Much has been made about the Houston Rockets' free agent spending spree, as we hear about the contracts given to Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks ad nauseum. VanVleet was given a three-year deal worth $129 million, with the first two years guaranteed, and Brooks was given a fully guaranteed four-year deal worth upto $86 million.
Brooks has lived up to his reputation as a ferocious defender, while also shooting 40.8 percent from long-range and a career-best 57.8 percent true shooting. So the complaints about Brooks' contract have faded a bit.
However, VanVleet has drawn the ire of many within the Rockets' fanbase. Granted, some of this was to be expected, because many were excited about the possibility of a James Harden return.
In addition, there were other big-name players on the market, such as Kyrie Irving and even Chris Paul, to a lesser extent. Many of the same people have continued to voice their displeasure with the signing, while oftentimes placing blame on the NBA champion for third-year guard Jalen Green's struggles (although Green averages 20.1 points, five assists, 5.6 rebounds, 44.4 percent from the field, and 30.7 percent from deep in the six games without VanVleet vs 18 points, 3.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 40.8 percent from the field, and 31 percent from deep in the 47 games with VanVleet).
The Rockets are clearly not better without Fred VanVleet.
Granted, VanVleet has been far from flawless. His shot selection leaves alot to be desired, and he oftentimes gets laser-focused on force-feeding Alperen Sengun his touches.
But he's been the vocal leader that's been missing from this Rockets team and he defends at a high level. He also doesn't turn the ball over and he shoots 37 percent from long-range, while shooting 85.6 percent from the foul line.
But the stat that refutes the notion that VanVleet is holding the team back is the Rockets' record without him this season, as they've gone 1-5 without him. And the one victory came by way of a controversial foul call in the waning moments of the game, despite the Rockets having held a 17-point lead at one point in Monday's victory over the New York Knicks.
The Rockets struggled mightily to put the ball in Sengun's hands, as he finished the game with just 10 touches. Again, VanVleet's presence was missed in that game, in spite of the victory.
The Rockets currently sit three games back of the 10th and final spot for the play-in tournament in the West. It's safe to say those circumstances might be different were it not for those five games missed by VanVleet.