How Important is Francisco Garcia to Houston Rockets’ SF Depth?


Feb 19, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard Francisco Garcia (32) celebrates in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. The Rockets defeated the Lakers 134-108. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the argument could be made that Francisco Garcia was a crucial piece of the Houston Rockets’ bench.

But that argument would be wrong.

Garcia did not shoot great percentages, which is a pity, because he doesn’t bring a wealth of other skills beyond spotting up.

Garcia shot 40 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from three-point range. Garcia was ineffective from anywhere on the court, except the three-point line.

From 3-10 feet, he shot 38.9 percent from the floor, and in mid-range he was a liability at just 25 percent. While two-point field goals only accounted for about one-third of Garcia’s attempts, he was horribly inefficient if he wasn’t shooting threes.

And 35 percent is just decent enough to be a threat from three.

Garcia was cold blooded from 2007-10, when he shot over 39 percent from three-point range in three consecutive seasons. But Garcia fell off last season.

And it stands to reason he’ll fall off even further; Garcia is 32 years old now.

He’s had a good run after entering the league as a 24-year old rookie. That dictated his career would not be as lengthy as if he were an underclassman declaring for the draft. Even with his age working against him, Garcia was selected 23rd overall in 2005.

February 10, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings head coach Keith Smart (left) instructs shooting guard Francisco Garcia (32) during the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings defeated the Rockets 117-111. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

During his prime, he brought another skill: great defense.

Garcia averaged over 1.6 steals per game in three straight seasons, and even still he plays passing lanes well. Sometimes, it is to the team’s detriment, but that can be said about any player that makes those gambles.

All in all, just because Garcia played no role in the postseason with the Rockets (he scored 7 points in 22 minutes of play) doesn’t mean he couldn’t do that in the upcoming season.

He brings intensity and is a passable long range shooter. He knows the Rockets offense and knows how to play his role.

The only question is how far Garcia could fall on the depth chart.

Kostas Papanikolaou looks to be a prominent player at the 3-spot for Houston, especially since he is receiving over $4 million this season. Alonzo Gee is more athletic than Garcia— and almost as athletic as Kostas.  He’s also entering his prime, rather than exiting it (Gee is 26).

Trevor Ariza is, of course, the undisputed starter at small forward.

Apr 12, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Alonzo Gee (center) dunks against Boston Celtics center Joel Anthony (50) and forward Jeff Green (8) in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

If Kostas and Gee are adequate as backups, there isn’t a lot of sense in spending more money on Garcia. Gee averaged double figures in scoring in back-to-back seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, before falling out of favor last season and starting just 24 games out of 65. In 2012-13, he started all 82 games for Cleveland, averaging 10.3 points per game, 3.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.8 assists.

Gee shoots low percentages, but he could see those numbers rise in Houston’s offense. He isn’t a good three point shooter at 32.9 percent over his career, but he’s also not high volume from behind the arc.

It’s not absolutely crucial Garcia is signed, but both Gee and Kostas are unknowns of sorts.

Gee may never best his pedestrian numbers he posted in Cleveland, but Kostas could be a complete bust (though it is doubtful since he has already proven himself in Europe)…and then the Rockets would only be left with Trevor Ariza putting in big minutes every night.

The argument of bringing Francisco back on a one-year deal is this:  Garcia is a safe bet, and and he gives the Rockets some assurance that at least one player backing up Trevor is NBA proven and ready. Garcia received $1.26 million last season and has no leverage to get more than the NBA veteran minimum this season.

The Rockets would be wise to bring him back as an insurance plan at small forward, if the price is still right.  If he commands more than that, there’s just no reason to bother with three small forwards and a real prospect in Kostas (who needs time).

It’s a ho-hum situation for Rockets’ fans, and is unlikely to make any major difference in the fate of this year’s team.  Daryl Morey is likely a bit ambivalent on the negotiations, too.