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Changing of the Guards

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Changing of the Guards

Post Author: BizGilwalker » Wed May 15, 2019 3:30 am


The day Rockets guards Tyus Jones, Briante Weber, Avery Bradley, and Delon Wright were shipped off to Minnesota for guards Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin, Rockets GM BizGilwalker celebrated the completion of his blockbuster trade, one that brought in a player that he idolized and had tremendous respect for. But in the back of his mind, he knew it was a major risk- Tyus Jones, an elite three-point shooter, and terrific floor general was coming off an exceptional season in which he led the Rockets to 50 wins and a playoff berth in a year where it was not expected. Disrupting that chemistry to bring in a flashy veteran whose offense was notoriously inefficient and ball dominant, had the potential to backfire spectacularly.

After winning Kemba's first game with the Rockets, headlined by a 40-point showing from the newcomer, the team dropped 4 out of 5 games. Through six games Kemba was shooting 38% on 20 shots per game, promising young guard Malik Monk had been taken out of his element, and the previously potent Houston offense was all out of sorts and couldn't even reach 100 points every night.


By the end of the second week of the Kemba experiment, Biz was fuming and had already fielded two or three potential offers for Walker. He called in an intern from his analytics team after a particularly rough loss to New Orleans. "Why did you let me do this?" he snarled. "Tyus Jones is fucking dominating out there for Minnesota with his added touches and Kemba is ruining this team's offense. He can't make a damn layup and Monk and KAT aren't getting their touches. Why the FUCK did your boss let me do this??"

The intern was mortified, as Biz was usually a pretty easy going guy. After a few moments and several deep breaths, the intern said, "Don't fire me, I think this is fixable. Come to my office when you're ready. I want to show you something. My boss thought I was an idiot, but someone needs to see it."

They walk down the hall slowly in complete silence. *What could this kid possibly tell me that will change everything?* wondered Biz. *He doesn't even know that I'm ready to trade everyone not from Kentucky and fire Mark Jackson and half my front office, him included, if we don't get this turned around...*

The intern opens his laptop and pulls up the database and software used to do the number crunching. "So I was trying to figure out how other teams have used players like him. I noticed a neat trend deep in these advanced stats-
... and there you have it, Malik Monk should be the full-time ball handler at PG, while Kemba and Lin play off the ball. Kemba can play point, but not with another scorer in the backcourt."

"GET OUT AND DON'T WASTE MY TIME WITH THIS BULLSHIT!" yelled Biz. "This is my office though," said the intern, shaking in his seat. "FINE I'M LEAVING!" Biz stormed out and slammed the door behind him.



Fast forward to that evening, Biz turns on TNT to watch the next Rockets game at Denver. "An interesting wrinkle in the game plan tonight for the Rockets, it appears they are going to start Malik Monk at PG and Kemba Walker at SG tonig-" Biz turns off the TV and picks up his phone. "MARK, WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS? Did you really take the advice of some 26 year old dumbass who just looks at a computer screen to pay his rent?"

Coach Jackson replied, "Give me two weeks with this lineup, please, just two weeks. It's a process, we'll be well above .500 by then. The schedule gets easier and the guys will finally get to build some chemistry together."

Biz collected himself and said, "You're right, it's a process.... I should be more patient. That said, consider yourself fired if we're not above .500 by Christmas."



Five days later, the Rockets have gone 1-2 with the new lineup, a blowout loss to Denver, a highly encouraging win over Cleveland, and a one posession loss to Orlando. With a slightly cooler head than last week, Biz understands there has to be an adjustment period, and that patience was key in building the Harden era Rockets. Biz was not optimistic, with the Rockets sitting at 11-13 and a ninth seed, and seemingly clashing offensive skillsets on the roster.

The next few games saw shot distributions change significantly. While neither backcourt player shot particularly well, Kemba showed for the first time a willingness to defer to Monk, and Monk got better looks at the basket. While the offense wasn't perfect, it was improving, but the biggest change was on the defensive end. 4 wins and 1 loss later, Houston was 15-14, on the upswing, Kemba publicly proclaimed Malik Monk as the #1 scoring option on the team and promised to defer.

Biz assured Mark Jackson and the intern that their jobs were safe for the season.


Since that point, the Rockets have not deviated from the lineup, staggering Monk and Kemba so that they start and end the games together, but always having one of them out there at PG. Kemba's defensive presence has been a game-changer, turning around a middle-of-the-pack defense into one of the elites and making it easier for everyone. His decision to take a step back and take less shots has allowed Malik Monk and Towns to score more effectively with their expected volume, leading to the second most efficient team offense in points per possession in the league.

Since Mark Jackson switched Monk and Walker's positions and suffered through that 1-2 adjustment period, the Rockets have been one of the hottest teams in the league, stringing together a trio of seven-game winning streaks, sporting a 28-5 record, a record equivalent to that of the 69-13 Harden-led 2016-17 championship team.

"You can thank our analytics intern for this," Biz jested in an interview following a win over Detroit that pushed the Rockets into the 3 seed in the west. "He's the one who pointed out that our guards should change positions, but credit to Mark Jackson for believing the kid when I didn't, sticking with it and preaching patience to someone desperate for instant results. I'll admit I had my doubts after Kemba's initial struggles, but I know better now, to never doubt Kemba Walker."
2022-23 Houston Rockets
PG: Malik Monk / Jeremy Lin / Keenan Evans
SG: Kemba Walker / Troy Daniels / Vlatko Cancar
SF: Dragan Bender / Al-Farouq Aminu / Zak Irvin
PF: Kevon Looney / LeBron James / OG Anunoby
C: Karl-Anthony Towns / Eric Mika / Justin Patton [+]

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Re: Changing of the Guards

Post Author: Dylan » Wed May 15, 2019 3:57 am

This was a fun read, good stuff. The Monk at point and Kemba at the 2 combination has made you into a formidable contender.

Since I own your pick, at the beginning of the season I saw you struggling a bit and was hoping I'd land a pick in the late lottery or at least mid round. Now I'm looking at a late 1st.

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Re: Changing of the Guards

Post Author: hardenwithnod » Wed May 15, 2019 2:56 pm

Your team has been on fire ever since that switch, it looks like Kemba is settling in after a rough start.
The Future is Here!


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Re: Changing of the Guards

Post Author: Flaming Homer » Thu May 16, 2019 11:20 am

Great read ... man there are a lot new and LOOONG articles in the forum.
Hard to catch up after vaca.

Interesting to see that Monk is working so well on the 1. To be honest, I would not have thought about this option.
But whatever works :-)

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