[HoopsAnalyst] Thoughts on the Rockets

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by durvasa, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. durvasa

    durvasa Contributing Member

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    A lengthy write up on the Rockets, including discussion on Adelman and McGrady.

    http://hoopsanalyst.com/0708qt10.htm

    [rquoter]
    It's really hard to explain and contextualize this amazing Rocket run. The Rockets are a good team and have been in the 50-win range for the last few years but this 22-game winning streak makes no sense. As we noted last season, almost any team that ever strung together an 18-game winning streak won a title. In fact, before 2006-07, only one team with at least a 16-game winning streak didn't make it to the conference finals (the Mavs and Suns proceeded to get bounced in the first and second round respectively). Houston is a good team but they do not seem to fit in the company of all these other winners. The Rockets have one star with T-Mac (and two if Yao Ming was still healthy) and some depth but this is not the roster that you'd associate with a title contender. This raises all sorts of questions that I'd thought we'd take a little close at this streak and see if we learn anything deeper:

    Is this streak a fluke?

    Since only one other team has won this many in a row in the history in the NBA, you have to think it's hard to do this based primarily upon luck. The schedule has been favorable (only seven road games) and they've only played seven teams that can be considered upper tier teams (i.e. top nine in the West and top four in the East). On the other hand, the Rockets have thoroughly crushed the opposition. They've have had only three wins during the streak of less than eight points (a four-point win over the Warriors to start the streak, a six-point win at Minnesota, and a two-point win over Kings). Moreover, the "challenge" games have gone quite well. The Rockets crushed both New Orleans and Dallas (sans a suspended Dirk Nowitzki) on the road. But even beating 22 scrubby teams in a row is almost unprecedented.


    How are the Rockets doing this?

    If I told you before the season that the Rockets were on a pace to win 55-60 games, you wouldn't have been surprised. But the team that is running the table is not that same Yao-based team it was coming into the season. This is just good basketball team, with only one "true" star and even his star qualifications are dubious. I'm not first to investigate the streak and last week John Hollinger correctly identified that Luis Scola and Carl Landry have helped the depth quite a bit. Rafer Alston has also played much better. Here are the stats for the Rockets' key players the last month, which accounts for about half of the streak, juxtaposed with the seasonal averages, which are in parentheses:

    -Luis Scola: 12.4 ppg, .519 FG%,7.9 rpg, 1.5 apg (9.3 ppg, .516 FG%, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 apg)

    -Rafer Alston: 16.6 ppg, .427 FG%, 4.3 rpg, 6.1 apg (13.0 ppg, .406 FG%, 3.6 rpg, 5.6 apg)

    -Tracy McGrady: 24.4 ppg, .455 FG%, 4.9 rpg, 6.1 apg (22.0 ppg, .439 FG%, 5.0 rpg, 5.6 apg)

    -Shane Battier: 10.6 ppg, .433 FG%, 5.7 rpg, 2.8 apg (9.1 ppg, .431 FG%, 5.1 rpg, 2.0 apg)

    -Luther Head: 8.2 ppg, .471 FG%, 2.0 rpg, 2.2 apg (7.8 ppg, .434 FG%, 1.7 rpg, 1.9 apg)

    -Carl Landry: 12.1 ppg, .683 FG%, 5.8 rpg, 0.3 apg (8.5 ppg, .633 FG%, 5.0 rpg, 0.5 apg)

    So, we have a definite up-tick by every member of the team's core, though we see no mind boggling improvements. You can't single any one player out for praise but power forward (Scola, Landry, and Chuck Hayes), in total, has added up to one All-Star level player. Throw in that McGrady is playing a bit better and Alston has raised his game to pretty good from below average and you have a good team.


    What about Adelman?

    On Friday, Peter Vecsey wrote a nice article crediting Adelman for stabilizing the Rockets and being, perhaps, the most underrated coach of All-Time. It's interesting, Adelman's perception has never been as a great coach. Adelman started his career in Portland and in his first full season of 1989-90 turned a theoretically talented team into an NBA Finalist. The Blazers went to two Finals under Adelman and won 63 games in 1990-91 but he was always perceived to be a push button coach, i.e., put in the talented guys and sat back and watched them play. When the Blazers began to age, Adelman was fired after a 47-35 season in 1993-94 (his worst record as a Blazer coach).

    It was true that Adelman was blessed to inherit Terry Porter, Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey, Buck Williams, and Kevin Duckworth (the young thinner version), not to mention a rookie Clifford Robinson. But Adelman definitely did something right. The Blazers were tenth and fourteenth in points allowed per possession in 1987-88 and 1988-89. In Adelman's first full three seasons in Portland, the defense greatly improved to fourth, third, and second respectively in points allowed per possession. Adelman has never been known as a defensive coach but he deserves some credit for this turnaround. Still, the lasting moments of those old Blazer teams were disappointing. In 1990-91, they had the NBA's best record only to be upset by the Lakers in the Conference Finals after Robinson threw the ball away on a four-one-one fast break with minutes left in Game 5 of the series. In 1991-92, the Blazers were handled by the Bulls. The Blazers played the Bulls tougher than people remember but the series ended bitterly when Portland blew an 18-point second half lead to the Bulls' bench. The Adelman Blazers didn't win another playoff series 1991-92.

    After a year off, Adelman went to the Warriors and suffered through two nightmare seasons. The Warriors were in disarray as an internal revolt by Chris Webber and a few others got Don Nelson canned in 1994-95. Adelman came into this still toxic environment in 1995-96 and fared little better. The talented offensive team went 36-46 that first year and followed it up with a 30-52 record in 1996-97 before being fired after the season. The Warriors had some useful players in those days (Latrell Sprewell, Joe Smith, Rony Seikaly, Tim Hardaway, Chris Gatling) but couldn't (or wouldn't) defend. Adelman also opted to bench Hardaway for the middling B.J. Armstrong, a decision that looks really bad in retrospect (Hardaway was coming off of injury but would soon return to star form in Miami). Hardaway, however, wasn't a very sympathetic figure. According to Shaun Powell in a 1996 article for The Sporting News, Hardaway forced a trade in less-than-classy ways:

    "Hardaway's campaign started December 12, when he was benched by Warriors Coach Rick Adelman in favor of B.J. Armstrong, who didn't exactly wrestle the job away from Hardaway. Adelman thought the offense would run smoother under Armstrong. What Adelman didn't anticipate was that his relationship with Hardaway would get rockier.

    Hardaway rebelled. He cursed assistant Rod Higgins, who was once Hardaway's best buddy, and took a swing at Higgins. He sulked on the bench. He told the team back in January that he wanted to be traded. The front office had no intentions of signing Hardaway, a free agent this summer, for next season. But they figured keeping him this season was worth it, because the team could use his $3.6 million salary to spend in the free-agent shopping spree. That is, until Hardaway committed a pair of flagrant acts.

    First, he re-ignited a feud with a spirited exchange February 14 with teammate Latrell Sprewell in a game against the Celtics, and the two had to be separated. That helped Hardaway's cause, because the team wants to resign Sprewell and wants him as happy as possible. Then, three days before the deadline, he refused to enter a game against the Mavericks, called Adelman 'a liar' and said their relationship had turned personal. Presto -- Hardaway [was traded] to Miami."

    So, Golden State was a mess for Adelman. It was a very difficult situation for any coach (as his successor in Golden State, P.J. Carelsimo can attest to) but Adelman left the Warriors 1997 without proving that he was a primary driver of the good Portland team's engine.

    Adelman took another season off before getting another job, this time with the Sacramento Kings in 1998-99. Adelman's run in Sacramento was arguably even better than his time in Portland. The Kings were a completely dead franchise when Adelman came to town. But Adelman didn't come to town alone. The Kings acquired Chris Webber for an aging Mitch Richmond, signed Vlade Divac, and drafted a couple of rookies named Jason Williams and Peja Stojakovic.

    It's true that Adelman was giving a nice team to work with but he also did a nice job of getting valuable minutes out of the bench. In particular, he helped develop Jon Barry, Scot Pollard, Lawrence Funderburke, and Hedo Turkoglu. The team came close to a title after the blew a 3-2 lead to the Lakers based upon some bad calls and a miracle shot by Robert Horry in Game 6 and a more conventional choke job, at home, in Game 7. The Kings were very likely to beat the Nets in the Finals if they just could've squeezed by L.A.. Alas, it wasn't meant to be for the Kings. They were almost as good in 2002-03 but Chris Webber blew out his knee in the playoffs and both he and the Kings were never quite as a good again. Adelman's team made the playoffs the next three seasons but weren't a really serious threat again. The Kings let Adelman go after 2005-06 feeling that it was time to start over. This time, Adelman left the Kings with a strong reputation, if not at the level of the superstar coach types.

    The entire pre-Rocket Adelman coaching careers is probably not quite Hall of Fame level. Adelman teams were characterized by an ability to play well together almost immediately and an ability to exploit depth. The teams also were remarkably consistent, both the Blazers and Kings had long streaks of 50-win seasons. Whether by luck or because of some fatal flaw, however, the teams never got over the hump. It's hard to know how much credit Adelman deserves for doing well with very talented teams but the fact that he's doing the same thing now with the Rockets definitely helps his case.


    How much credit does T-Mac get?

    As noted above, McGrady is still the best player on the team but he is not quite the player he was. It's hard to understate how good McGrady was in his first few seasons in Orlando. In 2002-03, T-Mac basically had a season that fits right into Michael Jordan's prime, 32.1 ppg, .457 FG%, 6.0 rpg, 5.5 apg. Since coming to the Rockets, McGrady has been an All-Star but not as good as the Orlando player. That is to be expected because the Magic had little in the way of alternatives. While T-Mac was taking 22.1 shots per 36 minutes in 2002-03, the number dipped down to 18.8 in his first year with the Rockets (the lowest of his post-Toronto career). The shots are also low 19.1 per 36 minutes this year.

    Another odd area of decline for T-Mac is in three-point shooting per 36 minutes. Check the numbers since he first became a go to guy in Orlando:

    Year 3s/3s att pct.
    2000-01 0.7-1.9 .355
    2001-02 1.3-3.5 .364
    2002-03 2.1-5.5 .386
    2003-04 2.3-6.9 .339
    ----(traded to Houston)-----
    2004-05 1.6-4.9 .326
    2005-06 1.5-4.8 .312
    2006-07 1.8-5.4 .331
    2007-08 1.5-4.6 .314


    McGrady shot between 35% and 38% his first three years in Orlando. Then, in McGrady's last season in Orlando, his three point shots popped up but his accuracy fell to .339%. At that time, it seemed that McGrady was chucking because the team was so bad and he was desperate to score and that he had lost the urge to create shots in traffic. Since then, it has been all down hill from three, even thought he isn't shooting as many threes. Conversely, McGrady's ability to get to the line has also slid. On both Orlando and Houston, McGrady had been steady at 6 or 7 free throws attempted per 36 minutes. This year, McGrady's 5.3 free throw attempts per 36 minutes is his worst since 1998-99 and he is shooting a career worst .686% from the line.

    It's hard to know why McGrady has declined at a prime age. I know McGrady has had chronic back woes and that may be the reason for the decline from three AND the line. Still through all this, McGrady is the Rocket's most important player. The power forward solution, in aggregate, equals a very good player but there is something to be said for having a star to rely on for points every night. Moreover, McGrady's numbers the last month fit pretty well into his Orlando years. Hopefully, he can keep it up this year and in the future. But the truth is that there is no basis for McGrady as MVP candidate at this point in the season. The Rockets are just like the Adelman Blazers and Kings. They've got some stars (Drexler and Webber) but they never had the best guy, just very good and deep teams.


    When will this streak end?

    It's a tough week for the Rockets. They have the Celts on Tuesday and then go on a road trip to New Orleans, Golden State, and Phoenix. The Rockets easily could lose any of these four games but I think the first loss will come on the road in New Orleans, which has the defense up front to neutralize Scola and Company.

    [/rquoter]
     
  2. onethreeeleven

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    Or, since the other team to do this was perhaps one of the best teams of all time, this may have something to do with skill too. Perhaps even primarily so.
     
  3. onethreeeleven

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    Wow I misread that. I've been pissed off at all the disrespect lately.
     
  4. pmac

    pmac Contributing Member

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    I don't think we're as deep as everyone is starting to think, we just play harder and play team basketball.

    The analysis was dead on though...
     
  5. Felixthecat

    Felixthecat Contributing Member

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    Ha....More wood and gas for my fire!!! This one is pretty funny!! How? Why? who? OMG? Why were we ALL WRONG!!! Please Sports analyst GODS!!! Give us the power to be right!!! when does it end God??? When does it end!!! Just enjoy the ride Biaaaatttccches!!!
     
  6. roflmcwaffles

    roflmcwaffles Member

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    The article is right on all counts but fails to mention the REASON FOR THE WINS is our defense.

    Our defense has picked up, I read I think on ESPN that our efficiency has gone from 99.7 to 97.8 and during the streak we are 95.1 (Boston has a 95.8 for the season, next best season after us is around 98.

    Its been why we are blowing people our, our offense has been flowing but its all about that defense.
     
  7. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Contributing Member

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    Probably because he's one of those guys who only looks at scoring. His analysis of T-Mac is almost entirely based around scoring stats, completely failing to take into account that while he's a less consistent scorer than he was, he now has a much more controlled game than he ever had. He's scoring less but he's making his teammates better.
     
  8. pmac

    pmac Contributing Member

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    yeah he's gotten better at getting others involved but he's not far off, Tracy was a much better player before the back problems.
     
  9. Rhay1

    Rhay1 Member

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    I am impressed that T-Mac is finally getting his due. People are finally realizing what it takes to play this type of sport with chronic back problems. Here is an article which should keep all the T-Mac haters (You know who you are09
     
  10. Rhay1

    Rhay1 Member

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    I am impressed that T-Mac is finally getting his due. People are finally realizing what it takes to play this type of sport with chronic back problems. Here is an article which should keep all the T-Mac haters (You know who you are) in their holes.

    T-Mac, you deserve all the accolades you're receiving now!

    :cool:

    -----------------------------------------------------------
    His Rockets are in the middle of a historic 18-game winning streak and haven't missed a beat since Yao Ming's season came to an unceremonious end. They are a mere 1.5 games from 1st place in the powerful Western Conference, the strongest conference in recent memory. But Tracy Mcgrady is far from having seen that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. That won't happen until his team wins a playoff series. So, just who is Tracy Mcgrady? Does he fit the cliched mode of an underachieving talent? Or is he one of the greatest players this league has ever seen? A closer look at the player reveals that he indeed is closer to the latter than the former.



    Tracy Mcgrady is, statistically, one of the greatest playoff performers in the history of the NBA. Mcgrady outshined Vince Carter in the 2000 postseason, when he first made a name for himself by playing tough defense. In the 2001 postseason, he averaged 34, 8 and 7. The following postseason, he averaged 31, 6 and 6. In the 2003 postseason, he averaged 32, 5 and 7 before falling in 7 games to the upstart Pistons, who would win the championship 1 year later. In 2005, he averaged 31, 7, and 7 before falling in 7 to the Mavericks. Last year, he averaged 29, 7 and 6 before falling in 7 to the Jazz, the 2nd best team in the West, and the team that played the Spurs the toughest. He has averaged well over 1 steal and 1 block in career playoff games as well. Indeed, only a select few have had higher overall career playoff averages. Mcgrady has historically stepped up his game in the big stage. There is no doubt in my mind that, had he stayed in the Eastern Conference, or had better luck and / or teammates, he would have made several deep postseason runs by now.



    The verdict, as of right now, 11 years into Mcgrady's hall of fame career, is that his shortcomings are physical, not mental. And by physical, I mean his infamous lower back.



    When his back is healthy, Mcgrady is clearly the second best guard in the world, after Kobe Bryant. On some nights, his talent would even make him the best guard in the world. Mcgrady is, historically, one of the league's most productive 4th quarter players, and, when healthy, has hit game breaking shots at as high a rate, if not higher, than his rival, Kobe Bryant. Mcgrady wants that shot and doesn't shy away from it, and I challenge any reader out there to point out specifically when he has choked in the postseason. Far from it, as I have already pointed out: Mcgrady's issues are not psychological.



    When his back is healthy, Mcgrady is unstoppable in his forages to the rim, and his length and creativity allow him to finish. He isn't as compact and explosive as his counterpart, Kobe. He isn't as powerful a finisher as Lebron. He doesn't attack the rim as often as Dwyane Wade. But he is extremely deceptive with his moves, often using fakes to rock his defender the wrong direction. His hands are big enough to cup the ball effortlessly, and his left hand is as good as there is in the game.



    Mcgrady is actually a better passer than Kobe Bryant in a half-court set. Part of this stems from the fact that he stands 2 inches taller and can see over double teams. He seems to have marginally better court vision as well, often finding the open cutter or a teammate off ball screens. It is amazing that, throughout the Houston years playing for offensively challenged Jeff Van Gundy, he averaged close to 6 assists a contest and found so many open teammates for layups. He is every bit the passer that Lebron James is, and an even better passer off the ball screen. His handles are impeccable, probably the best handles of anyone 6'8 or taller in the world.



    Mcgrady isn't quite the open court player that Bryant, James, and Wade are, and he has to work harder for his buckets. Not only does he get less easy baskets off the fast break, but he settles more for the long jump shot. However, this has more to do with his ailing back (and narrower frame) than with anything else, because he is such a different player when healthy.



    Back in the 2002-2003 season, people were debating who was the best guard, and possibly the best player, in the world, Kobe Bryant or Tracy Mcgrady. While it is clear who won that argument, it isn't like Mcgrady has forgotten how to ball since then, even though many detractors will have you believe that Mcgrady has taken steps backwards in his game.



    Mcgrady had all of Kobe's moves on offense: the turn-around, rocker step, fadeaway, bank shot, step through, sky hook, the three ball, you name it. In fact, even today, only Mcgrady and Bryant are “complete” offensive players, meaning that they have a counter to every move. Lebron James needs work on his fadeaway when pushed out, Wade needs to learn to finish at the rim going left, and shooting in general, Iverson isn't very effective shooting the pullup going right, Carmelo can add some range and a left hand, and everyone else isn't close. Mcgrady isn't as efficient overall as Kobe, nor is he as relentless, and his defense isn't at an All-NBA level, and these factors separate the two. But Mcgrady actually makes offense look easier and more effortless, when he draws multiple defenders and sets up an open layup, when he runs the pick and roll with Yao, when he lulls defenders to sleep and strikes from deep – many times he has you scratching your head wondering if he is indeed more talented than that other guy, Bryant.



    But back injuries have limited Mcgrady from playing to his full potential. Anyone with chronic back pain and / or spasms know the cancerous effects of them. While you can continue playing, you are less effective. You cannot help but settle for that outside jumper more and more. This isn't some ankle or even knee injury that heals itself, but rather a lifelong injury. People assume that you are playing at full strength, because you aren't sitting out for weeks at a time, but you are only a shell of your full self. This is the reason why over the years Mcgrady hasn't gone to the hole as much, and why he has had to work so hard for baskets.



    While the majority of the media, and even some former players, notably Charles Barkley, have called our Mcgrady's mental toughness in this regard, that he settles too much for the outside shot, I must humbly disagree that Mcgrady's problems aren't mental, but physical. He isn't a Vince Carter who doesn't train in the offseason, and he isn't Nick Anderson with some mental storm raining on his head. He isn't some one-dimensional scorer like Alex English or Carmelo Anthony, because he has a complete floor-game and handles the rock better than many starting point guards. Rather, he is a player who, as evidenced by his career playoff statistics and this recent win streak, puts his heart and soul out there as much as his ailing back would allow him to do so. Anyone who has watched him through the years would agree. And, when he is healthy, watch out.



    According to basketball-reference.com, Mcgrady's hall of fame probability currently stands at 86%, placing him 10th overall among active players and 61th overall historically. Another way of seeing this is that, Mcgrady, all 28 years old of him, has already accomplished enough to rank him 61st all-time and is virtually a lock for the Hall. He still has many, many good years ahead, and many chances to finally put to rest those first round demons that have haunted him.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/12349-NBA-The_Great_Tracy_McGrady-100308
     
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