Space City Scoop writing team offer our annual Houston Rockets Round Table sessions. Next up Part 2 of the Offseason.
Next up the SCS team dives deeper into the Houston Rockets offseason. In part 2 the staff look at Daryl Morey’s moves and grade his overall performance. Further the team opine on Harden’s extension, the Rockets performance at Summer League and big man Dwight Howard’s departure.
It certainly wasn’t a stand pat summer as Daryl Morey and Leslie Alexander got straight to work First Morey drafted two prospects and quickly added additional unsigned prospects on the same night of the draft. Next the pair added Mike D’Antoni after an exhaustive head coach search. Following those moves Morey dove in to free agency to acquire assets to fit D’Antoni’s system and complement the existing cast.
Last, but certainly not least, the franchise inked super star James Harden to a contract extension cementing the Beard and H-Town for years to come.
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 are Space City Scoop writers:
- Andre Cantalogo @dededeco
- Ben Casey @benlikesbball
- Coty Davis @Mr_Thriller83
- Jason Gomez @jasongomez28
- Tamberlyn Richardson @TTOTambz
Next: Prospect Hunting
Oct 19, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Kyle Wiltjer (30) shoots as Dallas Mavericks guard Devin Harris (34) defends during the second half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Q6: As far as the draft do you think Morey made the most of the Rockets picks and if not who should he have targeted instead?
Ben: Considering the situation his team was in, I thought Morey did an excellent job drafting. Chinanu Onuaku shows promise of a physical big man and Zhou Qi could be incredible in a few years if he beefs up. I also loved the signings of Kyle Wiltjer, Gary Payton II, and Isaiah Taylor. Taylor’s already been cut, but the other two signees could prove to be valuable assets in the future. Morey did a great job playing the not-so-great hand he was dealt.
Andre: Not at all. I hated Morey’s picks and performance on draft night. Morey said he had deals in place to move into the first round but the players he wanted were drafted by then. Zhou Qi particularly is years from being ready to play in the NBA. Demetrius Jackson the 45th pick could’ve been a better option. Conversely Morey did nicely AFTER the draft by signing prospects Gary Payton II and Kyle Wiltjer.
Coty: For a team that had only two second round picks, I think Morey did a great job in the draft. Although the CBA contract clause cost Zhou Qi his rookie season, the Rockets got a huge steal in Chinanu Onuaku. I was surprised he was still available that late in the draft.
Jason: If and when he ever plays for the Rocket, I was most intrigued with the mysterious Zhou Qi. A 7’8 wingspan?!
Tamberlyn: I was most impressed with the post draft Kyle Wiltjer signing. The reality is after the lottery most prospects require time with the D-League to develop prior to being a solid varsity contributor. Of the 2 picks selected in the second round let’s see how Zhou Qi develops and whether he can add some size to his lanky frame.
Next: What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay there!
Oct 19, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Montrezl Harrell (5) dunks during the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Q7: After watching the Summer League in Vegas which Rockets player stood out and which other teams’ prospects surprised you the most?
Coty: For me, I think Sam Dekker was the one player that stood out during the Summer League. After a back injury robbed him of his rookie season, Dekker looked focused and ready to make some noise in the league. Outside of the Rockets, Timberwolves prospect Tyus Jones took me by surprise. Coming into the summer, I knew Jones could play based on his championship performance at Duke. However, winning MVP, made me realize that Jones is more than a one-hit wonder.
Jason: In my opinion the standout players were Dekker and Wiltjer.
Andre: K.J. McDaniels had a great Summer League. Also Kyle Wiltjer. As for other teams prospects I wasn’t expecting Thon Maker to play as well as he did, averaging close to a double-double. Kris Dunn was solid, Bobby Portis too.
Ben: I loved Sam Dekker’s aggressiveness in the Summer League. I never watched him that much in college and was pleasantly surprised at his eagerness to get to the basket rather than settling for jumpers. As far as other teams are concerned, the 6’10” Trey Lyles of the Utah Jazz wowed me with his range. Not that it’s all that weird in today’s game to see a big man who can shoot, but he looked more comfortable and mobile on the perimeter than I would expect.
Tamberlyn: Sam Dekker had a tough season last year so his return to the court was a positive. What made it more positive was the added offensive versatility in his game (ability to drive as well as hit from perimeter). Both Harrell and McDaniels showed growth in their games and Wiltjer showcased his very sweet stroke.
Of the other teams, I was impressed with Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell of the Raptors, Trey Lyles of the Jazz, Chris Dunn of the Wolves, Jamal Murray of the Nuggets and just how much Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell had improved. But, without a doubt Devin Booker was by far the standout of the tournament.
Next: Beard Bonding
Nov 5, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Q8: Rockets management extended James Harden’s contract. First, was it wise to do this and what are your thoughts on the deal?
Andre: It creates problems regarding cap space going forward. But it shows the rest of the league that the Rockets are thinking long term. The deal extends Harden’s contract for only one year but sends a strong message that the team is looking for stability and has in Harden a superstar former MVP runner-up solid foundation.
Jason: I agree Harden was worth of every penny of his new deal. With the new CBA agreement players are going to get raises across the board
Ben: Again, this might not have made a lot of sense from a business standpoint (why pay somebody more than you have to?), but I thought it made quite a difference for the Rockets. Now, James Harden is fully backed by the team and knows without a shadow of a doubt that he is the Man in Houston. He’s had what seems to be a shift in attitude, and I’m sure that’s partially due to the front office affirming that they’ve bought in to him as the franchise centerpiece.
Coty: In an era where superstars are no longer loyal to their teams. It was a wise decision to extend Harden’s contract. Not saying Harden was going to pull a “Kevin Durant”, but at least he will not be a free agent until the summer of 2019.
Tamberlyn: He’s your franchise player and is here for the long haul. This cemented that understanding between the star and management.
Next: Trader Daryl
Rockets GM Daryl Morey sits courtside at Madison Square Garden
Q9: Give Morey a grade for his offseason work and explain why.
Jason: Morey deserves a grade of B+ for the work he’s done. The gym swung for the fences and may have missed on a couple but got exactly the type of players the offense needs to be successful.
Andre: Grade B. His signings can pay off handsomely or become a disaster if the players he signed all get injured. Which is not particularly difficult. Now if he could only have sealed the deal with Kent Bazemore.
Ben: I’d give him a B+. Obviously, signing Durant, Horford, or somebody of the like would have been optimal. However, I thought he did a great job picking up the pieces and making something of the summer. I was skeptical at first, but I’m excited to see what D’Antoni will do with this team. As I said before, the draft couldn’t have gone better in my opinion. While I think Anderson and Gordon are overpaid, so is everybody else in the league now. Considering he missed out on the A-listers, he gave Harden something pretty good to work with.
Coty: For me, I would give Morey a B- on his offseason performance. The Rockets faced a lot of adversity throughout the summer, but Morey made a few moves that made Houston feel excited about the season.
Tamberlyn: Priority needs for the offseason were defensive help, a stretch four and a back-up center. In addition, the team needed to add players who were capable of creating their own shots as well as shots for others. With the signing of D’Antoni I felt the writing was on the wall defense would take a back seat to the other wants/desires.
If you remove that component from the short list of desires Morey did a great job adding Gordon and Nene specifically. Though Anderson meets the stretch-four needs I felt Houston over payed for a one-way player. If he wasn’t being added to a starting line-up perhaps I’d view it differently. Overall I’d give Morey a B.
Next: Superman has left Houston!
Nov 5, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) reacts after a foul call against the Houston Rockets in the second quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Q10: Dwight Howard left for Atlanta this offseason. Are you sad to see him go, or do you think it was inevitable given Harden and Howard couldn’t seem to get on the same page.
Andre: Good luck to Dwight Howard. The Rockets must go forward with Clint Capela. A younger, hungrier basketball player. Not sad at all.
Ben: There was a time (documented by my many articles on the subject) when I desperately wanted Dwight Howard to stay in Houston. I wanted him to opt in to the final year of his contract and give it one more try with Harden. At times, the duo was nothing short of unstoppable. I understand that the two of them butted heads just a little too much, and I do like this new direction in which the team is headed. However, I remain steadfast in my belief that the Harden/Howard era ended too abruptly and that it wasn’t as much of a disaster as it will be made out to have been.
Coty: As a fan of the Rockets and Lakers, I am more than happy that Howard is GONE! I had to watch him whine, cry, and complain for four seasons and now he is Atlanta’s problem. However, on the other side, I hated to see him go. It’s sad to see what Howard’s career has turned into. He was once the league best center and has now turned into an NBA journeyman. As a member of the Hawks, Howard is playing for his third team in five years. Which is sad for a future Hall-of- Famer. Howard’s departure from the Rockets is just another reminder of broken promises he once made to both Lakers and Rockets fans.
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Jason: It was bound to happen. Howard believes he’s still the same type of player he was when he took the magic to the finals. Reality is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow
Tamberlyn: It was inevitable Howard would leave. I’m sorry for Rockets fans the Harden – Howard relationship never was resolved. However, it’s better for both players if they can’t get on the same page to part ways.
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