Dec 13, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets power forward Dwight Howard (12) on the bench between shooting guard James Harden (13) and point guard Patrick Beverley (2) against the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Houston Rockets defeated the Golden State Warriors 116-112. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Following an active offseason, the Houston Rockets will enter 2014-15 sporting different lineups. From Trevor Ariza joining the starting five to fresh faces playing off the bench, Houston will boast new units capable of providing various contributions.
Let’s explore what each group can offer, shall we:
Sep 27, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) and center Dwight Howard (12) pose for a picture during media day at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
PG: Patrick Beverley (28-33 mpg)
SG: James Harden (35-40 mpg)
SF: Trevor Ariza (30-35 mpg)
PF: Terrence Jones (28-33 mpg)
C: Dwight Howard (35-40 mpg)
Houston lost a versatile scoring option in Chandler Parsons this summer, but the replacement is far from incompetent. Trevor Ariza will bring consistency from three (40.7% in 2013-14) as well as reliable offense on the break (1.3 transition points per play), and his playing style should fit perfectly within the Rockets’ system.
James Harden and Dwight Howard will serve as the primary scorers, with Harden likely leading as a playmaker as well. An exceptional passer, the 2-guard’s talent for drawing defenders will repeatedly create open looks for Ariza and Patrick Beverley on the perimeter.
With Beverley taking care of the ball and the rising Terrence Jones receiving his touches, expect this unit to generate the majority of Houston’s offensive production. Harden, Howard, Ariza, and Jones will probably lead the Rockets in scoring (in that order).
On defense, this is Houston’s top unit, as Harden is the lone liability. If the All-Star can just enhance his efforts on D, the Rockets will drastically improve upon their dreadful 26th place finish in points allowed per game by a starting five last season.
Also, look for this unit to grab the most rebounds. Howard (12.2) and Jones (6.9) should pave the way in this regard.
Apr 25, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; The Houston Rockets bench reacts after guard Troy Daniels (30) makes the game wining shot in overtime against the Portland Trail Blazers in game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
PG: Isaiah Canaan (22-27 mpg)
SG: Troy Daniels (12-17 mpg)
PG/SG: Nick Johnson (12-17 mpg)
SF: Kostas Papanikolaou (18-23 mpg)
PF: Jeff Adrien (22-27 mpg)
C: Donatas Montiejunas (12-17 mpg)
These six athletes will likely log the most minutes off the pine. Expect Jeff Adrien to lead this unit in scoring, while Isaiah Canaan proves himself a trustworthy facilitator behind Beverley.
During his stay with the Milwaukee Bucks last season, Adrien averaged 15.6 points per 36 minutes on 51.5 percent shooting. If given the proper amount of minutes, there’s no reason to doubt he’ll match this level of play.
Also, with Canaan’s explosiveness off the bounce and phenomenal passing ability, the 23-year-old is poised for a solid season as well. He will probably finish second in assists behind Harden.
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Troy Daniels and Kostas Papanikolaou should space the floor as three-point threats, and rookie Nick Johnson will bring an aggressive element to Houston’s bench. In addition, look for Donatas Montiejunas to provide a different offensive outlook when filling for Howard, as he is an impeccable shooter within 10-16 feet.
Despite their positive attributes, however, this group is bound to bring erratic offense as a result of their inexperience: some games will boast significant bench production, while others will severely lack it. Quite frankly, it all just depends on who Houston faces any given night.
Defensively, this unit is a mixed bag. Adrien, Johnson and Papanikolaou are reliable ball-stoppers, but Canaan, Daniels and Montiejunas all present noteworthy flaws. Rebounding will prove troublesome as well, as – aside from Adrien, who gobbled up 7.8 boards per game with the Bucks – no one can do this on a regular basis.
Essentially, inconsistency will serve as the theme for the Rockets’ bench in 2014-15. While this group will undergo their moments of greatness, the starting five will carry the bulk of the load moving forward.
(All stats – unless otherwise noted – are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com)