Anyone can have a blog about an NBA team, but some set themselves apart from the rest with the dedication and valuable insight they bring to their craft. We’ll be sharing some knowledge from these dialed-in writers on Hoops Rumors with a feature called Top Bloggers. As with The Beat, our ongoing series of interviews with NBA beat writers, it’s part of an effort to bring Hoops Rumors readers ever closer to the pulse of the teams they follow. Last time, we spoke about the Sixers with Jake Pavorsky, who is the managing editor of SB Nation’s Liberty Ballers. Click here to see the entire Top Bloggers series.
Hoops Rumors: Ty Lawson recently told reporters that he thinks the Rockets didn’t use him properly and that he would have preferred to have seen more time as the primary ball handler. While Lawson may not have been an ideal fit in Houston, James Harden‘s propensity to dominate the ball makes finding a playmaker to pair alongside him a tricky proposition. Who do you feel the team needs to go after this offseason, either via trade, draft or free agency, in order to find a long-term backcourt partner for Harden?
Ethan Rothstein: I think the dream scenario, but unlikely, is Mike Conley. He’s a good enough shooter to play off the ball and lacks the defensive and character flaws that doomed Lawson in his time here. But, frankly, Patrick Beverley is a fine point guard. The Rockets’ issues that need to be resolved lie on the wing and in the frontcourt.
Hoops Rumors: One of the most significant questions for the team heading into the summer is what will happen with Dwight Howard. Is Howard’s intention to opt out of his deal a blessing in disguise, seeing as he and Harden don’t appear to be a great fit and it would provide Houston with another $23MM+ to rebuild this summer, or do you believe the team needs to hang on to the big man however it can?
Ethan Rothstein: I think if he opted in to his contract, it wouldn’t be terrible for the Rockets, but signing him to a long-term, high-paying contract would be. He’s clearly on the decline — he’s still effective on the glass and protecting the rim, but his quickness has left him on both ends — and the Rockets no longer play best when he’s on the floor. He’s been great in the playoffs two years in a row now, but Clint Capela has played well enough that the Rockets could spend their money elsewhere and not regret it too much.
Hoops Rumors: Houston landed both Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell on draft night last year. Harrell was projected by many, Hoops Rumors included, as a potential first-rounder, and Dekker was slotted anywhere from the late lottery on down. I know it’s difficult to properly judge Dekker thanks to his injury, but which of the pair do you see having the better long-term future in the NBA?
Ethan Rothstein: It’s frankly impossible to say, but I will say that Harrell has surprised me with how good he’s looked this year, and Dekker’s early back problems, combined with just how skinny he is, make me nervous. He’ll have a summer with NBA trainers and hopefully will bulk up and recover further. If I had to put my money on one, it’d be Harrell right now.
Hoops Rumors: We’ve long been fans of K.J. McDaniels‘ abilities and thought the Rockets landed a steal when they re-signed him to a three-year, $10MM deal last offseason, but that contract isn’t looking so great for the team right now with McDaniels buried on the bench. What went wrong? Is it a matter of him regressing or is the coaching staff not using his talent properly?
Ethan Rothstein: I feel it’s definitely the latter. For whatever reason, J.B. Bickerstaff and Kevin McHale before him have remained hopelessly devoted to Corey Brewer and Jason Terry getting minutes as backup wings over giving K.J. a shot. He’s still shot horribly from the perimeter, but he’s such a better, more athletic defender than anyone else on the team that it’s become ridiculous that his playing time hasn’t increased.
Hoops Rumors: What do you think of the job that Bickerstaff has done this season? What are the odds that he’ll earn the removal of the interim tag from his title and remain head coach?
Ethan Rothstein: I think Bickerstaff has been a total nonfactor. The team has had the same issues it did with McHale, except they’ve gotten healthier. There’s clearly discord of some sort in the locker room, and if there isn’t, it’s even more inexcusable, the job he’s done. I’d put the odds on him coming back next year, barring a miraculous postseason run, at close to nil.
Hoops Rumors: Time to take a turn to the purely hypothetical. Say you’re given the opportunity to go back in time and alter one decision, player move, hire, etc., that the Rockets have made the past three seasons. What would you change?
Ethan Rothstein: The decision to fire McHale. The Lawson trade was a gamble that didn’t pay off, but the Rockets gave up so little that if you went back in time and kept McHale, it might have figured itself out. I think McHale’s a good, not great coach who deserved more of a leash. The 11-game stretch at the beginning of the season might have been turned around. But after months of play that has been as low-intensity and disappointing as the first 11 games, it’s clear he wasn’t the problem.
Eddie Scarito of Hoops Rumors contributed to this interview.