Welcome back to Five Out, my weekly whirl around the NBA, with a Rockets slant. In today’s Five Out we learn that NBA teams are tanking pre-season, just to be sure.
1 - The Preying Mantis
I wasn’t clear on what all the Wemby fuss was about. Then I watched the first NBA Showcase game in Las Vegas. 7 made threes, on a good percentage. 7’4”, moves like Ralph Sampson (or for younger readers, Kevin Durant), but shoots, and thinks the game like Yao Ming (Yes, I think if asked Yao could shoot the three, given time. Do you think JVG was ever going to ask?).
Right now, based on what we know, this is the most special player to enter the draft since Kevin Durant, or Lebron James. Take your pick.
Victor Wembanyama is definitely very tall and skinny, and thus always an injury risk (he’s picked up several already). He’s also got a frame that looks as though it will fill out with muscle to some extent. Whatever your feelings regarding risk for such a player, the upside is so blindingly high that he’s the first pick, barring something unfortunate.
2 - To The Spoiled Goes The Victor?
How soon is too soon to tank? Apparently it’s not too soon to let your loser flag fly in pre-season, if Victor Wembanyama is at stake. All the buzz around the league is about the race, and I do mean race, to the bottom. How many bizarre injuries will OKC concoct? It remains to be seen.
Except...the odds are now flat-ish. Tanking isn’t what it once was, which is why the smart teams are tanking, but also spraying picks in the first round. Lighting is mostly likely to strike in the top of the draft, but after that? Make a lot of picks.
Here are the odds from last season, where the Rockets had the worst record:
Where do you think the Rockets finish, in terms of badness this year? I think it’s fifth from the bottom. That’s roughly a one in ten chances of getting the #1 pick. Many people will focus on how the odds improve by X% over what they were, by being worse. (It’s an almost 50% better chance if you’re worst, versus 5th worst!) That’s fine, but somewhat misleading, yes, it’s a better chance, relatively speaking, but it’s still terrible odds objectively.
There’s something both freeing, and depressing, about setting a course to be bad before the season even begins.
3 - Setting The Market
Here are some Per36 stat lines with a couple of other stats thrown in (slight rounding):
1 - 18pts/5rbs/7ast/1.3stl/38% 3pt - 53%TS/24%USG (~22)
2 - 23pts/5.5rbs/4.4ast/.07stl/40%3pt - 56%TS/29%USG (~23)
3 - 22pts/4rbs/5ast/1stl/36%3pt - 60%TS/26%USG (~23)
4 - 16pts/4rbs/3ast/1stl/39%3pt - 57%TS/18%USG (24)
Perhaps you can guess who these players are?
Player #2 is Tyler Herro, who just got extended for four seasons at over $130 million.
Player 4 is Kevin Huerter, who got a four year deal averaging around $17 million per season from Sacramento.
Player #1 is Kevin Porter Jr.
Player #3 is Jordan Poole.
To my mind these are very similar players. Is Herro roughly twice as valuable as Huerter? The points are higher for Herro, but his usage is close to 30%, and Huerter’s is 18%. Except for Poole all have good size, but KPJ throws a lot more assists (and turnovers) into the mix, and is at least a plausible initiator.
Jordan Poole is looking for a deal, and maybe arguing about who gets The Final Bag from Golden State? Maybe? Draymond punched him, because he’s Draymond? Personally I’d love to see the Warriors pay $450 million per season. It’s not my money. Poole would almost certainly have his eye on the Herro contract. Does Kevin Porter Jr?
Anyone who thinks Kevin Porter Jr. is taking $10 million a season is probably dreaming.
4 - A Complete Team?
The Houston Rockets are a far more complete team than last season. There are players who at least make sense at every position. The Christian Wood Experience has now gone to Dallas, and maybe he’ll be useful with a clear, no doubt, you need to be quiet now, Christian, #1 player in Luka Doncic? At any rate, everyone seems will to set a pick, and take on their defensive help assignment.
Now Alperen Sengun is at center, and there are interesting backups on the roster, from the young (Garuba, Fernando) to the seasoned (Favors, Cauley-Stein). The Rockets have defensively adept players at the 4 and 5 spots in Tari Eason and Jabari Smith, and plausible backups, as well. Both Bari&Tari have good size, and while one looks like he can shoot as well as promised, the other is dangerous attacking the basket.
Don’t be surprised if the Rockets still look young, and oft times confused and inept, but overall much, much, better.
5 - The Expanse
The NBA seems to be signaling its intention to expand into two obvious markets: Seattle, and Las Vegas. Lebron James has personally requested a team in Las Vegas from Adam Silver. He might have enough money to be a significant owner, and could probably raise enough from an investor group to have the controlling stake. It’s good to be the king.
Seattle stands as the largest metropolitan area in the US not to have a team. The Supersonics were taken away from scurrilous reasons in one of, to my belief, the worst mistakes, and episodes of David Stern’s NBA regime. Las Vegas is a growing city that has shown strong support for two pro teams, and has a built in attendance booster from visitors.
Given the amounts being bandied about for the Phoenix Suns (over four billion, with a “B”), the time is right to expand, from an owners perspective. From the level of talent in the NBA, it’s fairly clear the league can sustain another 30 roster spots without too much trouble.
So while we’re doing this, adding two obvious Western Conference teams, can we please move the likes of Memphis and Minneapolis or New Orleans out of the West? I never, when I think of the western USA have ever, once, thought of Memphis or Minneapolis. Nice towns, but not the West.
Will the Rockets Wemba in the end?
This poll is closed
I believe in miracles.
I believe in NBA conspiracies.
He won’t be in Dallas, anyway.
But he’ll probably be in San Antonio.