(This is another in a series of 30 guest columns that will run in October, when optimism reigns supreme across the NBA. The theme will be “Five Reasons to Feel Positive About … ” We encourage you to follow the authors on Twitter and visit their sites. – CS)
Basketball analytics in their current state have become quite hypocritical, and while that’s a bit of a random statement off the top, it works hand-in-hand with the present perception of the Houston Rockets.
The goal of analytics — numbers, stats, or anything beyond the “eye test” — is to collect all of basketball’s crazy, mind-numbing variables and narrow them down to a single, solitary value: a correct answer.
What makes analytics hypocritical is that they have in fact complicated things for everyone who isn’t 100 percent onboard, making for one of basketball’s biggest present-day debates: When it comes down to making a single decision, do I stick to the stats, or do I stick to my gut?
Despite being perhaps the most pro-analytics team in the business — the team that was supposed to find thhe easier avenues to a championship — the Houston Rockets have only further complicated themselves in recent years, and thus have complicated the opinions surrounding the team’s direction.
Many people criticized GM Daryl Morey for gutting an above-.500 roster in a failed pursuit of Dwight Howard. Others figured it was the right call. And that’s just one debate among many others. My guess is that if the team has any direction right now, it’s the wait-and-see kind. If this team surprises everyone, great. If not, the Rockets will try to reload this offseason and see where that takes them.
Trustworthy approach for a fanbase, huh?
In the meantime, in trying to figure out what exactly the Rockets have going for them, we can start by predictably turning to the numbers for some positives:
One: The number of seasons left on shooting guard Kevin Martin’s contract
That’s it? An expiring contract is Houston’s first positive?
When Morey acquired Martin three years ago in a deal that sent Carl Landry to Sacramento and heaved Tracy McGrady’s expiring contract to New York, many people considered it a steal for the Rockets. And at the time - when Yao Ming was considered a few months of healing away from returning to form – that opinion made sense.
But this team is no longer competing for a championship. If he realistically could say it, Martin would be the first to tell you he’s out of place on this roster. (Heck, he was nearly traded last season, something that didn’t sit well with him at all). He’s suddenly the old guy in a town of rookies whose veteran leader has become standout sophomore Chandler Parsons.
The deal-breaker is that the Rockets are in the market for cap space, enough to give Morey as many options as possible moving forward into next year, when the team will once again try to quickly return to championship-caliber form without having to suffer through a long rebuild. The sooner Martin’s contract is gone, the sooner Morey can get to work maneuvering parts. For both parties, Martin’s exit should be a good thing.
Two: The number of seasons point guard Jeremy Lin has spent in the NBA
The Rockets brought Lin back to Houston after a terrific season in New York (fine, that’s a huge understatement) and they didn’t exactly get him for cheap – $25 million over three years for a second-year starter.
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