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Houston Rockets - The Right Way To Be Bad?

The way is the way?

Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

If you read the game piece for the first Sacramento game (Friday, January 14th) this is an expanded version of that, with an extra suggestion for badness included.

There are three four main ways to be bad in the NBA.

One is the current Rockets way, to rebuild. To start over in the cycle of contention. The Rockets are acquiring young player, seeking to shed the contacts of veterans, looking mostly for young player development. The problem with this is, young players tend to be worse than experienced players. Often, much worse.

It’s useful to compare a rookie or young player with his peers, but being the best rookie is kind of like being the best cricket player in Iceland. Nice to be sure, but what’s that get you? Nothing much, because the peer group just isn’t that good.

The key isn’t the rookie season, it’s later seasons. Rookie performance is somewhat less predictive than you might imagine for future success. Sometimes a player is like Luka Doncic, starts off great, and then gets better (But how much better? Is growth an absolutely linear thing with an age cap, or are there sort of “major growth years” and they might come at 17 in some cases, or at 21 in others, based on training and competitive environment?) Sometimes a player is like Tyreke Evans, who starts off great and then gets generally worse.

Right now the Rockets have four promising rookies. That is a lot, by any team’s standards. It was probably shrewd to load up on picks in what looks to be another 2003 level NBA draft. That is, the sort of draft that produces Hall of Fame players, as well as many very good regulars.

The upcoming draft is regarded, currently, as a four or five player draft. We’ll see how that plays out by late spring, early summer, but what it does offer is several possibilities for big men, which is something the Rockets need. The Rockets could especially use either a PF/C type, who can also protect the rim, or a big swingman type to play SF/PF roles. The Positionless NBA isn’t so much positionless, so much as has seen a desire for players to have more than one role on the court. The desire for certain profiles in terms of height and athleticism hasn’t changed.

Hopefully this road the Rockets are upon will lead to good things. I suspect it will, as the Rockets have taken a lot of swings at the idea of drafting stars.

Two is to have plans to be a good team, and then suffer major injuries to star players, or some other catastrophe like a player refusing to show up for work, or not take simple health precautions. Perhaps a team lost a major player for other reasons - free agency, or trade demands. This is sad, and frustrating, if you’re a fan, but that’s really all. The plan may well have been sound, the team construction reasonable and fortune intervened to spoil the season.

Golden State suffered something like this, and ended up with a couple of high draft picks they are developing. Supposedly. It’s frightening to think of them with Lamelo Ball, but they don’t have Lamelo Ball. The desire, as we can see from the Kings, and Suns, and even Warriors, to draft the dominant big man remains strong, even in the New NBA. It’s worth noting that the NBA’s two best big men were either drafted 1-1, or later in the second round. Which tells us what, exactly?

Three is where the Sacramento Kings and their long-suffering fans have been for, well, a really, really, long time. Not a long time in NBA punditry terms, a long time in “this is your life” terms. The team would like to be good. It isn’t. The plan isn’t working, the players, they’re often individually good considered individually, don’t work well together as a team. The coaching isn’t right. The front office is a problem rather than a support system. Draft picks are made when there were clear choices that seemed better at the time.

It’s hard to be in spot number three. Pour one out for Kings fans, who got finally rid of the goofy, incompetent Maloof Siblings, only to replace them with goofy, incompetent Vivek Ranadive.

Sometimes failure starts at the top.

Four is Development Hell. Also known as The Cycle of Mediocrity. These are teams that are always either on the edge of the playoffs, or in some bottom four slot, with aspirations of reaching the 4th seed.

Is this the worst place for your team to be? No. It’s not the best either, and its hard to break out. Even if your team just nails a draft pick or two (Damien Lillard, CJ McCollum) it needs to be able to build around that. Every team has, generally, the same spending power (though the Nets and Warriors are going to test the boundaries of this in the tax). Don’t tell me Milwaukee is a more attractive destination than Portland, either. It’s possible to break out of this category, but it’s hard.

And do teams even want to? Because the next stop probably isn’t the top floor, it’s the basement. If you’ve got a solid, well-supported team that makes the playoffs, and provides some hope and a fun night out, how much do you want to risk that? Can your team support, or finances withstand it? Is Philly really that much better off than it would have been? Maybe. The risk is real, however, that you’re Orlando, and the rebuild is perpetual, with flashes of good players, and not much in between.


Which Bad Do You Prefer?

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  • 85%
    (85 votes)
  • 10%
    (10 votes)
  • 2%
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    (2 votes)
99 votes total Vote Now