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My Season Ending Report Card

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Jeff, Apr 29, 2004.

  1. Jeff

    Jeff Clutch Crew

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    I'm not going in for hystronics. Despite all the problems and vehement complaints of fans, this season accomplished almost exactly what it was set out to accomplish back in September. The Rockets made the postseason (even getting in the 7th spot - not just squeaking in) while surviving a complete overhaul of the system they've played under for some time. They bettered their record in a VERY difficult conference and improved in many areas, though they still have a ways to go in others.

    Having said that, here's how I grade 'em:

    Kelvin Cato - B+

    The guy was supposed to be a total bust and many thought he would implode under Jeff Van Gundy. All he did was move into a starter's role at a position where he really didn't belong. He's an easy target of criticism, but he was a significant defensive and rebounding factor. Unfortunately, the lack of a legit all-purpose power forward required him to play more and do more than he really should have. He could be the best back up center in the league. What he managed was to be a rather mediocre power forward which is remarkable considering his limited skills at the position.

    Jim Jackson - A-

    Where the hell would we be without JJ? Easily the most consistent player this season and a very hard worker despite some reputation to the contrary. Set a career record in three pointers made and was a stabalizing force on an often unstable rotation. He lost his shooting touch a bit towards the end of the seaason and he really shouldn't be playing the same number of minutes next season, but a seriously valuable contribution to the team.

    Cuttino Mobley - B-

    Cat saw his numbers take a plunge this year but his overall game stabalize. Still a guy that could really benefit from being instant offense off of the bench, Mobley continued his starter's role and was a solid scorer especially from the perimeter. He disappeared too often - especially in the playoffs - but he showed maturity in accepting a reduced role and seemed more in control of his game.

    Yao Ming - B

    No question Yao took a jump forward throughout the first 2/3'ds of the season. He had stretches of pure brilliance and finished the season leading the team in scoring. Unfortunately, much like last season, Yao's numbers began to slide in the final 1/3 of the year, particularly his scoring and shooting percentage. The wear of the season became apparent and that is something he must improve upon. He still is not nearly as aggressive or dominant as he could be for a man of his size and skill level. He loses the ball too often and is out-battled for rebounds. Yao's improvement as a player can be astronomical but he will have to accept the mindset of a dominant NBA player and improve his overall conditioning to handle the pounding he'll take.

    Steve Francis - C

    Steve's numbers fell off dramatically in a year where no one was asked to change more. Francis was forced to alter his game not just to defer his offense, but to increase his defensive intensity, which he did, and completely change his style of play to suit a new coach and a new offense. The first 2/3'ds of his year was a disaster. His turnovers were up and his scoring was down. Glimpses of improvement began to surface over the last 8 weeks of the season and he was the team MVP in the playoffs, but more must be expected of "the Franchise." If anything became apparent, it is that the team must make a decision to either surround Steve with playmakers who know how to manage the game and the ball or they must move him. Unfortunately, Steve is his own worst enemy. He is spectacular in every sense of the word - his successes make him look like Michael Jordan while his failures cause him to look like an awkward 8-year-old with a new pair of sneakers 2 sizes to big for his feet. Francis only does things BIG - bad and good - and the team will have to either find ways to minimize his mistakes or find a replacement.

    The Bench - C-

    Despite strong play from Mo Taylor throughout the season - now fully recovered from his achillies tear - the bench was underwhelming. Additions of Mark Jackson, Scott Padgett and Clarence Weatherspoon were nice and provided key moments. But, Boki Nachbar once again didn't see the kind of minutes to help anyone make a decision on who he can be and Eric Piatkowski never rebounded from an ankle injury to become the gunner off of the bench we all expected. As a whole, the Rockets' bench just isn't all that talented and that definitely hurt the team. Fortunately, the starters missed very few games, minimizing the impact (or lack therof) of the bench, but the Rockets will have to get deeper if they are going to compete with the upper echelon of the league.

    Jeff Van Gundy & Staff - B+

    JVG certainly had his detractors. He brought the offense to a near-standstill and seemed to have more nice things to say about other teams than he ever did about his own. Say what you will about the guy, he made the team better. They were clearly better prepared for games. He had answers for every other team's gameplan. Most importantly, he made this team a shut-down defensive team. No team was better at neutralizing the other team's best player. There were problems with three-point defense and no question the team's focus began to slide at the end of the year, but this was a team that could alter any other team's idetnity at will and that's a significant positive. Still, more could've been done to make the transition to his "regime" less painful. Yao and Steve, the two signature stars of the franchise, suffered through significant struggles and it seemed to take the coaching staff an inordinantly long period of time to adjust and compensate. But, on the whole, the staff made a positive addition to the franchise.

    Personnel & Management - A-

    Carroll Dawson has been fairly criticized for many decisions, but this year was generally a winner for upper management. After having only a second-round draft pick (used on a player sent to Europe), the team signed Eric Piatkowski. Despite his struggles, it was a quality sign for a bargain price. The team elected to not re-sign James Posey in favor of Jim Jackson. Posey may have gone off in the regular season, but he was exposed by the Spurs in the playoffs and Jackson is BY FAR a bigger bargain considering the price tag. The team, very wisely it turns out, cut troubled forward Eddie Griffin who may never play in the league again and they parted with popular but struggling point guard Mochie Norris in exchange for Clarence Weatherspoon who made valuable contributions down the stretch. They also added Mark Jackson and Scott Padgett, both solid contributors during the season, and hung onto a trade exception that could be extremely valuable come later this summer. It wasn't a perfect year and it could be argued the team gave up too much in the Rice deal (though we won't know how that is going to play out until the exception expires or is used), but the team's management, overall, aquitted itself nicely.

    Overall - B

    It was a rollercoaster ride season that ultimately ended in a loss to a better team in the playoffs. Fact is, the team ended up pretty much exactly where most placed them at the beginning of the season. It could be argued that the 5th or 6th seed was attainable if not for some struggles down the stretch, but, overall, it was a positive year for the franchise. A new building and the first time back in the playoffs in 5 seasons left a lot to be happy about. There is much room for improvement and the roster could use some significant tweaks, but it could have been a much worse result to a very long season.
     
  2. meh

    meh Contributing Member

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    I wouldn't give him such a high grade. For all the great things he provides on defense, he's just a huge liability on offense. If he could develop a mid-range jumper, he'd actually be worth the money we're paying him.

    Otherwise, there's not much to disagree about.
     
  3. heymak

    heymak Contributing Member

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    I agrre with you. One question for those who want to trade Cato who would be our back up center? He has played well and is still a big asset as our backup C.
     
  4. Coach AI

    Coach AI Contributing Member

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    Good grades.

    The thing about Cato is, if it wasn't for the money we'd be singing a very different tune. What I saw this year, and what surprised me the most, was the effort. Previous seasons it seemed like he really didn't care. We all thought we'd made a bad decision based on some preseason games (which we did) and that he couldn't have an impact.

    That is incorrect. When he's pushing himself he is strong defensively, a solid shot blocker and a aggressive rebounder. If it wasn't for the fact that we are paying/asking him to be something he is not - a Starting Power Forward in the Western Conference - he would be one of the most valuable assets to this team.
     
  5. adai

    adai Member

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    A great post. The only thing I want to add is Mobley should
    get more credit for his defense.
     
  6. JPM0016

    JPM0016 Contributing Member

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    Great analysis, those grades were dead on. I think this is worth repeating. Look back at the prediction thread, most felt they would finish 6th to 8th, myself included, and that was before Francis had the worst season of his career in terms of Field Goal percentage and turnovers.
     
  7. bigboymumu

    bigboymumu Member

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    Great post! I just want an above average power forward this summer. CAMBY!!!! would be perfect!
     
  8. shawn786

    shawn786 Member

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    Back Court - C+
    Front Court - B
    Bench - C+

    Overall grade - B-
     
  9. dsnow23

    dsnow23 Contributing Member

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    I agree with everything except the grade for JVG. Props to JVG for getting the defense turned around. But he seemed to give minutes to the wrong people quite a bit. Scott Padgett was shooting 55% from 3 point land this season and during stretches when the Rox couldn't score, Padgett would be spending the entire game on the bench. Meanwhile, Boki is getting off the bench during the playoffs :eek: Are you f*!king kidding me? For the love of DOG, CUT HIM!

    Someone on the staff has to be able to teach these guys how to protect the ball also. It's not like we have a bunch of rookies out there turning the ball over almost 16 times per game. (it seems like more).

    Hmm. I can't believe I'm agreeing that the Rockets front office did a good job this year. I'll try to wait until the summer leagues to complain about the Malick pick.

    That said, I can't wait to see what we do with the trade exception.
     
  10. Joshfast

    Joshfast "We're all gonna die" - Billy Sole
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    If we sign him, he will immediately get a season ending injury.
     
  11. gucci888

    gucci888 Contributing Member

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    Definitely agree with most of your post. But I'm not sure about a B+ for the coaches.

    Giving SF a C- I understand, because the guy had no shot. But I can't blame it entirely on SF. JVG completely took SF out of the offense, and SF could never find his way back in until late in the season.

    The reason why I don't agree about such a high grade for JVG, because the man failed to adjust. He said he was excited about working w/ SF, but didn't use any of his talents. Trying to make SF into Charlie Ward is not only something that can't be done, but something that shouldn't be done.

    One of the things that I admire about PJ is his way of making things work. I hate using this analogy, but its true. He was able to make Kobe/Shaq work, SF/Yao is not even close to them, but its the same situation.

    PJ puts the ball in Kobes hands when Shaq is not in, its a way of using both of those talents. JVG is only using half of ours, it should be SF time when Yao's not in. Don't forget, SF/Cat were a 42ppg duo when Yao wasn't here, the 2 can take over games.

    Making teams defend completely opposite offenses in the same game is hard.
     
  12. sydmill

    sydmill Member

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    good grades for the most part. here are my few criticisms:

    Steve deserves atleast a C+ or B-. Try asking Jason Kidd to be a goto scorer and see how well he plays, that is basically the magnitude of what we asked Steve to do and while he had a horrible statisical season he brought it when it mattered the most. Mind you, he played the season with even his own fans calling for a trade and getting called out in the media constantly. Hopefully, Steve is here next year and plays like he did in this series.

    JVG's grade is too high. I admit everything you said was right about his positives, but in the end we didn't win much more than last season with a Yao that was twice as good. The defense we play is championship caliber, but our offense is just atrocious. JVG really needs to design an offense that can utilize Yao's inside and outside game while giving Steve more oppotunities to get to the rim. I also really take exception to the negative publicity JVG creates, who else in the NBA publicly calls out their players? I'd give JVG a B-.

    Overall this team made improvements in some areas (namely D), but in the end couldn't Rudy have accomplished the same thing with Yao's progression? I am warming to JVG, but I do attribute some of our problems directly to him. Lets get some complimentary pices and get rested and ready for a Championship Drive in 2005!
     
  13. dsnow23

    dsnow23 Contributing Member

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    I forgot to mention. JVG gets more points deducted for coaching a style of basketball that isn't very fun to watch. Because, hey, isn't that what it's all about for us fans?
     
  14. GladiatoRowdy

    GladiatoRowdy Contributing Member

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    If I were grading the Rox, I would give them a solid C for the season. They got to the playoffs, but with our talent level and the natural downturn of several other teams, that was pretty much a given. It was expected and not particularly surprising that they made the playoffs. What was unexpected (and what brought them up from a C-) was the poise they showed in three of the five playoff games. Three calls going the other way would have put the Rox at 3-1 going into last night's game.

    By position:
    Center: B
    Yao had a moderate improvement on his numbers from last season, but the biggest improvement was his aggressiveness. He was not consistently dominant, but showed a lot of toughness, the ability to hold his position on the block much better than last year, and better low post moves. If Cato had not started at PF all year, we would have had the most potent center rotation in the league for the second year in a row.

    PF: D
    Not really a comment on Cato, whose performance I would give a B-, but more an indication of where we could have been had Griffin not had his nervous breakdown. We expected a lot from our PF rotation of Griffin and Taylor and had to scramble to figure out how to replace EG when he went off the deep end.

    SF: B+
    What can I say about JJ? They said it all last night when they commented that without JJ, we would have been up the proverbial creek. He logged heavier minutes than ever before in his career, made 40% of his threes, and was the only one who consistently made good entry passes to the post. Our lack of depth at the 3 spot was apparent all season, but JJ more than made up the shortfall.

    SG: C+
    Mobley probably had the roughest transition this year. His numbers are WAY down as a result of the change in the offensive system. He performed as well as could be expected offensively, but stepped it up dramatically on the defensive end. Sadly, the rotation at 2 seemed much better when SF3 manned the 2 spot.

    PG: C-
    Francis simply turned the ball over too much this year. He was adjusting to a new system, which is why his grade isn't any lower. In addition, SF continues to waste possessions by pounding the ball into the floor for 15+ seconds rather than moving the ball for open shots. On the up side, Steve did seem to be getting the hang of the system toward the end of the season, but especially in the playoffs. He started to really see how the "drive to the bucket and kick it out" play is supposed to work and used it to perfection in game 3 against the Lakers.

    Bench: C-
    We have a good bench that will be better next year, as Boki comes along and as we (hopefully) pick up a couple more pieces. Unfortunately, we had too many games where we went through scoring droughts with the starters on the bench. If we are to be more competitive next year, we will have to have some more punch off the bench.

    Coaching: B
    I love what JVG had done with the defensive effort we put out on the floor night in and night out. The coaching staff was actually able to take Boki and make him (a European player for crying out loud) a much better than average defensive player. In addition, I was impressed with the defensive effort they were able to get out of SF3 this year.

    Overall team: C
    We still turn the ball over WAY too much. 17+ turnovers simply won't do it in this league. Most of those turnovers are of the variety that can be cured by doing things like making the simple pass rather than the difficult one, passing for the open shots rather than dribbling, and simply paying attention to what we are doing.

    Improvements for the summer:
    1. Use the trade exception to land a hot PF to cover our issues at the 4 spot.
    2. Pick up an MJ (Jackson) like younger PG to start while Steve moves to the 2 and Mobley to the bench.


    I would still like to see Cat move to the bench with SF3 as the starting 2 guard
     
  15. Rocket River

    Rocket River Member

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    Front Court - need more PUNCH and More REBOUNDING
    Backcourt - need less Turnovers
    bench - need more PUNCH REBOUNDING . . and MINUTES!!! and needs less old Knicks

    Coaching - Need more adjustments - need more management [starters played too too many minutes] - need less Old Knicks


    Rocket River
     
  16. barbourdg

    barbourdg Contributing Member

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    Jeff, I think your marks are to high for Carroll Dawson.

    If expiring contracts are worth so much, then how come we had to give up a 1st round pick (THIS COMING YEAR) for trading Rices contract? You would think we would have benefited from trading an expiring contract, or if it was that bad of a deal, we would have a few years to send that pick over to Utah. Now we head into the draft with no picks again!!!
     
  17. Toast

    Toast Member

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    I pretty much like your grading, though I think I'd take some credit away from JVG and the coaching staff for failing to make adjustments after halftime.

    We saw it game after game after game after game ... 3rd quarter was a KILLER. I like a LOT of what JVG brought to the table this year but our inability to make adjustments after halftime & thus our poor showing in the 3rd quarter of just about EVERY game would lead me to deduct some points from the coaching staff.
     
  18. TheFreak

    TheFreak Contributing Member

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    They ended up exactly where people expected them too last year as well, and that season was deemed a failure.

    I don't see how 45-37 is where they were expected to be, when last season people said they underachieved at 43-39. If they underachieved last year, then that means they "should" have won in the 46-48 range LAST year. That would make what they did this year a significant underachievement.

    Too bad the record doesn't reflect that.
     
  19. Lil Pun

    Lil Pun Contributing Member

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    When I read this I couldn't stop laughing. :D
     
  20. GoatBoy

    GoatBoy Member

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    I don't blame it so much on inability to make adjustments. As Tom Trollbutt said, the Rockets always had a stretch of several minutes in the third quarter where they looked like they were playing with a nerf-sized hoop. They would get good looks during this stretch; they just couldn't hit.
     

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