Every-Thing Sports

Are the Texans lucky the Colts are out of Luck?

Jonathan Ferrey

The news came out of nowhere. It was like one of those crack back blocks on an interception return. That defensive tackle has been getting shut out all game long. He hasn't been able to stop the run or push the pocket. The quarterback has been teasing him all game long and talking mad trash. And then it happened. He finally got some pressure, forced an interception, now he's looking to through a block. Soon as he turns around...WHAM! He lays the quarterback out with as vicious of a legal hit he can.

That's the best way I can describe Colt's quarterback Andrew Luck's abrupt retirement. I was taking a shower and shaving my head. I heard my phone buzz a few times and saw my good friend Joe Hutchinson texted me twice. I quickly did a search and saw the news had just come out and was confirmed by several reliable sites within the minutes of me looking it up. My initial thought: Texans fans are about to hit the roof with excitement. But should they? How does Luck's sudden retirement effect the chances the Texans have in winning the division this year? What are some obstacles they'll face?

History of mediocrity

"We went 9-7 and won the AFC South two years in a row." Bill O'Brien's statement is the epitome of them being mediocre. This organization has been satisfied with average since its inception. Their obsession with the Patriots is akin to a little brother who's not happy with his C average level of work constantly trying to replicate big brother's A average work and always falling short. Way short. With Luck out of the way, this should open the doors to the car and hand the keys to the Texans. But can they drive the car?

Watch out for the rest of the division

The Jags finally have a capable quarterback. The Titans are in year two of the Vrabel era. The Colts still have a ton of talent. If the Texans don't win the division this year, it won't surprise me. If they miss the playoffs, that will throw me off. Two wins a year was gifted to them if they take advantage. T.Y. Hilton can't kill them because Jacoby Brissett can't get him the ball like Luck did. The Jags are still a team that went 5-11 last season. The Titans still have Marcus Mariota under center and they're not sure if he's their franchise quarterback. The division just became that much more winnable.

O'Brien's ego

Another obstacle in taking advantage of Luck's departure is O'Brien's ego. When I spoke on this a few weeks ago, it seemed to resonate with a lot of you. You guys seem to feel the same way I do. His ego is bigger than the Toyota Center, NRG, and The Juice Box put together. If O'Brien can't contain himself and learn to not be this franchise's worst enemy, this team will be able to fulfill its potential. If O'Brien continues with status quo, well, you already read about the history of mediocrity earlier.

Overconfidence

Teams with as many deficiencies as this Texans squad should never feel overconfident. But when your biggest rival loses its franchise quarterback, it can inflate your sense of self-worth. Teams can often feel as if they were anointed and preordained to their destiny as division champs. This can lead to taking things for granted, taking opponents lightly, and losing focus. If they take those keys, get that car, start to drive, and get distracted, they'll eventually crash and burn. Being arrogant without putting in the work everyday, taking things serious, and focusing in on the task at hand will cause them to fall hard.

Pressure

I was told long ago that pressure can bust pipes or make diamonds. The end result is up to you. The Texans have a golden opportunity to make some beautiful diamonds, but they can't succumb to the pressure. Giving in to the pressure and busting like one of those pipes could prove to be a fatal blow. O'Brien and several others would be held responsible and fired or released. A total rehaul of the coaching and front office staff would be necessary in my opinion. Considering there's no general manager, that new hire would be charged with bringing this team to prominence. With the amount of talent already here, and the cap space, he wouldn't have much grace in doing so. The pressure is enormous, but it shouldn't be crippling. It should fuel the fire.

I'm always fair and objective in my assessments. I even posted a pic of how I feel Texans fans are feeling upon hearing the news. I truly hope this is the stroke of luck the fanbase needs (#DadJoke). These fans have been so hungry for football, and a winner, that there are roughly 32,000 people on the waiting list for season tickets! Another good friend of mine put his name on the list in 2011 and just got a call to purchase them a few weeks ago! This city, more specifically this fanbase, deserves a consistent winner for the way they support this team. But if the powers that be don't take advantage of the opportunity given to them, I'd hate to see the backlash. Luck equals opportunity plus preparation. Let's hope the Texans are prepared for this opportunity and get lucky.

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Here's what to make of the Rockets free agency moves. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

No NBA team with title aspirations entered the offseason with more questions than the Houston Rockets. Ironically, Houston's situation got more precarious as the offseason went along. From head coach Mike D'Antoni walking away after the season to general manager Daryl Morey following suit shortly after that, the Rockets have been a sinking ship in desperate need of stability. They found some of that once new head coach Stephen Silas was hired, but the boat took on more water when star players James Harden and Russell Westbrook demanded to be traded a couple of weeks later.

It's been a giant roller coaster and it was unclear how Houston would approach their free agency. Would they double down on contending for a championship to try and convince their star players to stay or would they be forced to rebuild?

It looks like Houston tried to thread the needle and accomplish both: They appear ready to rebuild if they can't convince James Harden to stay, but also addressed roster needs and acquired better fitting pieces for their stars. It's hard to say whether or not they got better, but they're certainly a lot younger and look to play a lot different. Let's take a look at each player and how they fit into the framework.

Christian Wood

Contract:

3 years, $41 million

Grade:

B+

If there's a signing that embodies Houston's offseason, it's Christian Wood. For obvious reasons and some subtle ones, Wood is the exact kind of player Houston had to acquire this summer. Let's start with the obvious: Wood is the perfect player to have alongside both James Harden and Russell Westbrook because of his unique set of skills. Wood can hit threes at a high clip for someone his size (36.8% for his career) and stretches the floor for the moments you want Russell Westbrook barreling to the rim or James Harden trying to break a trap.

Lob threat

The Rockets didn't have a big man with that capability on the roster last year, so they had to resort to trading for Robert Covington and going small so they could properly space the floor. However, in doing that the Rockets lost their best lob threat and limited themselves on offense even further. This is where Wood solves the second problem: He may not be as good of a lob threat as Clint Capela, but he's damn close.

Over the past few years, the Rockets have slowly phased out pick and roll out of their offense and resorted to isolation. Part of it is because of how teams have defended the pick and roll, but part of it is also them not having the option anymore. James Harden is too good of a pick and roll ball handler for it to not be a part of the Rockets' attack. Adding more pick and roll to Houston's offense should be a priority next season, regardless of what else Silas decides to do.

Clint Capela was the perfect center for James Harden. P.J. Tucker was the perfect center for Russell Westbrook. Christian Wood is the perfect center for both.

Defensive rebounding

Another weakness Houston needed to address this offseason was their defensive rebounding (26th in NBA last season). It got to the point where it was a rarity that Houston would win the rebounding battle against good teams. This was partly by design and partly because of roster weakness. Houston was so porous at rebounding in the beginning of the season, they decided to emphasize turning over opponents to even the possession battle. If Houston were to even marginally improve in defensive rebounding, it could have a drastic positive impact on their defense.

Per 36 minutes:

22.0 PPG

10.6 RPG

1.5 BPG

65.9% True Shooting

Houston also replenished their coffers in the process of acquiring Wood. By flipping Robert Covington to the Blazers, the Rockets netted two draft picks back after losing two the prior offseason in the Westbrook trade. It may not matter in the grand scheme of next season, but these assets could be especially useful if Houston pivots to a rebuild. They could also be useful to upgrade the roster at the trade deadline if Houston gets Harden's buy-in. (As an aside, the series of transactions that led to Wood are impressive and reflect well on new GM Rafael Stone's ability to get deals done.)

The subtle reason Wood embodies their offseason is his age, 25 years old. Wood would immediately become the youngest starter on the team and be a building block piece on the next iteration of the Rockets. He's also old enough to make an immediate impact should Houston acquire a ready-made blue chip prospect in a James Harden trade. With the 76ers rumored to be a team interested in Harden's services, it probably isn't a coincidence that Ben Simmons (24 years old) falls neatly into Wood's age group. It also probably isn't a coincidence that the ideal team for Simmons has always been imagined to be a team that can spread the floor at the four other positions on the court. Having Wood is great start to try and accomplish that.

David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, and Jae'Sean Tate

Contracts:

Negligible

Grade:

B-

Nwaba, Brown, and Tate are all being placed in one category because it's quite clear what the Rockets are trying to accomplish: Take bets on young, cheap wings on the market and hope one pans out enough to make the final rotation for Stephen Silas.

While David Nwaba technically wasn't signed this offseason, he's essentially a free agency signing because the Rockets signed him up a few months ago with the knowledge he wouldn't be able to play in the first year of his deal. He's the oldest of this group (27 years old), has the largest wingspan (7'0"), and has logged the most NBA minutes (3295). Because of all this, he's probably the safest bet to make Houston's final rotation. However, just because he's the 'safest bet' doesn't mean he's a 'safe bet' per se.

Nwaba suffered a season-ending achilles injury on December 9th of last season and has spent the past year rehabbing. It's unclear how he will respond from this, but before the injury, Nwaba had found a nice role in Brooklyn as a combo forward who could shoot well enough from beyond the perimeter (34.4% for his career). The Rockets have desperately needed competent perimeter defenders off the bench since their 2017-18 campaign and a healthy Nwaba was just that.

Sterling Brown, 24, found his way on the fringes of the Bucks' rotation the past few seasons and gained the trust of head coach Mike Budenholzer enough to play nearly 15 minutes a game. Brown is a pesky defender and average three-point shooter (34.5% for his career) and like the other wings in this category, he doesn't need the ball. He's probably the second most proven wing here and if he cracks the rotation, it's unlikely he will have to play more than he did in Milwaukee.

Jae'Sean Tate, 25, is probably the most intriguing prospect of this bunch as he's never played in the NBA before. Tate played under new Rockets assistant coach Will Weaver on the Sidney Kings and averaged 16.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on 66.0% shooting from the field last season while earning first-team All-NBL honors. He's 6'4" with a 6'8" wingspan and was considered to be one of the top basketball prospects outside the NBA before signing with Houston. The Rockets appear to be quite high on him considering they used part of their mid-level exception to sign him to a three-year deal.

The Rockets already have much of their rotation locked in:

James Harden and Russell Westbrook will likely play at least 35 minutes a piece, P.J. Tucker will probably play around 32 minutes, and finally Danuel House and Christian Wood will likely play around 30 minutes each. That leaves 78 minutes for a bench that already has Eric Gordon and Ben McLemore. Also, Houston will probably sign another center before the season starts. Now, the Rockets may try to ease the load off of some of their older starters, in which case there might be more time available. However, whatever way you slice it, they really only need one of these wings to crack the rotation for regular season purposes.

It's unlikely all three signings end up backfiring for them, but we'll see. Stranger things have happened.

It's also convenient that all three of these players are 27 years or younger should the Rockets decide to trade Harden at the trade deadline. Like Wood, these signings give Houston the option to pivot in another direction. Because of Houston's lack of room under the apron, they didn't have the option to use their full mid-level or bi-annual exception. Ring-chaser types also weren't going to sign with the Rockets for the minimum given the uncertainty surrounding their stars. This was a nice way for Houston to hedge their bets while also filling out the roster with possible contributors.

The Rockets aren't done making moves yet, but they're close. Understanding the circumstances, it's hard to be too critical of what they did in free agency.

Overall Grade: B

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