May 3, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) brings the ball down the court during the first quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
With the season now officially over, the Houston Rockets have an exciting foundation to build their future with. In a season where the expectations were low before the season began, the Rockets turned the heads of many throughout the regular season as they stayed in the western conference playoff race all season long.
But it didn’t stop there, the Rockets made noise in the playoffs as an 8th seed, going up against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Down 3-0 in the series, Houston was able to pull out two wins that helped capture the attention of a national audience. Even though the Rockets came up short in the end, their youth, excitement, and energy have now gained the recognition of just the casual NBA fan.
The first part of this piece includes James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, Carlos Delfino, and Greg Smith. Here are the grades for those Rockets players this season:
James Harden: A
No surprise here. Harden was acquired days before the season began, in what is now most likely the best trade in the Daryl Morey era. Questions began surfacing on whether Harden can excel as a starter with increased minutes, and as the primary offensive option. Harden was coming off a career year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, in which he won the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Those questions were answered in his first week as a Rocket. Harden scored 37 points and 45 points in his first two games en route to a spectacular season. He averaged career highs in minutes (38), points (25.9), assists (5.8), rebounds (4.9), and was in the top five of the NBA in free throws made and free throws attempted. Add his first all-star appearance into the equation and Harden earns himself an A. Breaking Moses Malone’s franchise record of consecutive games scoring at least 25 points adds to Harden’s accolades as well.
Harden is the Rockets franchise player and Morey will build the pieces around him. He will play a big part in the offseason, recruiting available free agents for come to Houston (Dwight Howard is the big fish).
May 3, 2013; Houston, TX, USA;Houston Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons (25) drives the ball during the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Chandler Parsons: A-
Parsons emerged as solid starter for the Rockets in his rookie year, and expectations for him was to steadily increase his production in his second year. He did more than that. Parsons emerged as the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 15.5 points, and increased his production on every offensive category from his rookie year. He became a 39 percent three-point shooter after shooting 33 percent in his rookie year, and his free throw percentage went from 55 percent to 72 percent this season.
Parsons also established himself as a vocal leader in the locker room, and a solid defensively player as well. He now has the task of guarding the best wing player, and he showed it in the playoffs as he and Francisco Garcia did a solid job on the Thunder’s Kevin Durant.
Parson’s contract will be a question this offseason, as he made under $1 million this season from his rookie contract he signed two years ago. He has one year left, and is scheduled to make under $1 million for next season as well. It will be interesting to see if Parsons demands a contract extension in the summer, or if he will wait until he becomes a restricted free agent. I find it hard to believe that Parsons will want to play for under $1 million next season.
Omer Asik: B+
Asik was another question mark for the Rockets coming into the season after his former team, the Chicago Bulls, did not match the Rockets contract offer. Having played two seasons as a reserve center for the Bulls, nobody had any idea of how Asik will play as a full-time starter.
Asik impressed many, and even received recognition as a Most Improved Player candidate. He started all 82 games and averaged career highs in all categories. Averaging double digits in points (10.1) and rebounds (11.7), Asik recorded 33 double-doubles, compared to just one double-double in his two years in Chicago.
Asik’s offensive game has always been limited so that comes as no surprise. He also must work on his hands this offseason. Far too many times throughout the season has a player been able to penetrate into the lane to dish a pass for Asik to finish, only for him to miss the ball, fumble the catch, or miss the shot. If Asik can work on that part of his game, he should be able to record at least 50 double-doubles next season.
Apr 17, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin (7) is defended by Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake (5) at the Staples Center. The Lakers defeated the Rockets 99-95 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Lin: B-
I’m going to be fair on Lin. He most likely will be remembered this season by his dismal performances in the playoffs. Lost in that is the fact that Lin had a pretty solid season in his first year with the Rockets. He gets a B- due to all the baggage, media, and high expectations that came along with him. Many expected him to duplicate his output from his “Linsanity” days in New York when he first burst onto the NBA scene, but few were able to see his solid growth in his first full season as an NBA starting point guard.
Lin started all 82 games for the Rockets and averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists. Lin struggled early on as he was coming off knee surgery, and had to learn to play without the ball with the acquisition of Harden. He found his stride mid-way through the season and was able to steadily improve his efficiency as the season went on. As of January, Lin was shooting a horrendous 27 percent from behind the three point line, and finished the season as a 34 percent three point shooter.
For the most part, Lin’s play this season was very inconsistent to say the least. The Rockets face a question mark this offseason at the point guard position with Lin and Patrick Beverley. Aaron Brooks has an option for next season so he might be in the equation as well. I liked it best when Lin and Beverley were on the floor at the same time, and I think that should be the Rockets lineup for next season with Harden and Parsons sliding down to the 3 and 4, respectively.
Carlos Delfino: B
It was surprising when the Rockets announced that they had signed Delfino…….in late August. Delfino has been a steady contributor throughout his career in four stops prior to Houston. NBA teams are always looking for reserve swingman who can stretch the floor, knock down three pointers, handle the ball, and play solid defense which was why it was a bit surprising that Delfino was still a free agent less than two months before training camp started for NBA teams.
Apr 24, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Houston Rockets forward Greg Smith (4) dunks the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) in the first half during game two of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Delfino established himself as a key contributor for the Rockets, averaging double digits in points (10.6) for the third time in his career. He also shot 38 percent from behind the arc and was able to play in the power forward position on numerous occasions. The only downside on Delfino was that he was a streaky shooter throughout the season, and wasn’t able to stay healthy for long periods of time. But he should be a key contributor for the Rockets bench next season, as he is under contract for one more year.
Greg Smith: B-
Smith established himself in the D-League last season, being named a D-League all-star. He showed lots of potential in his first full NBA season with the Rockets. Smith played in 70 games this season, averaging 6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 16 minutes. He also recorded two double-doubles and showed the Rockets that he has a low-post offensive game.
Smith also showed that he has the best hands out of all the big men on the Rockets roster, and can finish at the rim. He had a couple of 20 point games off the bench, but his inconsistency and inability to stay out of foul trouble really impeded on his growth. Smith became the starting power forward late in the season, but did not have a very good playoff outing. Still, the Rockets have a good young big man that can become a big part of Houston’s future plans.
In part 2, the remaining of the Rockets roster will get their grades.