Unlike previous years, the Houston Rockets enter the 2015-2016 season with one of the deepest benches in the NBA. By signing Marcus Thornton, drafting Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell, and trading for Ty Lawson, The Rockets have significantly deepened their roster. Also, the Rockets resigned key players such as Patrick Beverley and Corey Brewer. This leaves the Rockets with a dilemma: who should regularly come off the bench to contribute?
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First, let’s analyze how the depth chart stacks up as of right now.
PG- Lawson, Beverley, Terry
SG- Harden, Thornton, McDaniels
SF- Ariza, Brewer, Dekker
PF- Jones, Motiejunas, Harrell
C- Howard, Capela
That is one deep team. Of course, the Rockets still have some decisions to make when it comes to the starting lineup (whether Beverley or Lawson start and Jones vs. Motiejunas for the starting PF spot), but regardless that leaves the team with several key players that can come off the bench. I will now analyze the players who I believe must be a part of the first group off the bench in every game.
I believe Ty Lawson (if completely healthy mentally and physically) will win the starting job at point guard. This leaves Patrick Beverley (one of my personal favorite players) to come off the bench and lead the second unit. Beverley is a very good defender and a more than capable three point shooter. I actually love the idea of Lawson leading the second unit and being a go-to scorer, but if the Rockets give him the starting job, Beverley is a more that suitable backup point guard.
Corey Brewer arrived via a trade with the Timberwolves in December of last season, and instantly filled the role of backup wing player who excelled in transition and provided countless energy off the bench. Brewer must fill that same role again this year. He is a decent defender, but is known for his great play in transition and the sparks of energy he provides off the bench. Hopefully Brewer doesn’t become complacent now that he has a new contract.
Although many people believe Motiejunas should be the starting power forward, I for one believe he should come off the bench to be an offensive focal point. As I explained in my previous article, Motiejunas is excellent in the post and offensive possessions can be devoted to him if he comes off the bench. He is also capable enough defensively to not hurt the team, and can create some good chemistry with Beverley and Brewer as those three will most likely (and should) be the leading players in the second unit.
Donatas Motiejunas can be an offensive focal point off the bench for the Rockets. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Here is where things can get a little tricky. The rest of the Rockets bench is filled with veterans (Terry, Thornton) and unproven young talent (Capela, McDaniels, Dekker, Harrell). I believe Jason Terry will serve as something of a player coach, meaning he will be giving tips to the younger players from the bench rather than playing key minutes.
Although I am in favor of younger players getting minutes during the regular season to gain confidence and prove that they’re ready for the NBA, I also believe that veterans such as Marcus Thornton can contribute as a shooting threat off the bench. Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell will most likely spend a lot of time in the D-League, as that is where many rookies go to refine their skills.
I love the idea of letting Clint Capela continue to develop in the regular season. He proved that he can be a threat defensively during the playoffs last season, and now he just needs to work on refining his skills and improving his basketball IQ. Finally, the same applies to McDaniels. He proved that he can be very good defensively when he was with the 76ers, so I believe giving him some minutes during the regular season will only improve his chances of becoming a true defensive stopper.
Another important aspect of using the bench properly this season is that it will decrease the minutes of key starters such as Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Trevor Ariza. Howard is coming off several injuries and it is important that he is healthy for the playoffs. Meanwhile, Harden and Ariza played too many minutes last season, and keeping them fresh for a (hopefully) long playoff run will be instrumental. Using the various players off the bench can help do so.
There you have it. The Rockets have one of the deepest benches in the NBA. Their bench includes a low-post scorer (Motiejunas), a defensive stopper (Beverley), a shooting threat (Thornton), and a couple of young defenders oozing with athleticism and talent (Capela and McDaniels). Managing the starters’ minutes and using these key players off the bench will be absolutely vital in the Rockets getting a high seed in the Western Conference and making a deep playoff run in the 2015-2016 season.
What do you guys think? Who do you believe will be the key contributors off the bench for the Rockets this upcoming season ?