Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) attempts to control the ball during a game against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Space City Scoop writing team offer our annual Houston Rockets Round Table sessions. First up, part one of the offseason.
As the Houston Rockets prepared for the regular season the Space City Scoop team sat down to offer the staff’s opinions in our annual Round Table Sessions. At the time SCS was also running player and team profiles to prep the Houston Rockets fan base. Then the season started with James Harden dropping dimes at a historic rate.
I decided to hold off running these segments until the Rockets reached Game 10 of the season. This way you the reader, gets an opportunity to see how close each of us were in some categories and additionally provides you with tips to watch over the remainder of the season.
First up in the series is part one of the Rockets offseason moves. SCS writers look at the draft straight through free agency. Specifically the team comments on free agent additions Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Nene Hilario and Pablo Prigioni. In addition, the team opines on the trade that sent Michael Beasley to Milwaukee and landed Tyler Ennis in Houston.
We invite you to peruse our input and offer your own opinions in the comments section at the end of the post.
Contributing to the series from the Space City Scoop team of contributors and site expert are:
- Andre Cantalogo @dededeco
- Ben Casey @benlikesbball
- Coty Davis @Mr_Thriller83
- Jason Gomez @jasongomez28
- Tamberlyn Richardson @TTOTambz
Next: The Stretch Four
Nov 7, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Houston Rockets forward Ryan Anderson (3) shoots the ball over Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris (5) in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Q1: The first free agent signing this summer was Ryan Anderson. Was this a good signing and how will his addition affect the Rockets this season?
Andre: I believe Ryan Anderson is a solid addition. Specially on the offensive end and specifically for Mike D’Antoni’s system. Besides he’s still fairly young, at only 28 so he might be peaking right now. That being said there are issues regarding his recurring injury problems, durability and defensive gaps in his game. It’ll also be the first time since leaving Orlando that Anderson starts for a team. If Anderson can play around 70 games for the duration of his contract then I think it’ll be a worthwhile addition. On the court I like how his ability to space the floor will help James Harden and other drivers get to the basket as well as his proficiency at the charity stripe.
Ben: Signing Anderson was questionable from a business standpoint (considering he’ll be getting paid $20 mil a year till he’s 32), but much needed. Offensively, there isn’t a more perfect fit in the league to play alongside Harden. He’s one of the best spot up shooters in the league, and will get plenty of open looks. Every time down the court, defenses will have to double team Harden, leaving somebody wide open. It’ll be a walk in the park for Anderson at times.
Coty: Of Course! In fact, Anderson’s signing was the best addition of the summer. As a stretch four, Anderson is a perfect fit to play alongside James Harden in Mike D’Antoni’s system. I’m expecting a career season from him this year. Perhaps, making his first All-Star selection.
Jason: I love the Anderson acquisition. He is a three point stud and will allow the Rockets more spacing on the floor.
Tamberlyn: On one hand Anderson fits the Rockets desired strategy of a stretch four who can shoot lights out from three point land. Anderson is also capable of playing some minutes in the post and has the ability to create his own shot. From a logistical standpoint, putting Anderson alongside Capela up front allows for solid presences both in and out of the paint. Additionally, Anderson’s ability to stretch the court provides spacing for the starting unit. Moreover he’ll provide James Harden with options to drive and kick or utilize Capela in the pick and roll.
On the other hand Anderson has been injury prone and is an absolute sieve on defense. I’m not sold on his durability or that a strictly offensive specialist was worth $80 million over 4 years, but the new TV money is resulting in ridiculous contracts. I’d prefer to see D’Antoni utilize him as a reserve in order to amp up the starting 5’s defense. Since that scenario is unlikely to occur, we’ll hope Jeff Bzdelik can teach a player entering his prime new tricks.
Next: A new Sixth Man
Nov 1, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) dribbles defended by Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) in the second half at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland won 128-120. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Q2: Eric Gordon followed Anderson to Houston. What role do you foresee for him on the squad?
Tamberlyn: I won’t lie the player who has been the most surprising to me is Eric Gordon. He looks to be in the best shape of his career and committed to daily offseason workouts. Prior to seeing him in Houston I was sure he was a walking injury who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) defend. I have a whole new respect for him now. Beverley’s injury led to his insertion to the starting line-up in preseason, but let’s hope he is moved to the bench to start the regular season.
I’m not averse to him starting based on his talent. Rather, I believe he’ll feast on opposing squads reserves. And, much like Manu Ginobili has shown it’s not who starts the game, but who finishes it. Being able to pair Harden and Gordon late in games will force opposing squads to stop 2 guards who can pass, drive, shoot and most importantly create for others.
I’ll reiterate, Gordon has been a pleasant surprise, and from my perspective also has showcased a greater upside than Anderson. The fact the Rockets landed him for $27 million less over the same term as Anderson could prove to be a major talking point a few years from now. For now, I’ll send out positive wishes for a healthy season. One in which I can envision Gordon being in Sixth Man conversation and also pivotal to helping Harden and company close out games.
Andre: I like Eric Gordon coming off the bench. Gordon’s got a bad rap due to constantly being injured. That being said I think he is a much better player than Anderson for example. I’d love to see him playing as a sixth man bringing that spark off the bench and scoring in bunches. Something like Michael Beasley did last season. Gordon is also great drawing fouls and scoring from the free-throw line.
Ben: I’m not sure if Gordon will spend most of the year starting or coming off the bench, but I’d like to see the latter. He has a higher three point percent off the dribble than he does on catch-and-shoot threes, so he’d probably fare well heading up the second unit. In that scenario, he’d be able to create for himself rather than serve primarily as a spot up shooter.
Coty: If Gordon can stay healthy, I can see him turning into the league’s next best sixth man. Gordon is a versatile player who can play both guard positions, as well as small forward. The Rockets will need someone to come off the bench as their consistent scorer. I cannot name a better player who can lead Houston’s second unit averaging 15 or more points a night.
Jason: Gordon has great chemistry with Anderson-in fact, I think Anderson helped persuade Gordon to sign with the Rockets. I see him playing with Harden and helping handle point guard duties and being able to create off the dribble.
Next: Big Man Depth
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Nene Hilario (42) during a game against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Q3: Nene Hilario was an economical signing offering depth in the front court. How does he fit the squad and what are your expectations for him?
Jason: Nene will offer 20 minutes or so and I see him registering about 15 points and 7 rebounds. Further, I think his veteran wisdom will help Capela though.
Tamberlyn:Like Gordon, Nene arrived to camp in the best shape we’ve seen in years, possibly ever. He had a solid Olympic tournament which helped that cause. Nene offers the perfect platoon partner for Capela. In situations where Capela may be too small to contain a larger center D’Antoni can go with Nene.
More importantly he can work with Capela to help him grow with his book of knowledge on the League’s centers. One area of his game I’d love to see Capela employ is Nene’s solid passing ability. Health will be the main issue as he’s lost copious games due to untimely ailments the past several seasons. Perhaps being in this reserve role will allow him to remain healthy the entire season.
Andre: Another player that has suffered with injuries in previous seasons. Nene is probably the best under the radar addition for the Rockets and a much needed one, I might add. Simply because there’s no backup for Clint Capela. Nene provides the team with much needed experience and as a seasoned veteran he can also be a great influence for Capela, particularly if he can help the young center understand how to use his body efficiently as well as work on his positioning in the paint.
Ben: I’m excited for Nene to be on the team so that he can be somewhat of a mentor to Capela. With Howard gone and before Nene was signed, Capela was the sole true center on the team. Having a player with as much experience as Nene as a teammate will do wonders for Capela’s development. I’m not sure if it even matters who gets the majority of the minutes. The Swiss Roll is in Houston for at least two more years so he’ll get his chance to shine at one point or another. For now, Nene can mentor him while putting in productive minutes.
Coty: Although Nene’s best days are over, he can still play a valuable role with the Rockets. Nene can bring a tough and physical defensive presence on a nightly basis. Something the Rockets are in desperate need of since Howard’s departure.
Next: Forget Waldo, where's Pablo?
Nov 12, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Pablo Prigioni (9) dribbles the basketball up the court during the second half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Q4: With Pablo Prigioni’s return to Houston, do you envision D’Antoni will utilize him as much as he has in preseason? (note: at the time these questions were answered Prigioni was still with the team)
Coty: At 39 years old, of course not. No disrespect to Prigioni, but I am surprised he is still in the league.
Ben: I doubt he’ll get used quite as much as he has in previous years, but Prigioni probably be the third most used point guard on the team. James Harden will obviously be first, followed by Patrick Beverley. If Beverley misses time nursing his knee or if he plays significant minutes in the starting group, Prigioni will have his number called pretty often.
Andre: I hope he is just there to provide experience for the youngsters during the season. To be honest I don’t quite understand this signing. Specially with young up-and-comers like Gary Payton II and Tyler Ennis on the roster. Or in case Morey and D’Antoni wanted a veteran voice and presence on the team, then why not just keep Jason Terry?
Jason: Prigioni is a pass first guard and this offense need some control with the second unit. However, the youth movement may be the move the rockets make
Tamberlyn: With the addition of Tyler Ennis I’m not sure they need both on the team.
Next: The 'old school' point guard
Mar 21, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Tyler Ennis (11) looks for an open man during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Q5: In the Michael Beasley trade Tyler Ennis landed in Houston. Do you like the trade and where does Ennis fit in the rotation (in terms of pecking order and minutes etc).
Ben: I wasn’t thrilled to see Beasley be sent away, but I understand the thought process. With Anderson and Dekker both getting to play the four, Beasley was no longer necessary and his offensive game didn’t match the system. I haven’t watched as much of Ennis as I would have liked, but I doubt he’ll see the floor much. That could change if he proves himself in practice or if Harden, Beverley, or Prigioni suffer an injury.
Coty: At first, I hated this trade. Beasley was a spark plug coming off the bench and his production helped Houston make the playoffs. I was turning into a Beasley fan and expecting a big year. However, after watching a few Tyler Ennis highlights on YouTube, it may not be a bad trade after all. With the lack of depth at point guard and injury to Patrick Beverley, Ennis may become a valuable player in Houston this season.
Andre: The big issue is backup for Ryan Anderson. Donatas Motiejunas remains unsigned. So if Ryno gets injured who takes his spot is Montrezl Harrell. That’s worrying. On the other hand if James Harden transitions to point guard there won’t be much playing time left for Ennis. Unless he impresses D’Antoni in the first weeks while Pat Beverley is injured. It’s tough. I predict Ennis playing 5, 7 minutes per game if that doesn’t happen.
Jason: I didn’t see the need prior to Beverley’s injury, but now I see him getting the chance to get more burn. He is a natural passer and per Morey he has been on the Rockets radar for some time.
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Tamberlyn: Unlike most of my peers above I like the move to bring Ennis to Houston. In his short NBA career he’s always been stuck behind numerous point guards and not had much chance to play. That said, Jason Kidd liked him enough to use him more that Michael Carter-Williams on a lot of nights. Tyler style falls somewhere in the middle of the type of player Harden and Beverley are as point guards. And, no I don’t mean in terms of point production, I with pace and the manner in which he captains the court.
He’ll control the offense with the priority of getting his teammates open shots. I’m anxious to see what D’Antoni (who historically brings out he best in point guards) brings out in him. Going back to his Syracuse days Ennis is ‘an old school’ PG who won’t be sped up by his opponents. From my perspective if he’s played alongside Eric Gordon off the bench Houston could reap the benefits of that pairing. If you want more insight on Ennis check out film from this past summer when he played very well with the Canadian National team.
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