Rockets News

Should Rockets’ Lack of Center Depth Be a Concern?

By Brett David Roberts

Apr 16, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) scrambles for a loose ball with New Orleans Pelicans forward Tyreke Evans (1) during the second quarter of a game at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the Houston Rockets’ depth chart, it’s a bit disconcerting to look at the center position. At every position except the 5-spot, the Rockets go three or four deep. Behind Dwight Howard, there is only the inconsistent and erratic Donatas Motiejunas.

Motiejunas has shown promise in his first two NBA seasons, but his lack of ability to defend (and avoid foul trouble) makes him a risky proposition as the lone center behind Dwight.

The Rockets sent Greg Smith packing at the end of last year, and the solid backup center was claimed by the Chicago Bulls. It seems as though Rockets GM Daryl Morey would love a “do over” on that one.

Howard theoretically is a 35-38 minute per night kind of guy. But that still leaves 10 or more minutes that he won’t be on the floor. Should Howard fall into foul trouble, that number increases more still. While Motiejunas offers a lot offensively, against teams that have better centers, his backup duties may be very problematic.

A lot of this, of course, is due to the trading of Omer Asik. Asik was dealt to the New Orleans Hornets to help clear space to chase a top free agent. Acquiring such a player never happened. And while Asik was a bit too expensive to be a backup center, the Rockets failed to replace him with a guy capable of playing major minutes behind Howard.

Perhaps Morey seeks to deal for some depth at the position. The plethora of guards and swingmen gives the Rockets some wiggle room, but without trading a promising youngster like Troy Daniels or Nick Johnson, it’s unlikely that any other franchise just places a backup center in a hand basket at Morey’s front door.

Rather, it may be a very dicey situation until the Rockets secure a big man capable of playing major minutes. Clint Capela is nowhere near ready, but may be pressed into duty if the Rockets simply have no answers. He’s likely to begin the year in the D-League, but D-Mo has already been there. Kevin McHale may be pulling his hair out every time Dwight picks up a couple early ones. It could potentially be the Rockets’ biggest weakness this season.