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Houston Rockets: 8 Burning Questions Heading Into Opening Night

By Andre Cantalogo
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Oct 6, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Starting Line-up and Bench Predictions

Let’s have an exercise in futility and imagine a world without injuries. In this world, the Houston Rockets starting line-up from October 28th and ahead would be:

Ty Lawson (PG), James Harden (SG), Trevor Ariza (SF), Donatas Motiejunas (PF), Dwight Howard (C).

Instead we live in a cruel, injury riddled world and it’s most likely that the Rockets will suit up against Denver with the following line-up:

– Ty Lawson, James Harden, Corey Brewer, Trevor Ariza (PF), Clint Capela.

I suspect that given Terrence Jones‘ recurring problems and Donatas Motiejunas still recovering from his last season back problems, the Rockets will have to play Trevor Ariza at power forward and start Corey Brewer. Dwight Howard is suspended for the first game.

Who will exceed expectations?

Ty Lawson:

The biggest difference from last season is clearly the addition of Ty Lawson. His impact will be felt from day one, particularly offensively. Ball movement, off the ball plays and insane quick pace action will be a blessing for a sometimes boring and uncreative offense.

Another thing we should take into consideration is his three-point average. Ty is coming off his least productive season from beyond the arc (just 34.1%) but if the preseason is an indicator of things to come, this percentage is certain to grow exponentially as Harden and Lawson are constantly finding each other open on a wing when one drives the basket.

Likewise, Lawson is essential not just because his presence relieves pressure from James Harden, but especially from Patrick Beverley who will be explosive coming off the bench, concentrating fully on his not over rated defense.

Who will under perform?

Dwight Howard:

It was enticing to put no one here, but it does make sense if anyone on this team is likely to under perform, it’s going to be Superman. Ariza is insanely consistent, Harden looks to be on a journey to prove he is the MVP, Lawson’s got a chip on his shoulder and D-Mo is coming off his best season yet.

I’m not trying to  jinx him, but the more I thought about it the more it became clear Howard might be a concern. Next year he has a player option and when the season ends he will be 30 years old and most likely will pursue one last big payday so it’s a chance he could opt-out wanting to renegotiate his deal.

Recently Howard looks to be an injury prone player and if once again he plays less than 50 games the Rockets may be inclined to let him walk; more so  if Motiejunas or Clint Capela appear capable to fill the void. Later there would still be big men available in the free agency: Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Timofey Mozgov.

Howard is a great player and he fits nicely with the Houston community. He is also one of the three best centers in the NBA, yet there could be a future without him.

Bench Predictions -Who will exceed expectations?

Marcus Thornton:

Oct 7, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Marcus Thornton (10) shoots against the Dallas Mavericks in the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

I have to admit I was skeptical regarding Thornton before the preseason started. Now I believe I was utterly wrong. Thornton is a sniper and he can contribute big numbers coming off the bench since he can light up fast from the three-point line. Plus, he looks to be in shape and ready to become another offensive weapon for the Rockets.

Who will under perform?

Sam Dekker:

Let me be clear by stating I’m not addressing potential. However it’s probably a better idea the Wisconsin product spends his first year at the D-league.

To be fair Dekker lost a great opportunity in the summer league to improve his talents and leave a nice impression. In the preseason he just appears to be… not ready. His three-point shots are flat, he looks confused on the court and doesn’t seem to understand his role on the team yet .

Next: The Opponents

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