Sunday, March 04, 2007

Rafer Alston Revisited

I offer up few excuses for my lack of involvement with the Rockets in these blogs, mainly because I have a big problem: despite living in Houston, I can't watch any of the games at my dorm because of some stupid DirecTV ordinance. I can watch the Game Show Network, or I can watch former Dream Job winner Mike Hall and Blue Edwards talk about college wrestling on ESPNU, but I can't get the home games from one of the three most important sports leagues in America. Go figure.

Anyway, since I last mulled over why Rafer Alston exists, not a lot has changed. The Rockets are a solid 5 seed, probably locked into playing the Jazz in the first round at this point, especially after the buttkicking the Spurs laid on them last night. The Rockets lead the NBA in defensive efficiency at 100.7 points per 100 possessions. However, they are only 16th in the NBA in offensive efficiency, averaging 107.4 points per 100 possessions.

Part of that number is just, in general, being without Yao (52.2% FG percentage) for a majority of the year. Yet, the center position is still doing pretty well offensively, as Dikembe is shooting 56% from the field and Chuck Hayes is shooting 53.6%. In fact, every Rocket who averages more than 24 minutes per game is shooting over 42%. All but one, that is; Rafer Alston is on the court more than anyone but McGrady and is shooting a pathetic 37.3%.

Here is a brief run-down of Rafer's "contributions" to the Rockets.

-Has one of the lowest turnover ratios in the game (10.3-125th)
-You can't say that he's a bad defender. He's not good at it either, though.
-Occasionally only misses 8 shots a game instead of 11.
-Having a nickname like Skip prepares you for when he does stupid things.

-Horrible eFG%, (46.2, 158th), yet mind-bogglingly averages 13 shots per game in one of the slowest offenses in basketball.
-Has a horrible free throw percentage (70.2%-137rd, worst among any point guard in the entire game), thankfully we never get to see his stroke because he ranks 180th in basketball at free throws/field goal attempts, at 12.
-Pure point rating, a stat made up to replace assist/turnover ratio, has Rafer at 27th amongst point guards
-Assist ratio, meant to demonstrate how good of a passer someone is, has him 39th. Behind Brad Miller. He doesn't even lead his own team in assists. McGrady does.
-Rebound rate of 5.1 is low, even for a guard.

Despite this, he has defenders. Message board defenders. I'm an advocate of stats, and advanced stats especially. But it just doesn't pass the smell test for me. Yeah, we have averaged 5.8 more points per 100 when he is on the floor. So what? Look at the situation Rafer is in.

1) Only real point guard on the team (Neither Luther Head or John Lucas are real point guards, and nobody can tell if Spanoulis is because he never plays)
2) Plays with McGrady and Yao in a slow-down offense, so most of the shots that he is "creating" are isolation and post plays.
3) Despite 2, is so bad at wide-open shots that he shoots 37% from the field.

How will the Rockets advance in the playoffs when teams figure out that the best strategy to beating them is double teaming Yao and McGrady whenever they touch the ball with Alston's man? They won't.

What can they do about this? Nothing, anymore. The trade deadline already passed, and Mike James isn't appreciably better anyway. Chucky Atkins would've been a good pickup. Instead, we have a flawed team that will play tough defense and fail to score more than 80 points against any team with a similarly good team.

It's even too late to sign Will Conroy, NBDL assist leader, to a 10-day contract.

I think the only chance the Rockets have against a Dallas or Phoenix is to start Luther Head, make it a slow-down game, and hope D'Antoni or Avery Johnson have a cerebral hemorrhage and forget that they can pressure the ball. I'm not counting on these things happening.

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