Houston Rockets Improve at Power Forward

Mar 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Orlando Magic at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Magic 107-94. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Orlando Magic at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Magic 107-94. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The Houston Rockets have improved their power forward situation after struggling to find healthy players to fill the position all season.

The power forward position has been the most inconsistent aspect of the Rockets disastrous season. Other than the insertion of Patrick Beverley into the starting lineup eleven games into the season, the only starting position that has been subject to change is power forward.

The Rockets have tried starting a range of players at the power forward position, including Terrence Jones, Clint Capela, Josh Smith, Trevor Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas. Due to injury and poor play, the Rockets have spent much of their season cycling through these lineups in hopes of discovering an effective fit.

Despite their Wednesday night loss to the Clippers, the Rockets seem to have found what they are looking for in a rotation that features Donatas Motiejunas as the starting power forward and Michael Beasley as his backup.

Motiejunas, who has battled a back injury most of the season, was an underrated key contributor to the Rockets’ 2014-2015 regular season success. With Dwight Howard missing half of last season, Motiejunas served as the Rockets low post presence, averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds while shooting 37% from deep.

.@DonatasMot putting in that work tonight with 18pts.

Rockets 91
Grizzlies 49
2:56, Q3 pic.twitter.com/UJd7CeDgyM

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) March 15, 2016

Since returning from a cancelled trade involving the Detroit Pistons, Motiejunas has seen his first share of consistent playing time this season after being placed into the Rockets starting lineup. In a game earlier this week against an injured Memphis Grizzlies, Motiejunas looked like him old self, tallying up 18 points and 6 boards.

Motiejunas improves the Rockets with his ability to spread the floor on offense– due to his three-point capabilities– without giving up size on defense.

The Rockets have found success on offense this season when playing a small-ball lineup that features Trevor Ariza at the four. The problem with that lineup is that it creates problems for the Rockets on defense in which they give up size that would help them defend the paint and rebound the ball.

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Inversely, the Rockets have found success on defense when playing a starting lineup that features Clint Capela at the four. The twin towers of Capela and Dwight Howard manage to pull down a significant number of rebounds, but the pair cause problems with the Rockets’ offensive spacing.

Motiejunas has managed to give the Rockets the best of both worlds by spacing the floor on offense and taking care of opposing bigs on defense.

Motiejunas is not the only Rocket who has helped the Rockets improve at the power forward position, however. After struggling to find one player to play consistent minutes at the four, the Rockets now have two.

Chinese League MVP Michael Beasley has so far strung together a series of impressive games. Beasley has provided consistency off the Rockets’ bench, averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds in his five games played with the team.

Michael Beasley on role:"I feel I can be the piece that brings everything together.We've got all the right pieces going toward the playoffs"

— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) March 16, 2016

Not only does Beasley offer the Rockets a solid option at the power forward position, he also stabilizes a Rockets bench that has been erratic all season. If Beasley can continue to put up the same numbers he has so far, the Rockets can be confident heading into the postseason that someone other than the starters are going to find ways to put the ball in the bucket.

Across the league, the power forward position is becoming more important by the day. Because of the transition to small ball lineups, it is necessary that a power forward be an in-betweener– a player capable of functioning as a wing player on offense, and a presence in the paint on defense.

The Rockets should consider themselves lucky to have found two players to fill those roles so late in the season. With the playoffs a month away, look for the Rockets to polish their rotation and establish better chemistry as they close out the regular season.

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