I've mentioned this in previous posts, but one of the most amazing and envy-inducing pictures I've ever seen is a picture on Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey's Mobile Uploads page on his Facebook account. It's a shot of a blackjack hand, split three times (for four hands total), with a blackjack on every hand.
If you play any blackjack, it's as majestic a site as you can see. Metaphorically, it stands for the ultimate success. You can do no better than this on a blackjack hand.
Today, the Rockets closed the book on the four former 2009 NBA lottery picks that Morey had acquired the last two seasons, and the verdict is in -- whatever the exact opposite of the "four blackjack" picture is, that's what the quartet of Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, Jordan Hill and Terrence Williams wound up being for the Rockets.
In my season preview for this year's Rockets, I had the development of the 2009 Draft Lottery Posse as one of the key story lines of the 2011-2012 season. With the trades of Hill to the Lakers, Thabeet and Flynn to the Blazers, and the outright waiving of Williams, we can now assess Morey's return on the investment in these NBA penny stocks.
(NOTE: The grades below are on the players' performance for the Rockets, not on the value of the trade. Since these guys all came here for pennies on the dollar, the value versus what the Rockets gave up is inherently almost inconsequential.)
HASHEEM THABEET, 2009 2nd Overall Pick Acquired: Traded by the Memphis Grizzlies with DeMarre Carroll and a future first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets for Shane Battier and Ishmael Smith. Outcome: Played in a total of seven games for a total of 27 minutes and had more fouls (eight) than points (six). On the bright side, he did shoot 1.000 from the field this season (three for three!) and for a guy who is seven-foot-three, he looks really good in suits. Player's Grade: Whatever letter grade can be lower than F
JONNY FLYNN, 2009 6th Overall Pick Acquired: Traded by the Minnesota Timberwolves with Donatas Motiejunas and a future second-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets for Brad Miller, Nikola Mirotic, Chandler Parsons and a future first-round draft pick. Outcome: Played a total of 123 minutes in 11 games, most of those coming in the last week or so with Kyle Lowry hospitalized with an infection. Player's Grade: D- (avoiding an F on the strength of a stellar one-hour appearance in studio on my radio show over the summer -- hey, it's my post, I can do what I want).
JORDAN HILL, 2009 8th Overall Pick Acquired: As part of a three-team trade, traded by the New York Knicks with Jared Jeffries and a future first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets; the Houston Rockets traded Tracy McGrady to the New York Knicks; the Houston Rockets traded Joey Dorsey and Carl Landry to the Sacramento Kings; the New York Knicks traded Larry Hughes to the Sacramento Kings; the Sacramento Kings traded Hilton Armstrong and Kevin Martin to the Houston Rockets; and the Sacramento Kings traded Sergio Rodriguez to the New York Knicks. Houston had the right to swap first-round draft picks with New York in 2011 but did not do so. (Got all that?) Outcome: Started 18 games over parts of three seasons, but for the most part was a bench player averaging 15 minutes per game with around six points and five rebounds a night. Never really progressed as a player, nor did he seem to be bothered by the lack of progress. Sadly, this is enough to make him the runaway winner for most productive player among these four. Player's Grade: D (largely for at least getting on the floor). TERRENCE WILLIAMS, 2009 11th Overall Pick Acquired: As part of a three-team trade, traded by the New Jersey Nets to the Houston Rockets for a lottery-protected 2012 first-round draft pick to the New Jersey Nets. Outcome: Played in a total of 23 games, mostly garbage minutes. His greatest accomplishment was becoming the first player to ever celebrate his first shot in the nine-man rotation by skipping practice the next day. On the plus side, he's pretty cool on Twitter. Player's Grade: F (coolness on Twitter cancels out boneheadedness of missing practice).
Look, nobody needs to go headhunting over at Toyota Center to find who's to blame for these deals not working out. If I can make another "split into four hands" blackjack analogy, these four players were like splitting fives against a face card. You're setting yourself up for four busts.
But I get it, it doesn't mean the futile feeling of being stuck in neutral is any less acute. If it makes any of you feel any better, it appears there's a decent chance Derek Fisher may never wear a Rockets uniform and that a buyout could be imminent.
So there's that.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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