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The Athletic: End-of-season Rockets report card: Evaluating Roster

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Clips/Roxfan, May 27, 2019.

  1. Clips/Roxfan

    Clips/Roxfan Member
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    End-of-season Rockets report card: Evaluating James Harden, Chris Paul and the rest of the roster


    [​IMG]
    By Kelly Iko May 23, 2019 [​IMG] 23 [​IMG]
    With the Rockets’ season over, ending in dramatic fashion once again, let’s evaluate their 2018-19 performances. Here, Kelly Iko grades the overall seasons (postseason included, when applicable) of players who finished the year on Houston’s roster. (Midseason acquisitions were judged solely on their time with the team.)

    James Harden (36.1 PTS, 6.6 REB, 7.5 AST): ★★★★★

    Coming off of his MVP-winning season in 2017-18, The Beard was reminded of “what’s next?” one of the mantras the Rockets live by. It’s quite hard to imagine outperforming a 30/5/8 season, but in 2019 Harden did all of that and then some. He maintained a good outside shooting year (.368 from 3 on an insane 13.2 attempts) to go along with a career-high from the free-throw line (.879). Perhaps even more impressive was his showing on defense. Part of the reason the Rockets tweaked their defensive switch-heavy scheme was because Harden is so adept at defending bigger players in the post, and he often fared well when sought out in isolation, or normal on-ball situations.



    There will always be those in the league who scoff at his style of play, but anyone within that organization will tell you Houston needed every one of his points. What Harden did offensively while his teammates were going through injuries hadn’t been seen since Michael Jordan. The 30-point consecutive game streak officially ended at 32, putting Harden second all time behind Wilt Chamberlain. He averaged a ridiculous 41.1 points a game during that streak, sandwiching some 50-point outbursts along the way.

    Teams threw every sort of defense they had at their disposal, trying to figure out ways to stop him. In the first round of the playoffs, the Utah Jazz took a page out of Milwaukee’s book, which worked for a bit. But Harden eventually figured out a solution, as he’s done time and time again.

    Chris Paul (15.6 PTS, 4.6 REB, 8.2 AST): ★★★ 1/2

    In year 14, the “Point God” continued to show signs of mortality. It has come in slow spurts, the hamstring, then the calf and elbow issues, but the inevitable decline from his All-NBA days is here.

    He’s coming off his lowest scoring season, and that isn’t the only area in which his game has declined. His 3-point shooting (.358) was its lowest in seven years, as was his usage rate (22.5). When the postseason rolled around, his scoring went up (17.0) despite his outside shooting plummeting (27.0). Take that number with a grain of salt, because oftentimes Paul would shoot low-percentage, contested looks late in the shot clock.

    At his best, however, he is still the cream of the crop of floor generals. All season he was able to razzle and dazzle in front of Toyota Center fans, finding Clint Capela for a lob or a no-look pass to any willing shooter. He’s a dog defensively, despite his size, and leaves nothing on the floor. It pained him greatly bowing out in the second round to Golden State, which partly explains the swift exit out of Toyota Center after Game 6.

    Moving forward, skeptics will point to his hefty $120 million that is owed, but there’s no realistic alternative where Houston gets better without him.

    Clint Capela (16.6 PTS, 12.7 REB, 1.4 AST): ★★★ 1/2

    The Swiss big man has improved every year he’s been in the league, and in 2018-19 he emerged as a legitimate starter and budding All-Star. He took steps to improve his conditioning after coming into training camp injured and a bit overweight. As a result, he saw a nearly six-minute jump in minutes (27.5 to 33.6), and Mike D’Antoni gave him a longer leash during the regular season.

    Capela worked on his free throws the entire summer, and it paid dividends as he made a 7 percent leap to .636. The knee injury that wasn’t disclosed for a while caused him to suffer defensively out of the gate, especially on switches. For about the first six weeks of the season, opposing guards were torching him on that end, an area in which he excelled the previous season.

    The biggest takeaway from his season was his lackluster performance against the Warriors in the playoffs. At times he looked absolutely unplayable. It got to a point where fans began to wonder if his services are even needed moving forward if he’s doomed to wilt against Golden State again. A summer of work, knowing he doesn’t have to worry about contract negotiations, should work in his favor. But there will always be doubts about him now until he actually disproves them in a playoff series against Steph Curry and company.
     
  2. Clips/Roxfan

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    Eric Gordon (16.2 PTS, 2.2 REB, 1.9 AST): ★★★★


    After much debate as to whether D’Antoni would bring Gordon off the bench or feature him in Houston’s three-guard attack, the former Sixth Man of the Year entrenched himself in the starting lineup. In one of the quirkier things in the league, Gordon averaged the same number of 3s (8.8) for the third season in a row.


    He maintained his steady shooting (.360) while his field-goal percentage dropped (.544 to .497). Perhaps the aspect of his game that wasn’t talked about enough but absolutely deserved more attention was his defense. In the postseason, Gordon was tasked with stopping Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell, and Gordon’s defense was arguably the most important factor in Houston’s dismantling of Utah in five games. Gordon was able to use his size, strength and lateral quickness to impose his will on the second-year guard. Against the Warriors, he was given different assignments, including Steph Curry and Draymond Green.


    Gordon is a solid contributor for a contender, and assuming Houston works an extension out, he should prove vital if the Rockets ever get over the Golden State hump.


    P.J.Tucker (7.3 PTS, 5.8 REB, 1.2 AST): ★★★


    Even though he’s yet to make an All-NBA defensive team, the 34-year-old Rocket is still one of the toughest defenders around. He attempted the highest number of looks from behind the arc (4.7) and still shot efficiently (.377). But as most teammates will tell you, it’s not his boxscore numbers that stand out. It’s the work behind the scenes that sets him apart from others in the league, and why he’s a critical piece of this roster. Diving for loose balls, seeking out the toughest matchups and doing whatever his team asks of him for victory are Tucker mainstays.


    You’d like to see him attempt more shots, especially when he has the opportunities, but Tucker is unselfish almost to a fault. He also adds a different dimension to the lineup when he plays at center, in the Tuckwagon lineup.


    Iman Shumpert (4.6 PTS, 2.3 REB, 1.1 AST): ★★


    I feel like Shumpert wasn’t given enough run in the rotation. Since arriving at the deadline, his transition was hampered by a nagging knee injury and Houston’s already set depth chart. His time in Sacramento saw his 3-point shot return (.366), but his percentage plummeted as a Rocket (.296). Defensively he showed promise in spurts, using his quickness and savvy to get around screens and stay in front of his man, but on more than one occasion he would get lost in transition and make mistakes. His shot selection at times was puzzling, opting to take a one-dribble midrange pull-up rather than the open 3, much to the ire of D’Antoni (think Melo). Perhaps an offseason with the group will allow for more minutes and more cohesiveness.


    Nene Hilario (3.6 PTS, 2.9 REB, 0.6 AST): ★★


    The 16-year veteran big man really showed his age at times, often too slow to keep up with the fast-paced game and unable to win rebounding battles. However, his toughness still bodes well for his time on the floor and was the reason D’Antoni went with him in certain matchups. Nene is still a high-IQ player and sees the floor well for a center. His passing is well above average, but at this point, you have to wonder if he wants to go through another grueling season. His knees and shoulders have given him problems for a while now, and he longs for more family time. We’ll see if the Brazilian returns for a 17th season.


    Gerald Green (9.2 PTS, 2.5 REB, 0.5 AST): ★★ 1/2


    The Houston native truly takes advantage of every minute he’s on the floor, averaging an incredible six 3s in the 20 minutes he’s given. He’s still a good enough shooter from deep (.354) to warrant run, but his defense has always been an issue and really showed in the postseason. It’s a big reason most of his stats went down in that period, he just wasn’t good enough to justify keeping him out there. As your 10th or 11th man in a rotation, he’s fine. His 3s ignite Toyota Center, and his infectious energy runs through his teammates and the organization. But he’s also getting up there in age, and the Rockets would do well to ease him out.


     
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  3. Clips/Roxfan

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    Isaiah Hartenstein (1.9 PTS, 1.7 REB, 0.5 AST): ★★★★


    Don’t let the numbers fool you, Hartenstein had a great season for what he was asked to do. When the team was going through a big-man crisis, he stepped up when his number was called, playing solid defense, smart half-court offense and added a 3-ball to boot. In his spare time, Hartenstein picked up a G-League championship and Finals MVP. This summer, he’s been the first Rocket in the gym every day, working on his game and preparing for a real shot at the rotation.


    Gary Clark (2.9 PTS, 2.3 REB, 0.4 AST): ★★


    The lengthy Bearcat impressed early on after going undrafted, enough so to move him ahead of Carmelo Anthony in the rotation. It’s the unspoken cause of Anthony’s demise in Houston. After playing well enough to earn a multi-year deal, however, Clark’s game hit the rookie wall. His 3-point shooting has always been an issue since his Cincinnati days, and it carried over into his first season (.297). However, he possesses incredible defensive intangibles, made some key stops in the regular season and showed promise. He should get another crack at playing time after the offseason work.


    Kenneth Faried (12.9 PTS, 8.2 REB, 0.7 AST): ★★ 1/2


    The Manimal enjoyed a revival season after being in basketball purgatory in Brooklyn. He brought his insane energy and knack for rebounding along with crowd-pumping plays, and sprinkled in a 3-point shot. His lack of size worked against him, and his defensive shortcomings kept him off the floor in the postseason. But at this point, you know what you’re getting from a 6-foot-6 center. Faried played fairly well in his time as a Rocket and could earn some sort of payday elsewhere, as he likely won’t return to Houston.


    Austin Rivers (8.7 PTS, 1.9 REB, 2.3 AST): ★★★


    Another player who enjoyed a career revival, Rivers brought a swagger every time he stepped on the floor. He was able to mesh well off the ball when sharing the floor with Paul, Gordon or Harden, and he was capable of creating his own offense when needed. Rivers was adept at ball handling, but his 3-point shot could use some work (.321). He deferred more than he needed to but brought full-fledged effort defensively. I felt he should have played more in the Golden State series, but Rivers did himself no disservice with the Rockets.


    Danuel House (9.4 PTS, 3.6 REB, 1.0 AST): ★★★


    House was a diamond in the rough for Houston and credit to the organization’s scouting department. His skill set fits the Rockets’ scheme like a glove — a 6-foot-7 forward who can guard multiple positions and hit the outside shot. His range (.416 on 4.6 attempts per game) only adds to his quality, and once you throw in his athleticism, it’s hard not to fall in love with his game. A few rookie-level mistakes cost him serious minutes against the Warriors, but that’s common among young players. House will get better from it, and he will likely be in a Rockets uniform next season. Both sides want a deal to get done.


    (Photo: Cary Edmondson / USA Today)

    https://theathletic.com/990954/2019...report-card-james-harden-chris-paul-starters/
     
  4. Clips/Roxfan

    Clips/Roxfan Member
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    [​IMG]
    Kelly Iko is the Rockets beat writer for The Athletic Houston. Previously, he was the senior writer for RocketsWire, a subset of USA Today Sports Media, and also did freelance work for ESPN 97.5 Houston. Follow Kelly on Twitter @KellyIkoNBA.
     
  5. withmustard

    withmustard Member

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    Great analysis. Frustrating thing is every player should get two grades. One for regular season and one for the playoffs. PJ is really the only person who stepped it up in the playoffs.
     
  6. daywalker02

    daywalker02 Easter Egg Hunter - Tell me why? نحن عائلة
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    Tucker has been underrated as always.
     
  7. Mathloom

    Mathloom Contributing Member

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    What's the point of a report card from a Rockets fan. They should let their writers do report cards for teams they don't support.
     
  8. DaBeard

    DaBeard Member

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    Harden didn't step up??? He averaged like 35 PPG on 44% FG smh
     
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  9. daywalker02

    daywalker02 Easter Egg Hunter - Tell me why? نحن عائلة
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    Didn’t know Iko was a Hartenstein homer....
     
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  10. MystikArkitect

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    And EGo.

    Everyone else regressed.
     
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  11. snowconeman22

    snowconeman22 Member

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    I'm starting to like Iko lol
     
  12. withmustard

    withmustard Member

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    Harden regressed in the playoffs. 31PPG on 41%. I didn't say he's to blame or even played poorly, but it's pretty clear he was less efficient in the playoffs. Harden had one of the best seasons I've ever seen and while his post season was good, it was not historic like his regular season. Please stop shaking your head.
     
  13. napalm06

    napalm06 MDA >>> BoB
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    Good writeup. I found it to be spot on.

    We really need Clark, House, Hartenstein and Capela to develop in the offseason. They could be a blessing in the skies for us next season with a little progression.
     
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  14. pippendagimp

    pippendagimp Member

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    a bit too optimistic on capela for my tastes. the kid showed no heart whatsoever in the 2nd round. his defense was lackluster all season and down across the board compared to last year's stats. he can't make a shot past 4ft. he shot under 50% on FTs in the playoffs. he lacks basic basketball skills and instincts. he gets punished and abused by literally every big man in the league who has size on him. we are pretenders going forward with him in the starting lineup.
     
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  15. Vivi

    Vivi Member

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    Great piece, i agree with everything and napalm beat me to it with his comment, we really need our young guys to develop. I'm also curious to see Frazier if he's not getting traded.
     
  16. Zboy

    Zboy Contributing Member

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    Fool's gold.

    Whatever marginal improvement you will see from them, will be off-set by marginal improvements by other team's players with potentials.

    This team needs a shot in the arm talent wise. I know thats easier said than done given the contracts and what will be available but that's what is needed, which is why I am not really optimistic.
     
  17. Derp McFlopsky

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    Not much to contest. Moving forward I can’t see this team making a significant improvement outside of trading one of both of Gordon and/or Tucker....OR...a re-signed House, Clark or Hartenstein making significant leaps. I think the former is more likely. Assuming some cap favor we could be rolling out :

    Paul, Harden, House, Tucker, Capela
    Rivers, Gordon, Green, Clark, Hartenstein

    As a 10 man rotation. Is that enough? I find that to be staying pat, betting that next year is the breakthrough. Not the worst offseason, but I think most of us are expecting a splash sometime this summer. It’s coming at a cost though. We can not keep everyone AND add significant pieces. i hope everyone is already on that train....
     
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  18. Deckard

    Deckard Blade Runner
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    They might even be a blessing in disguise!

    ;-)
     
  19. napalm06

    napalm06 MDA >>> BoB
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    We definitely can't take prospects for granite.
     
  20. Juxtaposed Jolt

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    They don't follow other teams enough. They'd essentially have to revert to summarizing a player's game based on the box score, and that's no way to write up report.
     
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