The Rockets hiring a head coach does not mean their worries are over. In fact, the decision might have created more questions than answers.
First, it’s almost guaranteed that Dwight Howard will leave Houston now, so the D’Antoni hire will leave the Rockets to look for a new center. Second, D’Antoni’s good offenses in years past have all gone through a pass-first point guard (i.e. the great Steve Nash), so Houston will now be in the market for such a player. Third, D’Antoni is known for his lack of attention to defense, so assistant coaches must now be hired with defense in mind.
Teams have both flourished and floundered under the helm of Mike D’Antoni, so it will be interesting to see what category the Rockets will find themselves in after this next season.
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Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes provided an in-depth look at the questions that must be answered and the holes that must be filled in order for the Rockets to have a successful season under their new head coach. The big question is whether James Harden will be able to be utilized like Nash or if he will clash with D’Antoni like Carmelo Anthony did.
Harden is a complete monster in isolation—a foul-magnet with an array of impossible-to-stop drives and step-backs. He’s a true scoring outlier, an individual juggernaut in an era increasingly defined by ball movement and collaboration. How will D’Antoni convince Harden it’s not always ideal to isolate at the top of the circle while four teammates spectate?
And perhaps this is the better question: Should he even try to convince Harden of this?
The free agency market doesn’t open up for another month or so, but once it does, the Rockets better be making moves. With a roster that’s currently filled with players who either don’t fit with D’Antoni’s style or simply don’t get along with him, changes must be made to make way for success. Space City Scoop editor Tamberlyn Richardson compiled a list of every single free agent that will become available this summer and next, and highlighted the ones that should be at the top of Houston’s wish list.
"Horford will be highly sought out (with the Rockets likely to be one of his pursuers) as he offers the ability to play center or power forward, can defend, hit from the perimeter and is an able passer."
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The good news in all of this is that the upcoming season’s team will, in all likelihood, at least be better than this past season’s version of the Rockets. As the Sports Quotient’s John Ray assessed, James Harden is good enough to carry a team to the playoffs by himself, and with a coach that will make more sensical rotations at the minimum, he should have an easier time doing so. The Rockets are by no means guaranteed a season like their 2014-2015 campaign, but at least they have the Beard to fall back on in an emergency.
"It can’t be overstated how impressive it is that a guy who has the entire defense keyed on him is able to have the entire game occur around him. He reminds me of a queen in the middle of the board in chess. Any move that his teammate makes is made more effective by his presence, as the opponent has to focus on him and his passing range extends to the edges of the court."
If all the items on the to-do list are taken care of this summer, the D’Antoni hire could actually come to make sense. However, the multitude of things on the list make it seem unlikely that every single one of them could get accomplished. Let’s just hope that Houston’s management has a plan in place.
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