The Houston Rockets are a really good basketball team. They're young, they've got a stockpile of assets, and many believe they are one or two more moves away from being a real contender for a NBA championship. Heck, some believe, as presently constructed, they could win a title.
Yet, for the last couple of months, the discussion around NBA circles has been the potential trade involving talented-but-marginalized center Omer Asik and who the Rockets could possibly haul back in return. A stretch 4, perhaps, that could play alongside Dwight Howard? Players such as Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans Pelicans and Ersan Ilyasova of the Milwaukee Bucks seemed like possible acquisition targets for the Rockets, but Daryl Morey has not been able to acquire another piece for Asik this far.
Perhaps that's because Kevin McHale is finding gold with the person he's currently rolling the dice with at power forward. His name is Terrence Jones, and so far, he's been a perfect fit for everything the Rockets need. Given his emergence, the Rockets' needs have changed. Here's why.
He's sorta like Lamar Odom
There are players that have come into the league with a similar build and skill-level as Lamar Odom, but usually folks begin to cringe when a comparison is made. Players like Tim Thomas, Anthony Randolph and Earl Clark. Long, lanky forwards who are capable of handling the ball and playing on the perimeter always provide intrigue, but rarely do any of them prove to be as productive as we had dreamed.
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Jones isn't like the failed projects mentioned above. The second-year man is proving that he's actually capable of holding his own as a defender and offensive threat playing alongside Howard. He's a willing and still-developing three-point shooter, and all McHale can ask from Jones at this point is to be willing to shoot. Jones is shooting only 31 percent, sure, but given that he's still a threat, this makes life easier for Howard and James Harden.
Also like Odom, Jones is great in running the lane in transition, as he has solid hands and he's skilled with the ball. Plus, he's able to beat defenders off the dribble, which is a skill almost everyone on the Rockets seem to possess outside of Howard.
At age 22, I'd argue Jones is performing better than Odom at that age. Odom shot 19 percent from 3-point range while putting up 13 and six in 34 minutes/game at that age. Getting 10 points and seven boards a game from a still-developing player has to keep Morey smiling at night.
So if power forward isn't a need, what is? Maybe it's time to trade for a real point guard.
The Rockets acknowledged this by reportedly sending feelers to the
Brooklyn Nets a few weeks ago. A potential Deron Williams for Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin was put on the Nets' table. The Nets balked at the trade, but seeing Houston be that aggressive for a player like Williams highlights some of the issues they have, namely shooting, efficiency, and leadership.
It's easily explainable to see how the Houston Rockets could be the second-worst free throw shooting team in the NBA (hello, Dwight Howard) while also being the second-best shooting team on all two-point shots (hello, Dwight Howard again). But did you know that the Rockets are currently 21st in the NBA in three-point shooting, despite their style of play and all their offensive threats? A point guard like Deron Williams could help this out significantly, as his ability to penetrate and dish along with his own shooting prowess would make Houston's offense even scarier. Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverly and Aaron Brooks are serviceable players, but all have somewhat-limited ceilings. I'm not sure Deron is the man to rescue the situation either, but I can understand why Houston's point guard situation might make Morey anxious.
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More Rockets reads
When things are going well for the Rockets, they can play beautifully. However, when they struggle, they REALLY struggle. There's constant pouting, pointing at each other, and sometimes there's general disgust amongst themselves. This is where having a deferential point guard can really help. Feeding the ball to Howard and Harden is always a good start. Finding the openings to get the role players open shots can boost morale tenfold.
Step one is acquiring top talent, and Morey certainly has. Morey's second job, though, will be to figure out how to make these guys mesh. Maybe there needs to be some addition by subtraction. Maybe point guard is the upgrade they need? Maybe it's something else. Who knows.
All I know is that Terrence Jones is pretty good, the Rockets can't play a lick of defense and they remain incredibly inconsistent. Morey still has some moves left to make.
Mid-week Happy Hour drink recommendation: Bourbon on the rocks. I went to the Maker's Mark Lounge in Louisville one time years ago and an older gentleman with a phenomenal beard said, "what'll you have?" I stammered. Mostly because his beard was magical, and he asked me in a way that almost challenged my manhood. Before I could answer, he said, "Don't worry, I gotcha."
The man proceeded to give me a hefty pour of Maker's Mark on the rocks. He then took a water dobber and dropped 2 drops of water in my drink. "Sniff and sip," he bellowed. I did as I was told. It was delicious. The sweet sting countered with the coldness of the drink brightened my day. I hope you find something similar that will brighten your day, as 2014 is now here.