part of the reason for Harden's no-show Game 6 was that he didn't have a dog like CP3 in his ear. If I'm Clint Capela, I'm calling up Deandre Jordan and asking him for all of his workouts from the past four years---seriously.
XE: The Chris Paul Phenomenon is something that I intellectually understand, and admire. Chris Paul himself is someone I intellectually understand and admire. But if you read my piece of a while back on Chris Paul coming to the Rockets, I’m conflicted. He’s always been a guy where I thought “It’s all there, everything you could want, and yet somehow, not.” There’s a chance that Paul sees this as his last real opportunity to help drive a team to a title as a crucial player.
I think Paul and Harden are two of the most intellectual players in the league, when it comes to seeing the game they operate above all but one or two players currently active. So it could be the best thing anyone has seen in Houston on offense, ever.
I would like Rockets culture to inform Chris Paul, rather than the other way around. I don’t want the Rockets to become like the Clippers were, whining all the time. James Harden may have that reputation, but he’s not like Paul in that respect. He tries to get calls, he doesn’t turn in his rendering of “King Lear” when he doesn’t get his way. So overall, I’m excited, but also a bit worried.
JB: At first, I was mad. I thought we traded away a lot for Chris Paul, including my favorite Rocket of all-time, Patrick Beverley. Now, I’m more understanding. This is a deal that could elevate the Rockets to the next level, given what Paul is projected to bring to the team. It still really hasn’t hit me that Chris Paul plays for the Rockets, my Rockets, and that Chris Paul.
It’ll hit me once he takes the floor with the team, playing in Houston, his new home, where he belongs.
Morey is doing whatever it takes to win, and for that, he gets an A.
2. Grade the P.J. Tucker signing.
MC: C+. Love the signing for the upcoming season. Houston needed and got a quality wing defender who can shoot some threes. But securing Tucker required a four year commitment which expires when the forward is 36. An age induced decline in Tucker's play would precipitously change the way this deal looks.
ER: A+. At that money, Tucker is a steal. Thanks, terrible 2016 contracts! (Ryan Anderson included.) He's the PERFECT fit in the spot behind Trevor Ariza, the kind of player that a coach would actually trust to spell Trevor for longer than a few minutes here. He's the best bench defender the Harden-era Rockets ever had, and he'll be playing alongside the new No. 2, Eric Gordon. Tucker can play small-ball 4, guard Klay Thompson while Ariza takes Durant and Harden takes Draymond, or Swiss Army Knife his way into other roles and lineups. He was basically the ideal bench signing.
KI: A. The fact that he actually took less money to join us shows his commitment to winning and says a lot about the culture we've built. I actually wanted him before he left to Toronto, long been a fan of his game. A Harden buzzer beater aside, Tucker is a great defensive pickup and will added some needed toughness to this team. He's also a capable shooter, and one of the league's best from either corner. With him along with Ariza and Luc, we now how three wings who can switch any pick and roll, which is key to defending the Great Wall of Golden State.
XE: Excellent signing. A. The Rockets add toughness, a guy people in the league genuinely don’t want to mess with, and a guy who can defend from SG to small ball fours. If his 3pt shooting holds out, he’s aces for this team. His age doesn’t really matter as the Rockets are in “win now” mode with Paul anyway.
JB: He gives the Rockets a defensive identity. His friendship with Chris Paul helps the team’s chemistry, and the Rockets got him on a reasonable deal. I doubt he makes it all four years in Houston, but he’s a good get for now, while the Rockets’ championship window is open.
3. Grade the signings of Tarik Black, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Troy Williams as a whole.
MC: B. Houston desperately needs players to eat minutes in the regular season and lighten the load on Houston's stars so they're not exhausted for the playoffs... again.
ER: B+. If Nene's re-signing were lumped in here, it'd be an easy A. While Rockets fans pined for Tarik Black after Daryl Morey cut him over Joey Dorsey a few years back, it's not like he's been burning it up in Los Angeles. He'll be an OK third big, but he's probably unplayable in the playoffs. LMAM is a great piece who may or may not be in Houston a year too late to help. Troy Williams is a real live NBA player who won't get minutes this year and his contract is non-guaranteed after this year. I'm really happy all of them are in Houston. But you don't get an A on moves that will likely (hopefully) have very little impact on making the very-good-to-great jump the Rockets are eyeing.
KI: B+. We signed Mbah a Moute for the VET'S MINIMUM. Andre Roberson just got paid 10$ million and he does less for the Thunder! Also spells some of the notion that CP3 was hated in ClipperTown. JJ Reddick would have even come here too, if not for an assured starting spot in Philly. We get to bring Tarick back who played quite well in LA last year, and only has to be a third center here, as a relieve pitcher for Nene/Capela. Morey and D'Antoni liked what Troy Williams brought on last year, and seeing his most recent Summer League stint, he could be even more productive for us than Sam Dekker. Good, good business.
XE: All great signings. Mbah a Moute was essentially a free gift. He’s a guy who can defend 3 and 4s and also brings a physicality. Trevor Ariza doesn’t have to do it all alone. Again, if his shooting from last year is real, the Rockets pose significant problems, Troy Williams is one for the future, and brings the athleticism the Rockets may be lacking. His summer league showing was superb, just what you want from a second year guy.
Tarik Black was a player I wish the Rockets had never let go - another casualty of Chris Bosh, along with Lin (who would have been nice to have around). He’s smart, tough, and somewhat versatile. He’ll make up in some respects for losing Harrell, though he is a finished product, and Trezl still has significant upside.
I also like the Demetrius Jackson signing, a borderline first round player with great scoring ability (if little else at this point).
Also, I’m high on Qi. In my usual way of looking at things, what he’s good at is valuable already (being super tall, being more mobile than you’d expect at his height, shooting), so to me that’s more important than what he’s not good at.
JB: B+. The Rockets’ third team is comparable to most team’s benches, and that’s a sign of a championship contender. Every man 1-15 can contribute. Mbah a Moute will get the most playing time out of all of them, and he’s an underrated signing as a defensive contributor. He can guard a team’s best scorer when on the floor, and do it well. It’s the reason he was a starter the past two seasons in Los Angeles. That was the best signing of the three. Black and Williams can give some of the veterans (Ariza, Nene) nights off, and that could be huge in the long run.
4. Grade the team's summer league performance.
ER: B-. Troy Williams and Isaiah Taylor were obvious standouts, and Zhou Qi and Isaiah Hartenstein showed flashes of potential. But the team lost in the first round of the tournament and then lost again in the consolation game. Their best performance was against the Suns and their trifecta of top-10 picks, where the Rockets won and Wiliams, Taylor and Zhou all had great games. But the squad largely underwhelmed, particularly the one player who should have shined above all others, Chinanu Onuaku. It might have been the most damaging week of his professional career to date.
KI: D-. Uhh yuck. Zhou Qi must have suffered some extreme jet lag, because his shot lacked all legs. We knew what Troy Williams and Chinanu would give us, it was more for the new guys +Isaiah Taylor. Some dunks and blocked shots aside, it was basically a meh. Not the usual Rocket high flying summer league we've been accustomed to, that's for sure.
XE: Grade - D. I didn’t think much of it. Troy Williams and Isaiah Taylor were solid and a couple prospects came out to play but it shouldn’t affect the Rockets much in the upcoming season.
JB: C. Troy Williams played his way into a three-year deal and Isaiah Taylor played his way into a likely roster spot. Those were successes. Other than that, not much else to cheer on. Zhou Qi and Isaiah Hartenstein played how we thought they would. They showed flashes of potential, but clearly showed they are not ready for the NBA game yet.
5. Grade the offseason as a whole.
MC: B+. Love all the moves, but there's still legitimate concerns about this group gelling. Paul George was such a perfect fit his acquisition would have been an A+.
ER: A+. With the afore-mentioned moves, the flexibility of the roster moving forward, the position the Rockets are in in the 'Melo sweepstakes — the only option 'Melo has given the Knicks, and therefore sitting in the catbird seat — and the fact that the Cavaliers and Spurs have taken one (or more) steps back, Houston is the clear-cut choice for second-place in the NBA, which is all the Rockets could have hoped for going into the offseason, considering the roster they already had.
KI: This offseason as a whole is an A for me. The Rockets got deeper, tougher, better, and might not even be done yet. With Carmelo been heavily linked day in and night, it seems only a matter of time before the Rockets roll out three superstars on opening night. We are all on Burt Watch.
XE: Grade - A maybe A+ - Rockets acquired a Hall of Fame player whose skills have thus far shown few to no signs of slipping. They addressed their weaknesses and turned them into strengths. I’m still not sure who the backup PF really is, though.
JB: Incomplete. The Rockets certainly improved with a few shrewd signings and a once-in-lifetime trade for CP3, but whether or not they get Carmelo Anthony will finalize what the grade will be. If Melo comes to Clutch City, then the Rockets will get an A+. If not, it’s probably a B+. If Morey can’t close on a deal for Melo after all this talk of him coming to Houston, it will be a damper on the great offseason they have had.