By: Mike Spitz
The Houston Rockets made more noise this last year for what they didn’t get than what they got. Everyone remembers them as the brief favorites for the Dwightstakes, offering a bevy of lottery picks and young talent for the annoying superstar. The rest is history, as Orlando accepted a package centered around Arron Afflalo (?!?!? REALLY?!?!) and are preparing to rot in the lottery for years to come.
This was salt in the fresh wound after David Stern robbed the Rockets of Pau Gasol in the rejected Chris Paul to the Lakers trade. Houston fans have legitimate reason to gripe, although giving up multiple players for Pau Gasol wouldn’t necessarily have made them a contender. He’s a great piece, but not someone you can build a team around (see: Grizzlies, Memphis 2001-2008).
So what do we know about the Rockets? Not a whole lot. Their roster may be better built this season for NBA2K13 than real life, as you can pretty much put anyone on the floor without noticing a difference. They made a lot of noise signing Jeremy Lin, who’s 18 game tear wasn’t a fluke, but he probably didn’t deserve $25 million. Right now the only thing safe to say about him is he’s a good player. The Rockets truly downgraded at the point guard position, going from two good starters (Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry) to a perennial backup (Toney Douglas) and a question mark (Lin).
Royce White is my dark horse rookie of the year candidate. He’s a point forward that would have definitely been picked in the top 10 of the draft if he wasn’t afraid of flying. He led Iowa State in five statistical categories and finished top five in the Big 12 in both rebounding and assists last year. He went head to head with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Thomas Robinson, out playing them all. I think he’s a more skilled Josh Smith, and a middle class man’s LeBron.
I look at the rest of the Rockets roster like I look at the Taco Bell menu at 1 a.m., I just don’t know what the hell I want right now. Everything is good, but there isn’t anything I take to a meal involving my girlfriend’s parents. I suppose Kevin Martin could be called their best player, but he is on the trading block so much he may actually be the life support for NBA.com’s NBA Rumors section. Chandler Parsons is someone I fiercely rooted against while he was at college, based on his hair alone. He cut the hair and magically became a second round steal.
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Terrence Jones and Patrick Patterson are indistinguishable at the power forward position. Patterson will probably get the starting nod due to experience Jones brings a good mid range game and athleticism to Houston. Omer Asik is a nice addition even if they overpaid him, especially on the defensive end. In a conference that features a lot of offensive centers, having a defensive specialist will go a long way to hanging in close games.
Carlos Delfino is a great guy to have on the bench. I’m a sucker for any basketball player with only one facial expression in their arsenal, and Delfino can play 20 minutes a game and knock down a few corner threes. Jeremy Lamb has so much potential I would be on the phone every night trying to trade Kevin Martin to open up more minutes for him.
Houston is a team that I predict to be in the top five of the Western Conference within the next few years. They’re closer than anyone is giving them credit for. The NBA is trending towards fast, small-ball lineups. Houston’s roster translates well for this style of play. I imagine Lin/Lamb/Parsons/White/Patterson being able to run most teams off the floor while still being able to rebound well and defend. Can they make the playoffs this year? Why the hell not? There are seven teams in the West that I consider locks for the playoffs (in no particular order), the Nuggets, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Thunder, Spurs and Jazz. That leaves the Mavs (Dirk out 6 weeks), Wolves (Kevin Love broken hand), and Warriors (Steph Curry ankle?). I can totally see the Rockets sneaking into the playoffs this year and steadily improving for the next few. If they can dump Martin for a legitimate big man, for instance Nik Pekovic, lift off.