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2013-14 NBA Season Preview: Houston Rockets

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Most Important Player: Dwight Howard
This one is pretty much a no-brainer. While James Harden is still the best player in H-Town, Howard’s presence immediately makes the Houston Rockets contenders. The only question is, will Howard play the up-tempo style that he supposedly disliked with the Los Angeles Lakers?

X-Factor: Linsanity!
Jeremy Lin’s name is often the first name brought up when fans discuss upgrading the Rockets’ starting lineup. Lin was erratic last season, putting up an unimpressive 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio to the ire of Rockets fans. With D-12 on the block, there will be less pressure on Lin to create and he can concentrate on running the offense and giving occasional glimpses of January 2012.

Rotations: On opening night, the Houston Rockets should be trotting out a starting lineup of Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Donatas Motiejunas and Dwight Howard. Motiejunas showed he can be a versatile stretch 4 last season and should pair well with Howard. On the bench, Omer Asik will be a more than capable backup for Howard, and the two big men could also form a punishing force on the boards if played together. An Asik-Howard-Ronnie Brewer frontline paired with Harden and Patrick Beverley at the guard positions could be a devastating defensive lineup.

Houston’s most potent offensive five, which was displayed quite a bit in the playoffs, involves moving Chandler Parsons to the power forward spot. Surrounding Howard with three swingmen—Harden, Parsons and most likely Francisco Garcia—puts opposing defenses in a precarious situation. With Lin on a short leash, Beverley, Aaron Brooks and rookie Isaiah Canaan should all have a shot to contribute. Terrence Jones’ versatility could garner him some more playing time.

What Needs to Go Right: Dwight Howard needs to revert to his pre-Los Angeles Lakers form for things to work out in Houston. While health was a major component of his struggles last year, his desire to be the first option on offense is also misplaced. The Rockets could be an improved version of the 2009 Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic if Howard willingly accepts the pick-and-roll, dump-and-dish game that showcases Houston’s shooters.

It’s Really Bad If …: James Harden is injured. In addition to losing Harden’s all-world playmaking ability, his ability to get to the free-throw line is even more important next season because of Dwight Howard’s shooting percentage from the stripe. Howard’s inability to knock down freebies, coupled with Omer Asik’s poor performance at the line, means the Rockets won’t be a safe bet in any close games this year.

Bold Prediction: The 2013-14 Houston Rockets will win the Southwest Division over the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies.


Omer Asik, C
Strengths: Size. Asik is a true seven-footer that makes guards think twice about approaching the lane.
Weaknesses: The Turkish big man lacks any sort of offensive game, with the majority of his scoring output coming from put-backs.
Season Prediction: Asik will form a formidable defensive tandem with Dwight Howard, but their free-throw struggles will be a running theme.

Patrick Beverley, PG
Strengths: His quickness is the reason he was guarding the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook during his infamous injury. Beverley’s agility provides a good change of pace at the point guard position when compared to the larger Jeremy Lin.
Weaknesses: Although he put up solid numbers in the postseason, his modest rise in shooting percentage from 41 to 43 percent isn’t comforting considering Westbrook was out for the majority of the series.
Season Prediction: Beverly sees big minutes early in the season as the Rockets search for the answer at the point guard spot, but he eventually ends up out of the rotation.

Ronnie Brewer, SF/SG
Strengths: Brewer’s defensive prowess is well-documented. His supreme athleticism will be useful on a team filled with offense-first players on the wings.
Weaknesses: It’s also been well-documented that Brewer cannot physically straighten his arm, which means his inability to shoot is an obvious concern.
Season Prediction: Brewer sees spot minutes as the Rockets’ primary stopper and in defensively oriented frontcourts with Howard and Asik.

Aaron Brooks, PG
Strengths: A former winner of the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, Brooks is lightning quick and can shoot the basketball.
Weaknesses: Brooks’ score-first mentality isn’t conducive to a Rockets team that needs a distributor. Also, Brooks’ limited size allows him to be easily taken advantage of by bigger, more athletic guards.
Season Prediction: Brooks will have the opportunity to wrest the starting position from Lin, but the glut of point guards in Houston will likely leave Brooks as the odd man out.

Marcus Camby, C
Strengths: Wisdom. At this point in his career, Camby’s ability to impart his understanding of the nuances of rim protection to Asik and Howard will be his greatest contribution.
Weaknesses: Father time.
Season Prediction: Camby will spend the season modeling the work of a number of tailors while learning the ways of the assistant coach.

Isaiah Canaan, PG
Strengths: The rookie from Murray State can fill it up. He put up 21.8 points per game while shooting 37 percent from three during his senior year.
Weaknesses: Size. Listed at 6’0″ and 188 pounds by, it’s going to take some time for Canaan to get his weight up. Even then, he’ll almost always be the smallest guy on the floor.
Season Prediction: Canaan fits right into the group of backup point guards trying to snatch minutes from Jeremy Lin. He may very well find himself on the Rio Grande Valley Vipers for a good portion of the season.

Omri Casspi, SF
Strengths: The Israeli’s shooting ability will give the Rockets another stretch 4.
Weaknesses: Casspi is a tweener and a defensively liability at the small forward and power forward positions.
Season Prediction: Barring injury, Casspi will find himself getting plenty of splinters at the end of the Rockets bench.

Robert Covington, PF
Strengths: Covington knocked down 42.2 percent of his three-point attempts while playing power forward at Tennessee State University.
Weaknesses: At 6’7’’ and 210 pounds, Covington is a classic tweener that is definitely on the small side for a potential stretch 4.
Season Prediction: Covington will be sent down to the Valley Vipers where he could be developed into a contributor in the future.

Francisco Garcia, SG/SF
Strengths: After enduring seven seasons of basketball purgatory with the Sacramento Kings, Garcia was traded to Houston where he immediately contributed by knocking down corner threes and playing solid defense on the wing.
Weaknesses: Consistency. Garcia’s numbers initially didn’t change much after the trade to Houston, but his three-point percentage steadily rose from 36.7 percent with Sacramento, to 38.6 percent with Houston, to 45.9 percent during the playoffs. Will Garcia be able to keep up that level of production?
Season Prediction: Garcia will be the first wing player off the bench and provide a steadying presence to a relatively young group of core players. He’ll find plenty of open looks from three with Howard on the inside.

James Harden, SG
Strengths: Beardedness, getting to the line at an NBA-best rate, and being the best shooting guard in the NBA.
Weaknesses: Team defense and a tendency to dominate the ball.
Season Prediction: Harden will join Dwight Howard on the All-NBA First Team.

Dwight Howard, C
Strengths: Boulder shoulders, physical prowess, dominance on the boards and the ability to anchor the back line of a defense.
Weaknesses: Free-throw shooting, decision making.
Season Prediction: Another All-NBA performance, but Dwight loses the rebounding title to a resurgent Kevin Love.

Terrence Jones, PF
Strengths: While a comparison to Lamar Odom may not be the most flattering these days, Jones’ versatility and overall skill level are similar to the adjunct Kardashian.
Weaknesses: Inexperience. It’s hard to fault Jones for not putting it all together yet, but dealing with his immaturity may not be in the Rockets’ plans as they enter “win now” mode.
Season Prediction: Jones will be a surprise contributor come playoff time. His versatility will be an asset when coach Kevin McHale looks to create mismatches on offense.

Jeremy Lin, PG
Strengths: Penetration and finishing within the pick-and-roll.
Weaknesses: Favors his right hand far too much and lacks the distributing instincts of a traditional point guard.
Season Prediction: Lin ends the season as the starting point guard but splits major minutes with one of Houston’s many backups.

Donatas Motiejunas, PF
Strengths: The Lithuanian big man’s range will be an important factor in Houston’s rotations. His ability to consistently hit the corner three can take Houston’s offensive potential to the next level.
Weaknesses: Motiejunas’ limited experience and slight frame means he won’t have a major impact on the defensive end.
Season Prediction: Motiejunas will see major crunch-time minutes this season because of Asik and Howard’s poor foul shooting.

Chandler Parsons, SF
Strengths: Shooting the three and being an effective small-ball power forward.
Weaknesses: Can get abused inside when playing larger opponents.
Season Prediction: Parsons plays a critical role as the “third guy” on the Rockets and ends the season averaging 18 points per game.

Greg Smith, PF/C
Strengths: Smith is 6’10’’ and 250 pounds. His lone responsibility during the 2013-14 campaign will be to remain this size and provide six fouls, which he is more than capable of doing.
Weaknesses: Smith’s offensive repertoire is lacking. He shoots a respectable 62 percent from the field but a majority of those points are from put-backs and garbage plays.
Season Prediction: Being demoted to the third center on a team with a superstar like Howard means Smith will see few minutes, but his six fouls will come in handy come playoff time.

Reggie Williams, SF
Strengths: By no means is Williams an impact player, but he has the ability to knock down the open shot and play solid defense. Although his three-point percentage has hovered around 30 percent the past two seasons, that decline can be attributed to a lack of minutes and playing on the Charlotte Bobcats.
Weaknesses: Like most role-players, Williams lacks the ability to create for himself or others. He is primarily a spot-up shooter.
Season Prediction: Williams will split the few minutes left over at the small forward position with Omri Casspi and see little action.

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