The Los Angeles Clippers meet the Houston Rockets for the second time this week, and I already had my chance to ask Rockets questions to the folks at The Dream Shake. So this time it's your turn. Patrick Harrel, editor at TDS, has gone through your questions and picked out a few to address. His answers are below. Be sure to head over to The Dream Shake to read my answer to their reader questions.
Lucas Hann: Since the Clippers didn't get to see Patrick Beverley last game, what should we expect his impact to be on the game tonight? Will having him play alongside James Harden (instead of Jeremy Lin) make the defensive backcourt for the Rockets better and how much?
Patrick Harrel: Beverley has struggled to find his footing this season, but the Rockets seriously missed him against the Clippers last game. Beverley is a dynamic defender who is the only guard on the roster with a prayer of staying in front of Chris Paul, and without him, the Rockets defense was seriously overmatched. As I mentioned, he has struggled in limited minutes this season as he came back from an abdominal injury suffered on Opening Night. With that in mind, I don't expect him to have a big offensive night, but having him in the lineup will be crucial as the Rockets try to limit Paul to a merely excellent night.
Beverley fits much better next to Harden as he is a good off-ball player, but perhaps his biggest impact is moving Lin to the bench where he can really thrive. When Lin is playing next to bench players who aren't playmakers, he takes charge much more aggressively, and plays much better. While he often hung around the perimeter last year waiting for Harden to get him the ball, he can dominate the ball with the second unit and play his style of basketball.
v3xin: From what I saw from the Clippers and Laker games, the Rockets have been giving up a loot of open 3s. I'd imagine life with Omer Asik and Dwight Howard would make the defense perform better than it has been so are these perimeter issues scheme related? Player related?
PH: Well, just as the Howard and Asik lineup helps seal up the paint, it contributes to the Rockets' struggles on the perimeter as neither is able to track out to shooters at the three point line. With a smaller lineup like the one the Rockets go to at the six minute mark of the first quarter (with Casspi subbed in for Asik), the team is much more balanced offensively and defensively. When teams spread the floor with more shooters, the Rockets are more capable of getting out to them, but with both Asik and Howard on the floor, neither one wants to leave the paint to rotate to shooters.
Which brings us to the next question...
UC.Clipper: Is the team going to shop Asik?
PH: I think they already have. My impression this whole time was that the Rockets understand that this pairing is not ideal, but don't think they can get full value for Asik. The Rockets have a long time to win a title with Harden and Howard under contract for the next three years (Harden the next five), and making a rash move to get a power forward and sacrifice flexibility would be a big mistake. But to think that the Rockets aren't shopping Asik would be silly. Daryl Morey would do anything to upgrade this team, and though I think Asik is traded by the end of the year, the Rockets are certainly going to hold out for full value for him. If they give signals that he's available, that only undermines their bargaining position.
v3xin: What do you predict Chandler Parson's free agency to be like? Do you believe he's staying and, if so, at what price? I'm not keen on the details, but I believe second rounders don't become restricted free agents so I imagine the Rockets don't have as much leverage in this situation.
PH: He has a team option for next year which the team will undoubtedly pick up. After that, as you mention, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. However, because his salary is so meager, his cap hold is next to nothing for that summer, the same summer that Asik and Lin's contracts come off the books. In a summer where the Rockets may be poised to make a big move, they will keep Parsons, but try to make other moves first.
Parsons was crucial to bringing Dwight Howard in and the Rockets will take care of him. He knows that and doesn't want to go anywhere. At that point, they likely won't be making any other big moves cap-wise, so giving him a bigger deal than he might have deserved won't be a huge problem.
Lucas Hann: Is Harden really as bad on defense as Clippers fans saw in the last matchup? If he really is that bad, isn't that an issue on a nightly basis, and couldn't it cripple the Rockets in certain playoff matchups?
PH: His defense has always been an issue, but it has been particularly bad this season. I do think that though his defense has been worse this season, people are simply paying more attention to it because he's now on a team that gets a lot more national coverage. Harden has been hobbled by injuries this year, and once he gets fully healthy, you have to hope that he steps up his game on that side of the ball. God knows the Rockets can't give up 20 threes every night.
Thanks for answering our questions Patrick. Looking forward to another shootout in the wild, wild west tonight.