Now that the Houston Rockets’ pre-season is in full swing, we take a look at what lies ahead for the outlook of the Rockets as they get set to begin the regular season. A panel of 5 writers voice their thoughts on 5 hot-pressing topics. Included are Space City Scoop editors Michael Ma and Phillip Pyle II, Yoni Pollak from House Of Houston, Alex Chea from Rockets Social, and Mike Kerns from The Dream Shake.
1. It seems like there is now a point guard ‘battle’ that will last all the way til the end of the pre-season. Come October 30th, who will be the starting point guard for the Rockets?
Pyle (Space City Scoop): My heart says Jeremy Lin, but my mind says Patrick Beverley. It would make for a great two-headed attack to have Beverley start off the attack on the opponents’ point guard, then have Lin come in with the second team to keep things in order. Basically Lin makes a better captain of the reserves then Beverley does. But Lin is definitely the starter!
Pollak (House of Houston): I expect to hear the following on October 30th at Toyota Center; “At point guard, from Harvard University, number sevennnn…Jeremyyyyyyyyy Liiiinnnnnnnnnnn!!!” Though I may disagree with the call, that’s how I think the Rockets start the season. I’m a big fan of Beverley but I do believe Lin is the better player in general. Lin improved his shooting in the second half last season but he struggles a bit on the defensive side. I think Beverley is the better fit with the starting lineup but I believe Coach McHale starts Lin to start the season.
Chea (Rockets Social): Jeremy Lin will be the starting point guard come October 30th with Patrick Beverley starting certain games for his defense against high scoring point guards like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose.
Kerns (The Dream Shake): There never seems to be a correct answer to this because of the rabid global loyalty to Jeremy Lin. Personally, I’d like to see him as the sixth man. That second unit needs a scorer and Lin is the most effective with the ball in his hand. However, after his strong preseason, I think he’s in the starting line up opening night.
Ma (Space City Scoop): This ‘battle’ is not a case of who’s the better player, but rather what is best for the team. Ironically, the more Jeremy Lin continues to impress in the pre-season further insures him the spot of 6th man. Lin ranked a ridiculously low 38th among NBA point guards in usage rate(around 20 percent) last season, and they could dwindle down with the addition of Dwight Howard if he is in the starting lineup. Lin would be far more valuable coming off the bench, as the Rockets lack play-makers in their 2nd unit, and his production will go up as well. Patrick Beverley should be the starter.
2. The power forward spot continues to be a gaping hole, with 3 potential candidates possibly earning the starting spot. Who’s the best fit to start?
Pyle (@pippyle2): The spot is Terrence Jones’ to lose. Donatas Motiejunas isn’t ready for the bulk of minutes at the 4, and Terrence has the level of athleticism to keep up with opponents’ power forwards. The rotation at the 4 will continue to be a “who is playing the best” sort of situation.
Pollak (@YoniPollak): Terrence Jones. If he can hit the 3-ball at a 35% clip or higher that’d be a plus. Lots of Rockets fans want a trade, specifically for a Ryan Anderson type of PF. I’d welcome a trade but I don’t believe it’s necessary. Jones is very athletic and capable of getting to the rim from time to time. He’s capable of getting boards though that’s not so important with either Howard or Asik on the floor. Motiejunas is probably the better shooter of the three but Jones bring a lot more to the table especially if he can shoot well from 15+ feet.
Chea (@surreAlex): The best fit in the starting line up is Donatas Motiejunas. He provides spacing within the offense to allow Harden and Lin to run their pick and roll. However, Terrence Jones is more ready and provides better defense. I believe the Rockets should bite the bullet with Motiejunas and allow him to grow with the starting line up.
Ma (@RealMichaelMa): Terrence Jones, because he has been the most consistent, but don’t sleep on Omri Casspi. He could be exactly what the Rockets need at the position, as someone who can stretch out the defense, knock down 3’s, and provide solid rebounding on the defensive end.
3. What is the outlook for the Dwight Howard/Omer Asik experiment?
Pyle: The better Dwight plays, the more valuable Omer becomes on the trade market. Together they will be the best defensive backcourt in the NBA.
Pollak: I’ll be honest. I thought Asik would have been gone by now when the Howard news broke. However, with Asik on the team, the team is better. A trade doesn’t seem likely with Asik before the season, though you never know (example: Harden). The more opening night gets closer, the more I am excited about the Howard/Asik combo. I think they will do wonders for the Rockets on defense when both are on the court or even the ability to just have one on the court at all times. If they do play together I suspect the Rockets will likely go with Lin, Harden, and Parsons, since all three are capable of creating their own shots. Will Asik be traded before or during the season? It’s possible, but I think even Daryl Morey wants to see if a “twin tower” lineup would work.
Chea: Situational against teams. Most likely won’t work.
Kerns: This is something I’d love to have the answer to. Of all of the positive signs out of the preseason so far, this one still being an unknown is killing me. I still don’t see how it can work for the thirty minutes per game that coach Kevin McHale is talking about, but in particular situations, it’s hard not to be optimistic about. I can’t wait to see how it works, personally.
Ma: The analytics movement in the NBA has been tremendous, which Daryl Morey was a big part of implementing it, but this could be an example of a downfall. While both Asik and Howard ranked in the top-10 defensive centers in the league last year, it doesn’t ensure that the Rockets will become a dominate defense. If the two are on the floor together, the lack of spacing that the two would cause on the offensive end could be catastrophic. Unless Asik is content with a bench role, I don’t see him sticking around come February.
4. Bench production was a weak spot for the Rockets last season, who will be the major contributors for the Rockets off the bench?
Pyle: The number one contributor off the bench will be Ronnie Brewer. He has that ability to disappear on offense and sneak in on cuts, and is the best one-on-one defender on the Rockets.
Pollak: The bench will be a big part of the Rockets success this season. Assuming Beverley ends up starting most games at PG (which I believe he should), Jeremy Lin should thrive in a Manu Ginobli type role. The Lin/Asik combo which we all thought was the big STARTING combo last season, will both be key bench contributors this season. I think Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi will be the SG/SF off the bench and Donatas Motiejunas will back up Jones. This team is very deep and should be fun to watch for all 48 minutes a game.
Chea: Omer Asik will be very important for the Rockets if Dwight Howard gets into foul trouble. A defensive anchor 24/7 is what the Rockets missed so badly last season and when he was out their defense was atrocious.
Kerns: It’s only preseason, but it’s hard not to admire what Omri Casspi is doing with his opportunities. It’s early, but he certainly looks like another Daryl Morey gem. He’s earned a spot in the rotation thus far, in my opinion.
Ma: Assuming that Lin comes off the bench, a 2nd unit that includes him with Asik, Motiejunas, and Francisco Garcia would be able to challenge most starting lineups in the NBA. I don’t think the bench will be much of an issue this season.
5. Does the Harden/Howard duo have a chance to be the next great SG/C combination in Rockets franchise history?
Pyle: The duo is already the best duo, Tracy McGrady, and Yao Ming were the previous best, but injuries held them back. Howard and Harden will both start for the West in the All-Star game.
Pollak: I was very young when the Rockets championship teams were around. The best SG/C combo I remember watching in a Rockets uniform was Tracy McGrady (if you call him a SG) and Yao Ming. They were both great players though not necessarily a “combo” in terms of both their styles. I think Harden and Howard have great potential and will be the next great SG/C combination in franchise history. I’d even go as far as saying they will be the best SG/C combination in the NBA over the next decade. Their styles fit very well together and I think Howard will benefit immensely from Harden’s drives to the hoop.
Chea: Of course! I think they have a bigger potential than Tracy and Yao did. Not saying they are better players but they seem to fit each others game more.
Kerns: On paper, they already are. But so were Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady a decade ago. It really depends on that word we’ve grown to hate as Houston Rockets fans; health. If they can stay on the floor together and get their chemistry down, I see no reason why they can’t be the next Shaq and Kobe instead of the next Yao and Tracy.
Ma: Based on the fact that they were able to win a championship, I think the Clyde Drexler/Hakeem Olajuwon duo was the best SG/C combination in Rockets history, although the years that ensued were post prime years for both and Drexler played small forward for a fair amount of time. While the Tracy McGrady/Yao Ming combo is more talented, Harden/Howard has a chance to cement their legacies on the rafters of Toyota Center.