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GARM FAQs: John Lucas III and Steve Novak Signing Edition

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by m_cable, Jul 30, 2006.

  1. m_cable

    m_cable Contributing Member

    Dec 12, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Welcome to another edition of GARM FAQs. You can find my previous submissions in this series here:

    GARM FAQs: Kirk Snyder Trade Edition
    GARM FAQs: Vassilis Spanoulis Signing Edition

    This one is to introduce the two newest Rockets; John Lucas III, and Steve Novak. I was originally going to do a GARM FAQ on the entire summer league team, but I figured these are the main guys I was going to talk about anyway, and with them signing on the same week, I might as well do one just for them.

    Hold onto your seats, this one might get a little bit funky. Here we go.

    First things first, who did we sign, and for how much?

    Well we signed the son of former Rocket John Lucas, and our second round pick out of Marquette. John Lucas III (aka JL3), signed a couple 10 day contracts with us last year, and memorably had a game tying three to send a game into overtime. He played exceptionally on our summer league this year, leading the team to a 5-0 record and attaining all Las Vegas team honors.

    Steve Novak also had an excellent summer league after starring at Marquette. He shot well in Vegas and was one of the summer league's standout performers.

    Initial reports said that Novak signed a two year deal with a third year team option, while Lucas came aboard with a three year deal at slightly over the minimum. It's hard to confirm if either or both have team options, but it appears that the Rockets did break into their Mid-Level Exception (MLE) to handle at least Lucas' deal and probably Novak's as well.

    I'm guessing that both their deals are structured similarly. Two year deals starting at a bit more than the minimum, with a third year at the team's option. Since Lucas is considered a 2nd year player because he got some NBA time last year, his minimum is more than Novak's.

    So if I had to guess how much they're making, I'd say they'd have a starting salary of 600-700K for Novak and 800-900K for Lucas (Maybe even a million for JL3). This would give them a couple hundred thousand more than a typical minimum deal, and give the Rockets an option to extend them to a third year.

    As for our MLE, I guesstimated that we'd have about $3.5 mill after signing V-Span. By cutting into it to sign Lucas and Novak, that would put it down to about $2 million, give or take a hundred thou or two.

    So why did they use their MLE. Why not just sign them to minimum deals?

    Like I've said before. Forget all about Bird Rights, and Gilbert Arenas provisions. The main reason for potentially locking these guys up for a third year has more to do with delaying a raise and long-term contract than anything else.

    By giving them that extra year at chump change, the Rockets aren't forced to make a decision to re-sign them based on market value until 2009. If either or both of these guys turn into productive players, they'd at least be up for starting salaries in the $2-4 million range. Even halfway decent backups are making that kind of money. Anything more than decent backups and it would be huge value and big savings for the club during that third year, meaning that the team could potentially save $4-8 on their payroll, as well as the additional room below the luxury tax.

    Also consider that this also gives the team an extra year to decide whether to give them a long-term deal or not. For example Carlos Boozer, and Marquis Daniels both played on two year contracts and then were eligible for free agency. Both ended up getting big long-term deals and then underperformed afterwards. If they were on three year deals instead, things might have been different since they'd need to prove themselves for an additional year before collecting their big payday.

    This move appears to be a classic risk management scenario, which not so coincidentally was a function that Morey performed while in Boston. Management took into account what was available in Free Agency for the remaining MLE, and decided that they were better off breaking into it in order to defray the risk of Novak and Lucas getting raises and long-term offers in two years. It's an interesting decision, and one that I think will be a smart one because I think both of these guys will at least be productive backups in two years.

    Okay, so we're paying them chump change. But are they any good? What kind of game do they have?

    JL3 is incredibly quick and fast, with the ball and without. I won't ever forget one play last year when he ran the floor and filled the lane like a race car. He got down the court before anyone else could blink. He has the ability to break the defense down with his dribble, and score or dish in the lane.

    In the summer league he showed an amazing ability to penetrate and get a shot anytime he felt like it. He shot the ball with confidence and showed an impressive array of pullups and floaters, as well as some nifty passing on the interior as well as out to spot up guys.

    Novak is about as pure a shooter to come into the league as anybody in history. His college percentages compare favorably to all-time great shooters like Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, Allan Houston, Jeff Hornacek, Wesley Person etc. (credit to walangjo for compiling this info: http://bbs.clutchfans.net/showpost.php?p=2387858&postcount=23)

    His stroke is smooth, quick and deadly. He can play off the ball, with the ability to effectively run through screens to get a slight opening where he can uncork that quick trigger. He is well-versed in the art of giving a pump-fake and pulling up after a dribble or two, and has unlimited range. (forgive me if I'm sounding like Hubie Brown, but at least we didn't draft Redick where I'd be forced to break out my Dickie V imitation)

    He was on absolute fire during the Summer League until playing big minutes in 5 games in 6 nights caught up to his legs, causing his percentages to drop. But you figure that he's never going to play those kinds of minutes or number of consecutive games, and it shouldn't be a problem.

    So you're saying that they played well in Summer League. BFD. Who gives a crap if they did well against Z-grade competition?

    While Summer League competition is a far cry from the NBA, you can still take away a lot from a player's performance. Not so much the numbers, but more about the skills that they put on display.

    Lucas showed a ton of quickness, and more importantly, good decision making and confidence. With the handcheck rule enforcement in the NBA, quickness with the ball is one feature that is easy to project to the league. If you can get into the lane, then you can get into the lane. Quick little buggers are having banner years of late in the NBA. There's no reason to think that Lucas can't fit in that mold.

    As for Novak, he also showed off an ability that is relatively easy to translate to the NBA; playing off the ball and catching and shooting on the move. Spot up shooters need other abilities to be successful, but guys that can run through a pick and can a three with that amount of space is going to find success.

    Especially since that is a major component of JVG's offense. Remember how often we would run plays for Wesley off the ball to start the game. And those plays where the wing man would come off a Yao screen and be given the option to either put up the shot, or deliver it to Yao in the post. Well that's a role that Novak will fit right into on the Rockets.

    Okay, fine. Still sounds too good to be true. What's the catch?

    The catch is defense.

    I knew it. The catch is always defense.

    Pretty much. So Lucas checked into last year's pre-draft camp measuring 5'10 1/2" in shoes and weighing in at 154 lbs. That weight is especially troubling since even Andre Barrett checked in at 171 lbs and we saw how easily he got pushed around (Barrett is still in the league despite never showing the offensive potential of Lucas, but the point still stands).

    As for Novak, he's 6' 9 1/2" in shoes, with short arms and weighed in at 216 lbs. He's not particularly quick or athletic, so that makes him a classic tweener. Probably not quick enough to defend SF's and not big, long, or athletic enough to guard PF's.

    He's going to have a better chance at SF though. To be honest, I don't see any way that he's going to play much PF, no matter what CD says. He strikes me as a guy that's going to struggle to put on weight on his slim frame. And without the length and/or athleticism to compensate for his lower mass, he'll have a really tough time banging down low. I mean Peja is 6'10" and about 230 lbs and nobody has illusions that he can play PF.

    There is good news though.

    What's that?

    I just saved a ton of money on my car insurance.

    (Groans) That joke is like three years old.

    Don't blame me. It was in style when I started this article.

    But seriously, the good news is that JVG's defensive scheme helps and collapses on penetration. And regardless of the fact that we've put out more than a couple of sub-par defenders out there (Jon Barry, Juwan Howard, Rafer Alston etc.), we've still compiled one of the best defenses in the league.

    Anchored by Yao's sheer size in the middle, our defense usually forces a team to beat us from the outside, and can compensate for guys that get beat off the dribble. Not to mention that Yao started getting called for a lot less fouls in the latter part of last year, and if that carries over, it would eliminate the other major worry about poor defenders on our side of the court.

    So is that it?

    Pretty much.



    It's just that. It's just that....

    What? You can tell me.


    WTF. You need to simmer down and clean up that mouth of yours. As Yetti would say, "Trash talking is disrespectful and should never be tolerated". You're my alter ego, not the other way around.

    Like I said, you need to stop writing like a puddy tat, and quit with these bland, middle of the road, no-backbone comments. Everything you've put down in these FAQs has been worked and polished to provide maximum cover. All statements are carefully written to deflect potential disagreement with numerous qualifiers, and benign arguments.

    Don't you see that your precious series has gone the way of simple didactism. This is a message board ferchrissakes. At it's heart and core, the purpose is to engage and interact. And your previous entries have had little of either. Sure there has been approval and encouragement. But what good is that if it doesn't capture people's passions. If it flames out and falls off the first page in the course of a day or two. To teach is an exercise, to engage is an adventure.

    So get up off your butt and write something with some guts that people can really chew on. Something that can be debated and mulled over. Something a bit more complex than the point to point subjects you've tackled in the past. Show some balls son and truck out something brash and brazen, with more than a dollop of attitude and substance.

    And get cracking, I don't have all day.

    Wow. I've never been admonished by my own subconscious before. Let's just say, it's kind of weird.

    Oh what the heck. Nothing wrong with a couple of far out opinions. Here goes nothing:

    1. Within a year or two, the most lethal, matchup advancing lineup the Rockets will field will feature Yao at Center, Tracy at the PF, and Steve Novak at the SF. This gang will be a killer against pretty much any quality PF in the league, and dictate a severe matchup for their frontcourt.

    If they put a big guy on Novak, he'll just do his thing and run through a million screens, and pop jumpers all day long off the ball.

    If they put the big guy on T-mac, then he can either do the same, and run through a bunch of picks or go with the Pick and Roll with Yao. Let's just say that any PF in the league would have no chance following Tracy through a Yao screen. T-mac WILL turn the corner on any PF in that situation. I can't think of a PF that has the speed and quickness to follow Tracy over the screen or cut him off under the screen. I don't think even KG has the quicks for it.

    Guys like Brand, Dirk, Duncan, and even Amare would have no fun whatsoever chasing either of these guys around. And they would have to make a big decision on whether to move those guys over to the C, where Yao would eat them up.

    On defense, Tracy would front, Yao will help over the top, and we'd collapse on anything in the paint. The pseudo-zone defense rules have made it a lot harder to deliver the ball to the post, and it's about time that they worked for us instead of against us.

    It'll be a game of chicken to be sure, with both teams trying not to be the one to blink first, but I think we'll win a lot of those contests. All it takes is a couple of made threes by Novak while being guarded by a PF, and it's timeout time and a slide to center for the four. Let Yao work him over a little, and then we can put the game on cruise control. I can see it coming. And it's going to be good.

    2. The overriding factor of whether JL3 will be successful or not, isn't his defense or shooting. I mean, his defense and shooting will be the symptom, but not the cause of his performance. It will be confidence. And more to the point, about how much confidence JVG can instill in the young guy.

    JL3 has all the tools to be successful in the NBA. He's quick with the ball, has more than adequate vision and passing skills, and can shoot the ball. He'll have defensive deficiencies to be sure, but that can be offset by team defense, and getting them back on the offensive end.

    But how is JL3 going to respond if JVG pulls him out of a game for a defensive lapse. Or he gets pulled for botching an offensive play. Is Lucas' confidence going to take a hit, thereby hurting all facets of his game. And is JVG going to continue with the quick leash so that all his non-stars will be looking over their shoulder constantly, afraid not to make a mistake.

    We have a TON of "potential" players on the team. And we're really counting on a number of those guys to be good for us to be successful. So how is JVG's mistake intolerant attitude going to affect guys like Lucas, Novak, KillBill, Snyder, Head, and Hayes. For better or worse, we're counting on these question marks to come through for us. Otherwise our season will go down the crapper faster than you can say, "Lottery". And JVG's track record with questions marks is spotty at best.


    That's a bit better. I could use a little more arm waving and podium pounding, but it will do for now. So are you done?

    Just one more thing. Please forgive the above post. I was under hallucinogens, forgot to take my medication, and had just gotten through watching Fight Club.

    More Disclaimers? Pathetic.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I should probably go visit my shrink. Either that or get laid, I'm not too picky.

    Jul 18, 2006
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    Excellent post!!! Thank you
  3. Genuine

    Genuine Member

    May 28, 2003
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    that was great
  4. deadlybulb

    deadlybulb Contributing Member

    Oct 13, 2002
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    Insightful and humourous. :D
  5. tmacattack131

    tmacattack131 Member

    Jul 3, 2006
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    Lol. Nice post m_cable.
  6. arkoe

    arkoe (ง'̀-'́)ง

    Dec 13, 2001
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    m_cable, you're supposed to argue with the other posters, not yourself. :D
  7. roxfan123

    roxfan123 Member

    Mar 29, 2006
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    This is the longest post I have ever seen, I think.
  8. zaam

    zaam Contributing Member

    Aug 29, 2001
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    m_cable —

    You may be clinically insane, but your contributions here are MUCH appreciated.
  9. Pulp

    Pulp Member

    Mar 31, 2006
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    thanks, always enjoyed your long FAQs
  10. LFE171

    LFE171 Member

    Jun 17, 2003
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    awesome post!!!

    and yes, id say that t-mac playing the 4 with novak at 3 does seem a bit far fetched. and where the hell is battier in all the mix of this? oh well, but its good to bring it up for argument.
  11. Shaq2Yao

    Shaq2Yao Member

    Mar 28, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Tracy at PF in an interesting idea, but I just don't like him being banged in the post with a back problem.

    Battier can do a better job defending at PF than Tracy can. Tracy is adequate defending SF. Kirk Snyder has the tools/athletism/size to defend SG. I believe he would be a much better defender under JVG.

    Imagine this offense-oriented line up.

    C - Yao
    PF - Battier
    SF - Novak
    SG - T-Mac
    PG - JL3

    This line up will score points QUICK like the Suns do! Yao eating opponent center inside if no double team. T-Mac eating opponent wing defender if no double team. If any double teaming on Yao/T-Mac, Novak/Battier/JL3 will rain down the 3 pointers. Isn't that beautiful?
  12. Rockets111

    Rockets111 Contributing Member

    Oct 11, 2005
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    Great post m_cable. These should definitely be stickied.
  13. m_cable

    m_cable Contributing Member

    Dec 12, 2002
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    The thing about putting Battier at the 4 is that it doesn't really force the issue on the opposing big man. Battier's role on offense will be to camp out in the corner and spot up for threes. That doesn't cause any matchup problems because while most PFs don't like to guard out on the perimeter, it's not that tough to hang with a spot up shooter.

    In fact we probably couldn't put Battier on the court at all in this lineup, if we're going for the full effect, because the opposing big man will just lineup against Battier and just cover him on stationary jumpers. We'd pretty much need a SG who can either penetrate or move on the perimeter. Hopefully Snyder or KillBill will have that ability.

    Switching Shane with Novak in the frontcourt, would cause a Dirk-style matchup problem. Just like how Duncan had to move to C against the Mavs, most PF's cannot handle having to guard either Tracy or Novak.

    And while I understand that T-mac's back is a concern, he's really got to be healthy if we're going to make any hay in the playoffs. And projecting lineups where we protect Tracy's back isn't going to get it done anyway, so we might as well go all out and maximize his role (at least where the postseason is concerned).
  14. Stephen1616

    Stephen1616 Contributing Member

    Jul 28, 2005
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    thanks for all the time you have put into all the GARM FAQ posts. Great and Funny. Keeps me the reader on my toes.
  15. txppratt

    txppratt Contributing Member

    Jun 11, 2006
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    good mutha ****in post mutha ****a!

  16. okierock

    okierock Contributing Member

    Oct 3, 2001
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    Take heart on JL3's ability to handle JVG's intolerance for mistakes. JL3 played college ball at Oklahoma State where he thrived playing for Eddie Sutton. Anyone who has watched Eddie Coach knows that any mistake means a seat on the bench after a severe verbal beating. Eddie has broken the spirit of many tallented kids who just couldn't stand his extreme demands for perfection but JL3 never seamed to have a problem with it. Eddie is always hardest on his point guards because they touch the ball the most and a poor decision causing a turnover would always mean a seat on the bench.

    JL3 should be fine under JVG's scrutiny. Heck now that I think about it JVG and Sutton have very simular facial expressions during the game.


  17. A_3PO

    A_3PO Member

    Apr 29, 2006
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    You make a good point about Eddie Sutton. If JL3 could put up with him he should be able to handle JVG. JVG doesn't go into loud tirades nearly as often Mr. Cranky. I'm fine with stern basketball coaches but not the screamers like Sutton.
  18. crash5179

    crash5179 Contributing Member

    Dec 9, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Good Lord! You wrote this as if you were up at 2am with too much tequilla and not enough sleep! ;)

    Regardless, it was funny, entertaining as hell and very well thought out.

    I give it 2 shot glasses....er I mean....2 thumbs up.
  19. KingCheetah

    KingCheetah Contributing Member

    Jun 3, 2002
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    This is the internet ~ cliff notes please.

  20. thetennisyao

    thetennisyao Member

    Mar 28, 2006
    Likes Received:
    i wish i could write like u m_cable.

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