Tag: Miami Heat

Houston Rockets Media Day

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 preview: Houston Rockets


Last season: There were high expectations with James Harden and Dwight Howard being paired in Houston, and the Rockets were good, but not great. Which felt like a first step or a disappointment, depending on your point of view. Make no mistake, the Rockets were a good team — 54 wins, which tied them for the four seed in the West — but the team never really seemed to form an identity. While statistically Harden and Howard were good together (+9.3 per 100 possessions when on the court together) they seemed more to play next to each other than with each other. This all came to a head when the Rockets lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Portland Trail Blazers in about the most painful way possible. Again, the Rockets had a good team and a good season, but they need to hope it’s a first step.

Signature highlight from last season: There were some James Harden game winners and great blocks by Dwight Howard, but was there any play more fun than Patrick Beverley dunking on Chris Bosh’s head?

Key player changes: It was almost a monster off-season for the Rockets, GM Daryl Morey was going to move them into contender status by grabbing Chris Bosh out of Miami to make his own big three. And he came thisclose. But then Bosh took the big payday to stay put and all the moves Morey had made to clear out cap space became holes.

Gone is some key depth: Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons, as well as Omri Casspi and Jordan Hamilton.

In their place comes Trevor Ariza, Jason Terry, rookies Clint Capela and Nick Johnson, Ish Smith, Jeff Adrien, Joey Dorsey, and Kostas Papanikolaou.

Keys to the Rockets season:

Depth behind their stars. James Harden and Dwight Howard are elite players, but that alone doesn’t win you games, especially come the playoffs. The Rockets lost quality role players this summer and some lesser known guys are going to have to really step up for the Rockets to even match last season’s success. Trevor Ariza got paid after a big season in Washington, can he put up similar numbers again? Donatas Motiejunas has to take on a bigger front court role. Jason Terry needs to show he still has some game left. And so on down the line, the Rockets need to find depth and rotations that can work when Harden and Howard sit.

Can they improve defensively? The Rockets offense was top five in the league last season, they put up plenty of points (although Howard/Harden need to reduce their turnovers), but their defense was pedestrian. They were 12th in the NBA in points allowed per possession. Their defense didn’t really improve last season over the season before despite bringing in Howard to patrol the paint and glass. (Howard isn’t as explosive as he was back in Orlando but he’s still a very good rim protector.) They have Patrick Beverley out top, and Ariza should be a defensive upgrade over Parsons. Harden is Harden but says he’s going to work on being more focused on defense. This needs to be a team thing, not just one guy, and the scheme needs to fit the personnel. The bottom line is this is the end of the floor where improvement needs to happen.

Is Kevin McHale coaching for his job? This question circled around the Rockets during last season and this summer: Is Kevin McHale the right coach for this team? McHale is very well liked around the NBA and has done a good job as coach in Houston (they won 54 games last season, made the playoffs the year before when they probably shouldn’t have) but there are questions about his game planning and fit with this roster. Particularly the question is can he coach this team up defensively. Expectations are high and if this team doesn’t take a step forward this coming season there will be changes and coach is the most likely option (especially since this is the last year of McHale’s deal). Remember Howard can opt out in the summer of 2016 so the Rockets don’t want to take a step back, if they do they might give Howard a chance to have a say in picking a coach (something Howard didn’t feel he got in Los Angeles).

Why you should watch the Rockets: James Harden has taken a lot of criticism the past year, but the fact is he remains one of the best and most efficient scorers in the league. The man isn’t just a beard, he’s a legit No. 1 offensive option in this league and just fun to watch play.

Prediction: 50-32, which is still good but in the West nets you more like the 7 seed, which will net the Rockets another first round playoff exit. (That is unless Morey makes a big in season trade, however in season deals are a dying breed.) The expectations remain high around the Rockets and it’s hard to see how they meet them. Which means we could see far more changes next summer (and McHale back calling games for TNT).

Chris Bosh gets the circus shot to go in preseason action vs. Rockets (VIDEO)

Miami Heat Media Day

This was nothing more than a lucky shot from Chris Bosh, who flipped it up over his shoulder after being fouled by Houston’s Terrence Jones in preseason action on Tuesday.

It probably shouldn’t have counted, either, considering that Bosh didn’t really move, and threw the ball up in desperation after the contact was made.

But the fact that it rolled along the top of the backboard before dropping home was interesting, especially if you’ve ever had something similar happen during a pickup game and been drawn into a tedious argument about how that meant that it didn’t count — even though the rules say otherwise.

Could lottery reform be bad for small market teams? Sam Presti argues yes.

Grant Gilbert

The NBA league office loves to point out that the final four teams standing in the NBA last season were smaller markets — San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Indiana and Miami (remember Miami is the nation’s 16th largest television market, behind places like Minneapolis and Phoenix).

Notice how those teams got their stars: The Spurs drafted Tim Duncan and Tony Parker; the Thunder drafted Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook; the Pacers drafted Paul George and Roy Hibbert; and while the Heat got LeBron James via free agency he’s not coming there (and Miami doesn’t win its 2006 title) if the franchise doesn’t draft Dwyane Wade.

Which brings up an interesting discussion going on in NBA front offices right now: Does changing the lottery odds to punish tanking teams such as the Sixers — a reform expected to be voted in on Wednesday — hurt small market teams?

Behind closed doors Thunder GM Sam Presti is making exactly that case, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Presti declined comment to Yahoo Sports, but his case, laid out to others, is this: The big-market teams badly want this change because it’ll give them one more advantage over small markets in securing top talent. Big-market teams have an advantage signing superstar free agents, an advantage trading for them because those players are far more apt to agree to sign a contract extension. And, now, the big market teams will get better access to top players higher in the draft.

As one GM sympathetic to Presti’s concerns – and employed by an owner who has decided to vote for the new system – told Yahoo: “Everyone is too focused on Philly, on one team in one situation. The only chance for a lot of teams to ever get a transformational player is through the draft, and eventually we are all going to be in the lottery, in that spot. The teams that’ll drop from two to eight, or three to nine – that’s just going to take the air out of those fan bases and franchises. They’ll get little, if any chance, to improve.

“We are going to see more big-market teams who just missed the playoffs jump up and get a great young player at the top of the draft. And people are going to go “What the [expletive] just happened?”

Presti is the success story of making a team bad to get good. He took over a struggling Sonics team and with top four picks in consecutive years got Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. There was certainly good scouting and some luck involved, but Presti played the system and as Seattle moved to Oklahoma City they had a powerhouse.

What Philadelphia did is model that, but take it to the next level — if you’re going to be bad, be very bad. For years. That has led to discussions of tanking in the media and among fans, and with that frustrations among owners at the system. But is throwing out the system really going to solve the problem?

Under the current system, if you have the worst record you have a 25 percent chance at the top pick and can’t fall lower than fourth, and if you are the second or third worst your odds are significantly higher than others down the board. In the new, likely to be approved draft lottery system the four teams with the worst records all have a 12 percent chance at the first pick, fifth is at 11.5 percent, then six at 10 percent, and teams farther down the board have better odds. The team with the worst record could fall to seventh. What that is designed to do is encourage teams not to be Philadelphia bad because you don’t gain any real advantage.

However, the flip side of that is some team that is not that bad (and maybe from a bigger market) can fly up the board more easily.

The nature of basketball as a sport is that if you have the best player you are far more likely win. This is true at every level.

In the NBA, if you don’t have at least one, maybe two of the 10 (give or take) true elite players in the league at the time you are not winning a title. History shows it. The Spurs have Duncan and Parker. The Heat had LeBron James. The Lakers had Kobe Bryant (and before him Magic Johnson and his super team). The Celtics had Kevin Garnett (and before him Larry Bird’s super team). The Bulls had Michael Jordan.

A market like Milwaukee (reportedly now against the reform, with OKC and Philly) or Minnesota or Oklahoma City or Orlando or a number of others are not going to get one of those star players to come there as a free agent. Well, unless they already have one in house. One they drafted. Does LeBron return to Cleveland without Kyrie Irving having been drafted there?

NBA owners can be very short sighted, thinking about how any move impacts them now not down the line — particularly true with franchise values way up like they are now, so the owners know if they cash out they are going to make a boatload of profit. The flood of cash from the new television deal makes that even more true — why worry about the long term if you don’t plan to be in for it?

With that, lottery reform will pass. Easily.

Then watch after the draft lottery next year when a team like the Lakers, Celtics or Knicks jumps way up the board so they can draft a young star and some smaller market owners cry it’s unfair (or rigged).