Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball during the second quarter against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
To prepare Houston Rockets fans for the regular season SCS is running our annual NBA 2016-17 Team Previews. In the series SCS predicts who will return to the playoffs, which team will fall from grace and who will be the Cinderella team?
In each team preview there is a complete break down including:
- Where the team finished 2015-16
- Key 2015-16 stats
- Future draft pick status
- Current and future salary rank
- Off Season Moves
- 2017 Free Agents
- Schedule, NBA League Pass and Win Projection Ranking
- Team Overview entering season (Starting 5, reserves and notable injuries)
- When each team will play the Houston Rockets
- Strengths, Weaknesses and Prediction
Obviously SCS didn’t want to leave the Houston Rockets out of the series since so many great details are provided. Ultimately the series offers insight on the Houston Rockets competition and provides our opinions on which teams offer the greatest challenges. For now let’s return the focus to our favorite team.
2015-16 Record: 41-41
Lost NBA Western Conference First Round (1-4) versus Golden State Warriors
Points Per Game: 106.5 (4th )
Opponent Points Per Game: 106.4 (25th)
Pace: 97.6 (7th )
Offensive Rank: 108.3 (7th )
Defensive Rank: 108.1 (21st)
Three Point Rank: 34.7% (19th)
Rebounds: 43.1 (20th)
Assists: 22.2 (16th)
Steals: 10.0 (1st)
Blocks: 5.2 (13th)
Turnovers: 15.9 (27th)
Next: Future postioning - draft, free agents
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Nene Hilario (42) during a game against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
2017 Free Agents
- K.J. McDaniels, (TO)
- Bobby Brown
- Nene Hilario
Future Draft Picks
- 2017 second round draft pick from Denver Denver’s 2017 2nd round pick to Houston [Denver-Houston, 7/20/2015]
- 2017 second round draft pick from Portland Portland’s 2017 2nd round pick to Houston [Houston-Portland, 7/10/2013]
- 2017 second round draft pick to New York Houston’s 2017 2nd round pick to New York [Houston-New York, 2/19/2015]
- 2019 second round draft pick to New York or Orlando
Average Age of Team: 26.9 years
Next: Off Season Moves
Oct 19, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Ryan Anderson (3) reacts in front of Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) after scoring during the first quarter at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1: n/a
Round 2: Chinanu Onuaku (37), Zhou Qi (43)
Rookies signed after draft: Gary Payton II signed for 3yrs, Kyle Wiltjer and Isaiah Taylor
2016 Free Agents prior to July 1, 2016:
Moves made following July 1, 2016:
- Ryan Anderson 4-years, $80M exits Pelicans
- Eric Gordon 4-years, $53M exits Pelicans
- Nene Hilario on a 1 year, $2.9M exits Wizards
- Pablo Prigioni on a 2-year veteran minimum deal exits Clippers
- James Harden signed 4-year, $118M contract extension
- Dwight Howard agrees to 3-year $70.5M deal with Hawks
- Terrence Jones signed a 1-year deal with Pelicans
- Jason Terry signs 1-year veteran minimum deal with Bucks
RFA Qualifying Offer:
- Donatas Motiejunas Rockets extend qualifying offer
Next: Schedule, League Pass, Win Projection Rankings
Oct 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green (0) guards Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) during the first quarter at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Vegas over-under for wins: 41.5
As ranked by ESPN: 20th with 1.65 extra wins (or 11th easiest schedule).
Following a season where Houston’s longest home stands lasted 3 games the schedule makers upped the ante this year giving the Rockets four 4-game home stands.
The Rockets’ schedule effect comes out well in the simulations, but Houston is tied with Golden State for fewest games on two or three days of rest (three).
Rockets Complete Schedule via rockets.com
Zach Lowe NBA League Pass Rank: 10th
Note: I included a good portion of Lowe’s explanation as it offers some keen insight on D’Antoni’s proposed offense (not to mention Lowe’s ever impeccable visual imagery):
But there is high art in Harden’s game, and Mike D’Antoni’s system might dig out the prettiest stuff more often. Harden is a brilliant passer, and he sets up diagonal bouncers with dribble moves, head fakes, and weirdo half-lunges designed to nudge defenses a hair off-balance and pry open specific passing lanes. You might think Harden is eyeing the rim as he jab-steps up top, but he’s really peeking at that defender leaning away from the corner, waiting for just the right moment to whip the ball to a shooter there.
Watch the trajectory on some of Harden’s passes. He uses angles and spins to squeeze the ball through limbs, along shifting pathways that should be navigable only for magic loogies and ping-pong balls. If he has to, he’ll release the ball near the ground, almost skipping it along the floor like a rock on a lake.
The game bogs down when Harden goes into an aimless east-west dribble routine at the foul line, prelude to some brutal fadeaway. D’Antoni will encourage him to be more decisive going north-south, and with better shooting around him, Harden might deliver the ball earlier. He might get to the line less playing that way, but the Rockets could generate a ton of 3s and find a more watchable happy medium.
Next: Team Overview
Oct 19, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Andrew Bogut (6) looks to drives to the basket as Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15) defends during the second half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
2016 Committed Salary
2016: $93,288,217 – 23rd ranked
2017: $85,643,531 – 11th ranked
As per below here’s the Rockets 15 man roster: clicking on the individual’s name will pull up articles on the player and the item immediately following their name provides either a player preview or relevant article.
- KJ McDaniels – 2016 SCS McDaniels preview
- Corey Brewer – 2016 SCS Brewer preview
- Sam Dekker – 2016 SCS Dekker preview
- Kyle Wiltjer – Get to know more about Wiltjer
- Nene Hilario – 2016 SCS Nene Preview
- Montrezl Harrell – 2016 SCS Harrell Preview
- Chinanu Onuaku – Analyzing the Rockets 37th pick
- Montrezl Harrell missed Monday’s practice for personal reasons
- Patrick Beverley – knee, is sideline for 3 weeks minimum and will be re-evaluated following his Monday arthroscopic procedure. (targeting early December)
Next: Strengths, Weaknesses, Prediction
Offense: Mike D’Antoni arrives in Houston with his full tool box of offensive treats. While D’Antoni didn’t necessarily have the right players in his last two coaching posts (New York, Lakers) he definitely has the personnel in Houston. James Harden seems to be the perfect foil for D’Antoni’s schemes. Factor in Morey added efficient shooters and players who could create their own shots. That’s the biggest difference over last season.
Added Depth: Other than the Rockets regression on both ends last season and the media’s focus on the lack of chemistry there were major issues with depth. Morey addressed those issues via the additions this summer. Now Houston boasts players 2 deep at every position ad a versatility not witnessed for years.
Harden: Every time James Harden has been questioned he’s returned to have a career season. If you don’t think Harden took the slights regarding his defense or not being put on an All NBA team personally you don’t know “The Beard”. James wanted Dwight Howard gone and if you believe the rumors Kevin McHale as well. Because of that the light is shining squarely on him as the Rockets are unquestionably his team. He answered the first bell by arranging his team for workouts this summer and is driven to show he can be the leader he felt Howard wasn’t.
Defense: If you listen to reports leading into the season every analyst says the Rockets need to try to finish in the middle of the pack defensively. Ironically the Rockets were one of the better teams on the defensive end of the court in preseason. Granted it’s not a true litmus test, but I suspect Jeff Bzdelik wants the Rockets aiming to return to a top 5 defense. To reach that lofty goal Houston will need to shore up their transition defense and recapture their perimeter defense of two seasons ago.
Health: The added depth is fortunate given the Rockets begin the season with Beverley already on the disabled list. Now the trick will be making sure Anderson and Gordon do something they haven’t in their careers – stay healthy.
Ignoring the noise: How many times last season did fans read “from an anonymous inside source”? This situation started early last year even prior to the McHale firing and continued throughout the year. Assuming the early chemistry witnessed isn’t just lip service it shouldn’t be a issue. Inevitably the Rockets will deal with the inevitable ebbs and flows of the season and hit a valley at a certain point. When they do, it’s critical they maintain their bond and push through.
As much as everyone says the East has improved (it has) the West remains a powerhouse. In truth there are so many players taking their craft seriously with off season work the NBA product on a whole has improved which translates into more teams being competitive.
In the West the Warriors, Spurs and Clippers have been earmarked for the top 3 seeds. In the middle of the pack the Thunder, Blazers and Jazz have been cited as the main contenders. The Rockets, Grizzlies, Wolves, Mavericks and several young squads have been predicted as the teams who’ll vie for the bottom of the ladder.
Personally, I’m not convinced the Rockets can’t be one of the upper tier seeds. To wit, Portland have real issues in their front court. As much as Russell Westbrook is much watch TV I still have to see how their team adjusts post K.D. The Clippers are one Chris Paul injury away from free fall. And Memphis has to make it through the season healthy.
Of the teams who could seize the opportunity it’s more likely the Rockets, Jazz and Wolves could be that Cinderella team. And of those 3 teams Houston has the most recent experience winning.
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Best case scenario the Rockets shock everyone with a top 10 defense which garners them a home court seed and Harden in an MVP finalist. Worst case scenario they suffer copious injuries, Harden has to carry the load and they fight for one of the lower seeds.
Now ask yourself which of those 2 choices seems more likely?
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