Houston Rockets: Time To Embrace The Return Of Donatas Motiejunas
Another disappointing loss and the same issues rear their ugly head for the Houston Rockets. An inability to hit shots in the first half against the Utah Jazz really hurt the Rockets and their lack of production at power forward was once again an issue.
Josh Smith started but didn’t play a second in the final quarter as he ended the night with 8 points, 2 rebounds and 3 turnovers from the four spot. Terrence Jones played 11 minutes and he was so bad that I really believe he will not be on this roster next season, well at least I hope.
The issue with the lack of production from these two big men means either Clint Capela (who provides no shooting) has to play next to Dwight Howard or the Rockets have to go small. J.B. Bickerstaff has decided he doesn’t like having Capela and Dwight on the floor together for very long anymore so Houston spent a large majority of the game going small. Ariza has been really good at the 4-spot, and he’s just been fantastic in general since the calendar flipped to 2016, but he cannot help Dwight on the boards against the leagues taller 4’s.
However, there is a solution! The Rockets recently acquired a Lithuanian big man for a 1st round pick from the Detroit Pistons and he could be they key to all of our issues!!! Ha, well there’s nothing like a glass half full.
On a more serious not,e Donatas Motiejunas is 7’0, so he can keep other forwards off the glass. He shoots the trey at 32% for his career but his shot has improved every season and you can genuinely count on him to make it. He has a fantastic arsenal of post moves which sees him end a flurry of moves with a beautiful hook shot and he has developed a good skip pass out of the post when he gets doubled. Oh and also he can defend the rim and play as a stretch-5 if Houston wants to rain doom from beyond the arc.
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D-Mo has said he is happy to be back and everyone has supported him so why not put him in the starting lineup? Houston currently sits under .500 and out of the playoff picture with 25 games left in the season. I am at the point where finishing 9th and grabbing our first round pick from Denver sounds a hell of a lot better than getting swept by Golden State in the first round. It’s time to test some things out and DMo was fantastic last season in Dwight’s absence, so would it be wrong to assume he could play even better by his side?
We can actually test this out by looking at stats for each lineup the Rockets put out last season. Surprise surprise the most effective lineup of the entire season (that played more than 10 games together) contained both Dwight and DMo. It also happens to be what our starting lineup would be now if Donatas was to return to the starting lineup.
That lineup outscored teams by an average of three points per game. Even looking at all the times Howard and Motiejunas were on the floor together it shows that for the season they outscored opponents by three points per game. It’s also interesting to note this is the 7-footers best two-man lineup in terms of plus-minus.
This (video below) is how Motiejunas can create space next to Dwight in the offense. Look at his footwork and how he just keeps moving in the paint. It’s incredibly hard to guard when you squirm around like a fish out of water and finish with a deadly hook. (Again, see what I did there?) This highlights package also shows off his cross court passing which became a big part of Motiejunas’ game for the Rockets, I mean how good is this guy?
I know what you’re saying, “Wow! Look how good the Rockets will be once Motiejunas returns! Maybe we really can make a playoff run!” Well there is a slight problem.
Motiejunas obviously has been struggling with his back recently, hence the voided trade. Obviously Detroit wasn’t positive that D-Mo’s back would hold up long term even though DMo said he would be ready for the Pistons playoff push. Houston took a very passive approach to his recovery and has let him work his way back (see what I did there) until he has no tightness at all. The Lithuanian says he is all good and is ready to make an impact so let’s give the young man a chance!
There are many different ways these next 25 games and impending (restricted) free agency can turn out for Motiejunas;
1. He plays all 25 games pain free and plays well. Houston re-signs him to a decent contract due to other teams not willing to take the risk of his back issues.
2. D-Mo takes a flyer and we sign him to a qualifying offer, this still puts the Rockets in a good position to sign him to a nice extension if his back holds up.
3. D-Mo has complications with his back, he breaks down and walks to another team for nothing or Houston takes him back for very little.
I believe Houston now has been gifted a second chance. They made the wrong decision in trading him and now have the chance to keep him for a low fee as his reputation has really suffered. D-Mo needs to be playing decent minutes for the rest of the year because the organization needs to know if they can trust his recovery from the injury. If healthy, they will then be able to make an informed decision on his status come free agency.
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