The season is over way too early for the Houston Rockets who have themselves a head coach in Kevin McHale who really doesn’t know how to make all the moving parts of James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Dwight Howard work together, preferring to simply wing it and let his star nearly decimate an entire series on his own than try and teach this team some actual offense and defense that would have gotten them through.
Kevin McHale is going to stay because this isn’t his team. In the NBA today, few head coaches actually have a say in how a team will look. This is Daryl Morey’s baby, and his infatuation with analytics instead of trying to learn from what he sees on the court is part of the problem. The numbers suggest making Patrick Beverley a starter? Go ahead. The numbers say James Harden should be a point guard and do whatever he wants? Go ahead.
Bringing Dwight Howard to the team doesn’t automatically make it better defensively. Not when James Harden and Chandler Parsons have been sleepwalking on that side of the ball for most of the season. Not when there’s too much emphasis on Patrick Beverley being a stopper, while time and time again we see he’s overrated as a defender when there’s more than effort needed. Not when Jeremy Lin, the best point guard on the team, is used in a weird spot up shooter role, and punished for every mistake he makes while the others get a free pass.
The Rockets will try and move Lin with his $8.3 million deal this offseason. Omer Asik? Unless he really insists, the Rockets saw some things they like in the possible combination between him and Dwight Howard, although the overall goal is having a stretch four, something Terrence Jones gave them at times. The Rockets seemed to give up on too many players as the playoff moved forward, like Jordan Hamilton (a free agent) and Omri Casspi. Greg Smith, who missed the entire season, is also hitting free agency, Francisco Garcia has a player option. Everyone else stays.
So how can this team become better? There’s potential to do something with this group, but possibly not under this head coach, and not while James Harden feels like he is often alone on this offense. It might be in Jeremy Lin’s best interest to try and play somewhere else, because he isn’t going to be come a starting point guard unless McHale and Morey suddenly realize what they’ve been doing wrong all this time.
Harden isn’t the superstar Kevin Durant is. In my opinion he’s more talented of a scorer than Russell Westbrook but with an even bigger ego, and a much worse defender. That isn’t exactly material for a number one player on a championship contender. Somehow taming him, pushing the team a bit more towards Howard in the post or as a pick & roll scorer while making Jeremy Lin an actual point guard with substantial minutes and a starting role should be what they drift towards.
More likely? Lin gets traded, while the Rockets pursue their 3-stars vision, which will change nothing. More hero-ball from Harden, more frustrations for Howard, while this team will remain one with different classes and unhappy players for it. The Rockets have needs like another backup guard and maybe a more traditional big man to serve as a backup as well. But their core problems have been easy to spot all season long. It’ll be surprising if they actually take care of them though.