3-on-3: Wizards vs. Rockets: John Wall vs. Kyle Lowry
The 5-7 Houston Rockets are in town to take on the 1-11 Washington Wizards. These two teams split their season series last season, the Wizards winning 98-91 in D.C. on November 10, 2010 in what was dubbed “Asian Heritage Night” as Yi Jianlian faced Yao Ming. The game was broadcast on NBA TV and also in front of millions in China. Unfortunately, Yao got injured after playing only six minutes in the first quarter; that game would be his last before retiring. Magic Johnson was in attendance, sitting courtside next to Ted Leonsis, John Wall recorded his first NBA triple double, and Cowboy Al Thornton was the unsung hero. Washington’s return trip to Houston on December 27 was a 100-93 loss under different circumstances. Not 10 days earlier Gilbert Arenas had been traded to Orlando and not three days earlier, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche got to fighting in the club. For today’s game preview 3-on-3 we have Truth About It’s Sam Permutt, Michael Pina of TrueHoop Houston Rockets blog Red94 (and from the blogs Shaky Ankles and Wiz of Awes), and Matt Moore of TrueHoop blog Hardwood Paroxysm, CBSSports.com, and several other NBA-related places all over the web. Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) Through 10 games, Houston’s point guard Kyle Lowry has a 24.6 PER, which ranks 11th in the NBA. He leads the Rockets with 17.8 points per game, and averages 6.9 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 3.5 turnovers. Comparatively, John Wall averages 13.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 4.2 turnovers (PER of 12.4). How do you see the battle between these two playing out?
MATT MOORE: Lowry’s going to kill him. Lowry’s been on fire for about a year now, which mostly means he’s not so much on fire as he is just becoming one of the top point guards in the league. Meanwhile, Wall is the primary threat on the Wizards, every team knows it, and he’s regressed in his second year. It’s nothing to panic over, he just needs to slow down when he finishes at the rim and take his time to think through the play sets. But Lowry’s a physical defender despite his size, and should give Wall an exhausting day.
SAM PERMUTT: This could be a good match-up for John Wall. Kyle Lowry is able to use his quickness and speed to his advantage against most point guards in the league, but Wall should have him beat in those categories. Still, Lowry is a very intelligent player, so expect him to get his also. Both guards will have good games.
MICHAEL PINA: Just looking at the numbers, to this point it’s obvious Lowry is having a far better season. But with no other reliable player on his team, Wall’s playing tight right now. The shot selection of his fellow backcourt mates has been atrocious. When watching Wall, it seems like he’s trying to do too much, forcing shots at the rim and having just 10.2-percent of his total shots assisted (good for lowest in the entire league among regular starters). Wall is an athletic phenom, but Lowry has relished these type of match-ups this season. Should be one of the game’s focal points.
#2) How hurt was Houston by losing out on Pau Gasol when David Stern cancelled the Chris Paul to-the-Lakers trade? Would it really have improved a middling, currently 5-7 team? Was it more of a lateral move?
MOORE: Rockets fans are obsessed with the idea that if they had gotten Gasol, Nene would have come right along. That’s a pretty big if, but don’t tell them that. Meanwhile, the leftovers of that team would be pretty good, but look at it closely. You’re talking Lowry, Budinger, Gasol, Nene if they landed him, and then Patrick Patterson and…. uh… yeah. The Rockets need to trade for a legitimate star, not Pau Gasol. They would be better than they’ve been this season. They would not have been a title contender.
PERMUTT: Houston gets the most out of their guys. Their current team is mostly solid role-players who compliment each other nicely. But having an all-star post player, especially one as unselfish and versatile as Pau, would have made the team into a legitimate playoff squad.
PINA: In short, it was devastating. The Rockets had been biding their time to swoop in and grab one of the league’s 15 best players for a while, and it was expected that once they acquired Gasol, gobs upon gobs of money would be thrown towards Nene to form the league’s best starting frontcourt. Courtney Lee could’ve slid into the starting SG role, Lowry would remain running the point, and Houston’s starting five would have been one of the league’s most difficult to match up with.
#3) Houston is also a young team with two rookies (Marcus Morris and Chandler Parsons), two second year players (Jeff Adrien and Patrick Patterson) and five third year players (Chase Budinger, Jonny Flynn, Jordan Hill, Hasheem Thabeet and Terrence Williams). Who’s still around in five years achieving the most success?
MOORE: Patterson, Budinger, and Hill. The link between those three players and the rest (besides Parsons) is their coachability. Hill was an underwhelming rookie who has plugged and plugged away and is now producing. Patterson has a great all-around game, and Budinger is a legit starter. The rest have some talent outside of Thabeet, and could contribute, but the only ones I’m totally comfortable with are those three.
PERMUTT: I haven’t seen the two rookies play significantly yet, but Patrick Patterson is the best prospect of the other guys. He’s versatile, plays hard, and seems to have gotten a lot better with experience. Most of these players are good enough to stick around the league (or big enough, in the case of Thabeet and Hill), but don’t expect any of them to be breakout stars.
PINA: With Adrien, Parsons, and Morris all serving as the only young players with guaranteed contracts next season — dirt cheap and manageable ones at that — Daryl Morey has incredible flexibility regarding where he wants to take this team. Due to their poor/non-existent play, Flynn, Hill, Thabeet, and Williams don’t figure to fit in with Houston’s future at all, but Parsons, Patterson, and Budinger are solid growing pieces who the Rockets would love to see stick around.