Creight Expectations

Patrick Creighton: Not likely any tricks up Morey’s sleeve

Daryl Morey will have limited assets to move at the trade deadline. Rockets.com

The Houston Rockets are currently 35-13, good enough for both the second best record in the Western Conference and the NBA.  Led by their pair of superstar guards James Harden and Chris Paul, the team has been able to take next step in the regular season and has shown they can play with the champs, the Golden State Warriors.

It’s a very good team and I hope you like it, because they won’t be making any major roster moves at the deadline.

Feb. 8 is fast approaching.  Rockets GM Daryl Morey usually has a few tricks up his sleeve, and we know he loves to wheel and deal.

Barring one of the greatest displays of Morey Magic that he can even think up, let alone actualize, the Rockets are going to be standing pat at the deadline, and whatever moves they might make will be minor.

The Rockets have no cap space, and they are over the tax threshold.  They don’t really have tradeable commodities on their roster that aren’t considered key rotational pieces.  Trading an Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, or Clint Capela creates a new hole to fill on the team, and none of those guys are making particularly large money (Gordon $13M this year, $13.5M in '18, $14M in '19, Ariza $ 7.5 this year then UFA, Capela $2.3M this year then RFA). They don’t have a first round pick they can deal this year (dealt in the Chris Paul trade).

So while you see other teams making headlines as the Detroit Pistons did Monday by acquiring Blake Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers, understand the Rockets made their moves in the offseason in acquiring Paul & Luc Mbah a Moute, and they are going to battle with the guys they have.

Essentially the only position they need help is at the 4/5, where a big man who can bang and play defense against more physical players would be beneficial, as Joel Blank speculated on yesterday.  Capela has shown he can rebound and protect the rim, but he still gets pushed around some by the larger, more physical guys in the league.  Nene is always an injury waiting to happen and can’t realistically give more than 15 mins on  a consistent basis, and Tarik Black just isn’t a good enough player to go against the better PF & C in the league steadily, especially in the playoffs.

With limited bullets for a trade and no first round pick, even a GM as creative as Daryl Morey will find it extremely challenging to make any kind of move with substance.  Their best bet may be to target a player like Knicks C Kyle O’Quinn, a junkyard dog style player who is tough defensively, rebounds well and is efficient with his limited offensive game.  He could be a defensive presence for the team against larger, more physical bigs.  Of equal importance is he has an affordable contract at $4.25M and he is a free agent at the end of the season, which means no long term commitment for the Rockets and a low asking price as he is a straight rental player.

The Rockets wanted that third star to go with Harden and Paul, and thankfully they didn’t pull the trigger on Carmelo Anthony.  The right fit for them wasn’t available this past offseason.  By not making a significant deal this year, they keep their assets for the offseason, when they will need them to try to unload Ryan Anderson’s contract.  Without losing Anderson’s deal (with two more years at $42M total) there is no chase for a Big 3, so trading him is job 1 this offseason.  They will need every asset they have to pull that off.

For this year, however, what you see is what you’re likely going to get.  It will have to be good enough, because help isn’t on the way.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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