As the Houston Rockets edge closer to the start of the 2015-16 NBA season, one of the biggest goals for the new year is to stay healthy. With Houston set to face off against the Memphis Grizzlies in their preseason opener, the Rockets’ power forwards are already hit with the injury bug before the season can begin. Donatas Motiejunas is still recovering from his off season back surgery, and Terrence Jones has missed a few practices with a rib injury.
Head coach Kevin McHale told the Houston Chronicle “that the injuries to both veterans gives their rookies Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell more reps in practice, as they grow in the Rockets’ system.”
If Jones and Motiejunas miss valuable time due to injuries this season, the Rockets will have to rely on rookies Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell to pick up the slack. If the rookies are forced to play valuable roles in their first season, the only problem the Rockets face is the lack of experience at power forward. However, What can the Rockets expect from Dekker and Harrell? Both rookies give the Rockets considerable size at their position, and their styles of play are similar to both Jones and Motiejunas.
Although he is a few inches shorter, McHale will still be able to use Sam Dekker in the same way he played Motiejunas last season. Like DeMo, Dekker’s offensive versatility will continue to make Houston a tough team to defend from the perimeter. Last season for the Wisconsin Badgers, Dekker averaged 13.9 points, and 5.5 rebounds, while shooting 52 percent from the field.
His ability to shoot can stretch the floor for the Rockets. If Dekker can continue to shoot 41 percent from behind the arc in the NBA, he will become a better stretch four than Motiejunas. Although, Dekker’s post game is not good as Motiejunas, his ability to dive to the basket can create easy buckets for the Rockets.
Kevin McHale can also use Montrezl Harrell in the same way he has played Terrence Jones over the past two seasons. Over the years, Jones has established a physical style of play, similar to what Harrell is entering the league with. If Ty Lawson enjoyed throwing lobs to Kenneth Faried in Denver, playing with Harrell will be just as fun. Last season for the Louisville Cardinals, Harrell proved as a big man he can run the floor in transition, and finishing through tough contact averaging 15.7 points.
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Even though he is undersized for his position standing at 6’8, Harrell’s 7-3 wingspan has turned him into a rebounding machine. For the Cardinals, Harrell averaged a career high 9.2 rebounds per game. Not only did he rebound on the defensive end, but pulled down a total of 3.2 offensive boards a night. For Houston, having another rebounding machine like Harrell can take a lot of pressure off Dwight Howard cleaning the boards.
While both Jones and Motiejunas are solid defenders for the Rockets in the post, playing Dekker and Harrell can make Houston defense even better. Their defensive versatility allows Dekker and Harrell to defend players that are smaller and bigger. With the capability to defend a variety of positions, this will help the Rockets improve when defending the perimeter as well as in the low post.
Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell can play valuable roles in Houston this season as rookies. Hopefully, they can play alongside Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas, rather than replacing them in the lineup. However, it will not matter who Kevin McHale uses at power forward this season, as long as they are willing to help Houston capture that elusive NBA title this summer.