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Houston Rockets Donatas Motiejunas Key to Team’s Success

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Houston Rockets Power Forward Donatas Motiejunas will play a key role in the Rockets’ success this upcoming season. Emerging as an offensive threat last year, D-Mo gave the Rockets valuable minutes before being sidelined by a back injury. While Josh Smith and Terrence Jones were able to fill the void, it is possible that the Rockets playoff run may have ended differently had D-Mo remained in the lineup.

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Despite his solid performance most of last season, D-Mo stands overshadowed by the superstar talent of his teammates. Of course, James Harden and Dwight Howard deserve most of the praise for the Rockets’ success, but how did the Rockets manage to grab second place in the West with Dwight Howard out half of last season?

James Harden was responsible for most of the workload, but he still had help. Many times when the offense started to turn stagnant, or when teams wouldn’t allow Harden to receive the ball, Coach Kevin McHale ran the Rockets offense through Motiejunas. With perhaps the best post moves in the league, Motiejunas was able to score from either block. Once he drew double teams, he would kick the ball back out and the Rockets offense was able to find holes that they were unable to create going solely through Harden.

Without a doubt, D-Mo was the Rockets second best offensive weapon last season, and much of the team’s success was due to his elevated level of play. According to nba.com, D-Mo shot 60.3% inside of five feet, which is above the league average. He also managed to shoot 37% from deep, giving him the opportunity to function as a stretch four next to Howard. Overall, D-Mo averaged 12 point per game for the Rockets during the 2014-2015 season.

Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

On the other side side of the ball, Motiejunas plays great positional defense, and for much of last season he ranked among the top ten in rim protection. While he desperately needs to improve his rebounding, Howard is able to pick up some of the slack in that area.

Currently, D-Mo is doctoring a back injury that he expects to recover from before the start of next season. If the Rockets hope to return to the WCF, and then advance, D-Mo will need to improve upon the type of season he had last year.

With a star backcourt in Harden and Ty Lawson, and an elite defensive front-court in Howard and Trevor Ariza, Motiejunas must establish himself as a consistent offensive weapon in the post. Possessing an above average skillset, Motiejunas needs to mature this season by making sure his game is sharpened and steady at all times.

If Motiejunas can fill the expectations he set for himself last season the Rockets have as good a shot to win an NBA title as anybody. In fact, it is safe to say that if Motiejunas can play consistently, the Rockets may have the best starting five in all of the NBA.

Last season, with Howard missing so many games, D-Mo acted as the Rockets unsung hero. For the Rockets to eclipse last season’s run, D-Mo must take his game further, and make a name for himself throughout the league.

Next: Who are Rockets Top 5 Dunkers Ever?

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