'30 Teams in 30 Days' 2015-2016 NBA Season Preview, #5: Houston Rockets

'30 Teams in 30 Days' 2015-2016 NBA Season Preview, #5: Houston Rockets

NBA

'30 Teams in 30 Days' 2015-2016 NBA Season Preview, #5: Houston Rockets

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  • Odds to win the 2015-2016 NBA Championship: 22:1
  • 2014-2015 Record: 56-26 (Defeated by Golden State, West Finals)
  • 2015 Draft Results:
  • Key Offseason Additions: Ty Lawson
  • Key Offseason Losses: Josh Smith, Kostas Papanikolaou
  • Projected Starting Lineup:

Capitals Fire

  • Player Salaries

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  • Season in Review:

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The Good: They made the Western Conference Finals. That’s all I have to say that’s nice about this team because their most important player sucks (keep reading for a further explanation.)

K, fine, just to salvage any credibility I have as a biased Rockets hater — I’ll talk about James Harden’s special 2014-2015 campaign which saw him finish as the second most valuable player in the entire league. Not only did Harden average a career-high 27.4 points per game (44.0% Field Goal Percent, 35.5 Three Point FG%), he also recorded 7.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 0.7 blocks per. The man had 35 thirty-point games last year out of 81 total games played. Not impressed? That’s because 12 of the 46 games he didn’t record a thirty-point game – it was because he had at least FORTY… and two of those 12 went for FIFTY.

It didn’t stop in the playoffs, either, where he averaged Playoff Career Highs in Points & Assists: 27.2 PTS (43.9 Field Goal Percent, 38.3% Three Point FG%) and 7.5 assists while putting up 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks per.

I personally think he reeks of complacency and doesn’t possess the “I will die before I lose this game” mentality … EVER … but, I’m not gonna sit here and deny that the guy has his moments and single-handily carried this franchise through the toughest games that the Rockets had in the 2015 Playoffs.

The scariest part about James Harden is that he keeps getting better.

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(Top row: Rookie Season – Bottom Row: 2014-2015 Season)

The numbers are there, the talent is there, and most importantly: the team winning is there. If only we could get James to play some defense, show us he wants to play defense, AND show us he CARES about playing defense – the Rockets might have themselves the league’s most valuable player for the foreseeable future.

The Bad and the Ugly: In all honesty: it’s really unfair to be as picky as I am re: a team that made the Western Conference Finals — they scored points in droves and played defense, overall, above expectation. I spew venom because these assholes deserve it and I am just so sick of these “superstars” underachieving. WHY WERE THE ROCKETS NOT THE BEST TEAM IN THE NBA LAST YEAR? Between James Harden, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, WHOEVER … this Rockets team was as talented and as deep AS ANYONE IN THE NBA. They had (arguably) the league’s best player AND the most physically-dominating human being on Earth with an ARRAY of quality veterans to supplement the stars.

Again … I ask … no, I plead: WHY ARE THE ROCKETS NOT BETTER? Well, for starters: their system sucks. As much as I HATE the efficiency of mid-range jumpers, the Rockets are the antithesis of the philosophy – WHICH IS JUST AS BAD. To elaborate: Houston set the NBA record for three pointers made in a single regular season last year (933). Congratulations, that’s great! Oops, I’m sorry – I failed to mentioned that they also attempted a league-high 2680 of them, translating to a 14th place 3-point percentage of 34.8%. THIRTY-FOUR POINT EIGHT PERCENT ON 2680 THREES.

That’s ok though! Because this Daryl Morey religion of “DUNKS OR THREE POINTERS ONLY” means that they made up for all their missed threes with buckets around the rim!

Nope.

Dwight Howard, the most daunting big man we’ve seen in the league since Shaquille O’Neal, only attempted 62% of his total field goal attempts within three feet of the rim – while 36.4% of them occurred between Morey’s dreaded mid-range distance of 3-10 feet. Excuse me but WHEN DID DWIGHT HOWARD DEVELOP A CARMELO ANTHONY MID-RANGE JUMPER? Of those 62% field goals around the rim, Howard only converted 72.3%. THIS MAN CAN DUNK FROM THE FOUL LINE. His sissy little 3-10 foot hook shot percentage, you ask? 37.7%

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This 37.7% number was second on the entire roster, and he is a seven-foot big man!!!! For the love of god, man, GET TO THE RIM. YOU ARE DWIGHT HOWARD YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT.

To give you some sort of prospective: James Harden, on the contrary, only attempted 10.7% of his total shots from this distance. That’s like, kinda the way this whole “THREES OR DUNKS ONLY!” works, Dwight.

Thus, something is broken. You can certainly argue that it’s that this philsophy doesn’t translate to the playoff game of half-court transition basketball, but, playing devil’s advocate: how’d they make it to the Western Conference Finals then? It’s not like they changed things up during the playoffs – coming in ‘fastest’ in average pace per playoff game.

Something is broken. And that something is Dwight David Howard.

  • Baseless God Wob

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Dwight Howard Sucks. He’s always sucked, and will forever suck. For a further explanation, I am now going to re-blog my piece from May 12th, 2015 – in the heart of the playoffs — and this will be the end of this conversation. (Sorry, Rockets fans, I don’t have anything against the franchise – just this one specific underachieving individual).

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This gentleman goes by the name of Dwight Howard. He is the 7-foot, 275 pound center for theHouston Rockets. He (and LeBron) are the most dominating physical specimens we have in professional team sports, yet he continues to do Dwight Howard things when it matters most.

What exactly are “Dwight Howard things?” Let me explain…

This postseason, he is averaging…

  • 16.7 Points Per Game
  • 12.8 Rebounds Per Game
  • 2.9 Blocks Per Game
  • 1.3 Steals Per Game (Career High)
  • 1.9 Turnovers Per Game (Career Low)

Those are like … REALLY GOOD STATISTICS! YEAH!

However, this is just step one of getting sucked into the Dwight Howard Vortex of Death — formally knows as a ‘Dwightmare.’

You see, in basketball, stats can be misleading … and in the case of Dwight Howard, they are more times than not.

Filling up the stat sheet in the NBA can be the equivalent of showing up to your job, punching the time-clock, submitting satisfactory work, and being an office culture cancer. The catch is: your company is losing money out its ass, but, as an employee, you’re technically not doing anything wrong … you’re just not going above and beyond to help the situation. You stay in your own lane, you never dare to show initiative, you produce the bare minimum of what you are compensated for, you go home.

Ladies & Gentlemen: Dwight Howard.

While Dwight’s Points/Rebounds/Blocks per game are certainly nothing to scoff at — the Rockets require more from their max-contract center. He needs to go “above and beyond” for the Houston franchise to have any type of success. This has been the case for every team Dwight has ever been on, and with the exception of the 2008-2009 season where Howard’s Orlando Magic made the NBA Finals — you can argue that he has never once lived up to his “potential” and/or didn’t “just punch the clock.”

Take this year, for example:

Despite recording two career-highs during this postseason, Dwight Howard currently has a:

  • 0.3 VORP (Playoff Career Low. Previous Playoff Career Low: 2.0, 2004-2005 Season).
  • -1.2 BPM (Playoff Career Low. Previous Playoff Career Low: 1.0, 2004-2005 Season).
  • -2.4 OBPM (Playoff Career Low. Previous Playoff Career Low: -1.5, 2012-2013 Season).
  • 1.2 DBPM (Playoff Career Low. Previous Playoff Career Low: 1.4, 2005-2006 Season).
  • 3.6 WS (Playoff Career Low. Previous Playoff Career Low: !!!7.3!!!, 2004-2005 Season).
  • 1.4 OWS (Playoff Career Low. Previous Playoff Career Low: 2.8, 2012-2013 Season).
  • 2.2 DWS (Playoff Career Low. Previous Playoff Career Low: 3.5, 2004-2005 Season).
  • 23.3% USG Rating

VORP = Value of Replacement player: a box score estimate of the 100 points per team possessions that a player contributed above a replacement-level player, translated to an average team.

BPM = Box Plus/Minus: a box score estimate of the 100 points per possession that a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team.

OBPM = Offensive Box Plus Minus: a box score estimate of the offensive 100 points per possession that a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team.

DBPM = Defensive Box Plus Minus: a box score estimate of the defensive 100 points per possession that a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team.

WS = Win Shares, An estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player 

OWS = Offensive Win Shares, An estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player’s offense

DWS = Defensive Win Shares, An estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player’s defensive

USG = Usage Percentage, An estimate of team plays used used by a player while he was on the floor.

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The numbers speak for themselves. He is having a historically bad playoffs by his own standards. We haven’t seen “impact”/advanced metrics numbers this poor for Howard since he was 19-years old popping his playoff cherry in 2004-2005. What makes it even worse is that 23.3% of the time Dwight is on the floor, he is touching the ball and/or involved in the final outcome of the play. Thus, he is not only sucking … approximately 1 out of every 4 possessions the Rockets have the ball, he is dragging the entire team down with him into his whirlpool of IDGAF and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .

There is no stronger evidence of this than Sunday night, Game 4 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals vs. the Los Angeles Clippers.

Howard fouled out in 18 minutes, scored a whopping seven points, shot one-of-six from the free throw line, and recorded a +/- of -28 … MINUS TWENTY EIGHT!!!!! … in EIGHTEEN minutes of play!! Do you understand how difficult -28 in 18 minutes is to accomplish in today’s NBA? Even the New York Knicks have to at least try to be this futile.

What didn’t pop up in the box score is Dwight’s general awfulness, associated with what feels like 1-out-of-every-2 playoff games Howard shows up for.

Here he is experiencing some playoff-intensity contact, and getting tossed around by DeAndre Jordan like a rag doll…

Which made Dwight whine to the refs and complain like Gloria when Vince Vaughn won’t agree to accompany her family to the vacation home in “Wedding Crashers,” leading to a technical foul and being called a “B*tch” by Matt Barnes.

Which leads to his patented “dirty foul when things are going poorly”…

… and ultimately the ‘Dwightmare’ special: A soft foul call against him (it’s the NBA, it happens to everyone, bro) that ultimately leads to his ejection for complaining/condescendingly throwing the ball back to the ref.

And then of course, the world-famous Dwight postgame interview where he just doesn’t say a single word and/or answers open-ended questions with ‘no.’

Good thing there’s no precedence with Howard regarding any of this stuff or anything.

Long story short: You are what you are, Dwight. A perennial superstar who should be the most physically dominating big man in basketball since Shaquille O’Neal. This is as good of a compliment as you will ever get from me because you are THAT GOOD. The tools, the fundamentals, the athleticism, the physique — it’s all there; anyone who has ever watched basketball can agree that you could single-handedly revolutionize the game with your physicality, and go down in the history books as one of the best players ever…

My question, as it is EVERY year, is: Do you want to?

  • 2015-2016 Season Projection:
    • 55-27 Record
    • 4th Place in West
    • Playoff Prediction: Western Conference Quarterfinals
  • Fan Mindset, as told by Hollywood:
    • Climber, Cliffhanger
  • Baseless God Wob’s 3 Divine Questions:

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  • Will the real Dwight Howard please stand up? Hello? Is Dwight even here?
  • Should Patrick Beverely start over Ty Lawson to start the season?
  • Why does this team not have a soul?

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