HOUSTON – In a season of failure, the Houston Rockets made desperate moves to salvage one of the lower Western Conference playoff seeds by going for offense over defense.
Multiple sources told ESPN on Wednesday that the Rockets are in the process of signing power forward Michael Beasley and shooting guard Andrew Goudelock.
Beasley, the Chinese League MVP, has the offensive skills the team is looking for at power forward, something that’s been vacant all season. Most recently, the team tried to start Josh Smith at the position. Smith has shot 26.2 percent from the field, 21 percent from 3-point range and averaged 5.4 points in the five games he started.
The Rockets moved Donatas Motiejunas into the position Wednesday against New Orleans, his first start of the season after recovering from back issues and returning after a failed trade with the Detroit Pistons.
Beasley can move with and without the ball at power forward, create off the dribble and shoot from decent range. He’s not very good defensively, though.
Goudelock is someone the Rockets can pair with James Harden in the backcourt and is a good perimeter shooter. Defensively? Not very good, either.
So instead of trying to find people who can defend the post and along the backcourt, the Rockets decided they need to outscore the opposition.
It’s a risk.
On the season, Houston is tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the third-most points allowed at 107.1 per game. The Rockets' defensive rating is 108.9, 26th out of 30 teams. In the past five games, the Rockets have allowed 110.8 points per game as their opponents have shot 48.3 percent.
Inconsistent effort, lack of communication and just plain subpar play are the basic reasons why the Rockets are a poor defensive team.
So what does the Rockets front office decide to do? Fix the offense.
Now, of course, you can only sign players based on what’s out there on the free-agent market but general manager Daryl Morey, who has been successful in his time with the Rockets, isn’t getting it done this season.
From the disastrous trade for Ty Lawson, letting Smith go in the offseason, paying K.J. McDaniels a three-year, $10 million deal to play in the D-League and -- the big one -- firing coach Kevin McHale after 11 games, nothing has gone well for Morey.
He didn’t become a bad GM overnight. He’s still a good one, and there’s a belief he will fix this group this offseason, starting with whether to bring back J.B. Bickerstaff as coach, and by making a hard decision as to whether to re-sign center Dwight Howard.
This summer, the Rockets feel they will be in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, as they think pairing him with Harden and quite possibly Howard is a better fit than what he currently has in Oklahoma City.
As for this season, the Rockets needed to upgrade the roster in some form. Concentrating on defense was probably the best route, because Trevor Ariza, Howard and Harden are good enough to carry this team to the postseason on offense.
Ariza is the best defensive player on this team and covered the Pelicans' Anthony Davis on Wednesday night in Davis' first game back from a sprained toe.
Howard is still a good center and probably the best communicator on the floor.
Yet things aren't working this season. Morey has the eighth-highest payroll in the NBA, with $86.3 million devoted to player salaries. The Rockets are inching closer to the luxury tax threshold, but these signings mean he hasn’t given up on his team. The confidence remains.
The results from these moves are uncertain.
“We’re trying to get better. [We're] obviously not satisfied with where we are,” Bickerstaff said prior to the Pelicans game. “I think the organization has proven time and time again it will do whatever it takes to make the team better and improve the team. Whether it’s late-season additions, whether it's trades or what have you, the team is willing to do it. By any means necessary, the ownership the front office, everybody is committed to improving the team.”