ADDING DEPTH

Patrick Creighton: Rockets get just what they needed

Brandon Wright is exactly what the Rockets needed. NBA.COM

All season, I have held this to be true: After James Harden, Clint Capela is the most indispensable Rocket.

I know, I know.  You just want to jump out of your seat and scream at me, “Come on, Creight! Chris Paul? Ever hear of him?”   Believe it or not, I have, but I didn’t say who was the bigger name, bigger star, or better player, I said who was the most indispensable.  That’s why its been Capela.

It’s Capela because the Rockets haven’t had another player like him.  They didn’t have someone with his size and skill set to run the offense the same way when he wasn’t on the floor.  The high pick-and-roll with Harden and Capela has become a staple in the Rockets offense.  Capela is the team’s best rebounder and only legitimate rim protector.  Where Harden and Eric Gordon can compensate for missing Chris Paul for a while, no one on the roster can bring what Capela does on the floor.

Until now.

While most people are excited about the prospect of the Rockets signing Joe Johnson as a free agent, I’m much more excited about the team bringing on Brandan Wright.

The Rockets have needed another big man for a while, but not just any big body.  They needed someone athletic, who can finish at the basket, protect the rim, rebound, play defense, and run the floor the way Capela does.  A traditional low post big body center doesn’t fit what the Rockets do, especially offensively.

Wright is exactly that kind of athletic big who can run the floor.  With a skill set similar to Capela’s, the Rockets no longer need to change their offense when Capela is off the floor.   

While miscast in Memphis with the grind-it-out Grizzlies, he’s averaged 5 pts, 3.5 boards and a block in under 14 mins per game this season.  Previously, in a more up tempo style in Dallas, he showed more scoring production.  With the ball moving skills of Chris Paul and James Harden, it should be expected his point production would improve, but a block a game in under 14 mins?  That’s the other rim protector the Rockets needed.

While Joe Johnson is a bigger name and someone Rockets fans are likely more familiar with, Wright could very well be the more important signing.

 

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The Rockets may be the smartest guys in the room. Or the cheapest

The Rockets have their new head coach. Composite photo by Brandon Strange

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Rockets' coaching search had come to an end finally. The front office tabbed Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas as the successor to Mike D'Antoni, beating out former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy and current Rockets assistant John Lucas.

Knee jerk reaction?

I'm not mad at it. I expected Jeff Van Gundy to be the next hire, but maybe that was just nostalgia clouding my judgment. Either way, the Silas hire should be viewed optimistically. He's been highly regarded for some time around the league as an inventive mind that comes from basketball pedigree and has worked with big-name guards in prior stops around the league. If the Rockets didn't grab him, it was only a matter of time before another team gave him a shot.

Now there are two very distinct ways to look at this hire:

The first is that the Rockets, in spite of being one of the last teams to fill their coaching vacancy, are the smartest kids in the room. Every team is looking for the next version of what the Celtics found in their current head coach, Brad Stevens; a young brilliant coach that just needed a team to give him a shot. Hired at 37 from the college ranks, Stevens endured one losing season (his first) and has since guided the Celtics to six playoff appearances, to include three conference finals appearances. Not bad, considering he was up against LeBron James for most of those.

That is what it looks like the Rockets are trying to go for. Now at 47, Silas probably won't be mistaken for a wunderkind, but compared to 69-year-old D'Antoni, he might as well be announcing his hire on Tik Tok. If it works out, the Rockets will have once again been one step ahead of the league with the hiring of their innovative new coach.

The other way to look at the Silas hire is a little less rosy.

While Silas is only 47, he's also been an assistant in the league since he was 27. The positive spin on his resume is that he's worked with star players the likes of Kemba Walker, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry. The reality is that he worked with them while they were very young in their careers, and worked on teams like the Cavaliers, Bobcats/Hornets, Wizards, and Warriors (when they were bad). Until the last two seasons working with Luka Doncic on the Mavericks, there hasn't been a lot of success following Silas. That's not necessarily an indictment since he was an assistant, but it's not exactly a sparkling pedigree.

So while this could be a brilliant hire, at the moment, it has all of the markings of the cheaper hire. As I've mentioned before, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has been quite vocal about the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on his portfolio. Clips and quotes moaning and groaning about losing money are not typically precursors to an owner gearing up to make a big financial investment in the front office of a sports team that he can't sell tickets for anyone to come see. If in fact, money factored in more than fit, it would make sense that the Rockets would forego a coach like Van Gundy, whose previous head coaching experience would automatically command a higher starting price. We'll, of course, have to wait and see what the actual contract figures are once released.

It could be one. It could be the other. It could be both. Hopefully it translates into wins either way.

One thing that's for certain though is that Silas needs to take some pointers from Russell Westbrook and James Harden before he steps out courtside in any more of those TJ Maxx suits, circa 2000. Big boy job means big boy suits.

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