The Houston Rockets seem determined to become a formidable NBA team. It’s disappointing how many teams in the NBA don’t care about winning, so I will say it’s refreshing to see a team like the Rockets do whatever they can to make their team more competitive. They were throwing contract offers out this past summer like candy and were always a wild card team when it came to Dwight Howard. They signed C Omer Asik and PG Asian sensation Jeremy Lin to more than modest contracts – stealing both of them from their former teams seeing as how they were restricted free agents with qualifying offers. I lost track of how many Draft day trades they made, but now it’s time to put up or shut up.
The Rockets managed to score both the 12th and 16th picks of the first round of this past summer's draft and used them to get G Jeremy Lamb out of Connecticut and F Royce White from Iowa State. Both guys figure to be impact players for the Rockets right away and should see plenty of minutes. Royce White will most likely have more of a prominent role out of the gates simply because the Rockets have so many guards. Lamb will have to compete with Kevin Martin, Carlos Delfino and Jeremy Lin for minutes while Royce White can garner plenty of minutes should Marcus Morris have another disappointing season. Both guys will be good NBA players and I wouldn’t be surprised if White competed for Rookie of the Year.
Houston has a third potentially impactful rookie of the team with Donatas Motiejunas. He was drafted in the first round of last year’s draft and spent the season in Poland honing his game. He’s in the NBA now and playing behind Omer Asik in the depth chart at center. The combination of these two newcomers for the Rockets could prove to be an extremely underrated one. Asik is the defensive stopper who can swat away shots while Motiejunas can get the ball in the bucket. They compliment each other so well. Both guys can grab down rebounds impeccably and it will save Houston from giving up a lot of offensive boards.
This could be a resurgent year for Kevin Martin. This spectacular shooter had a less than impressive campaign last season as he posted his lowest PPG average since 2005-06 – his sophomore season in the league. His FG% was the worst since his rookie year and he had a 3P% that matched the abysmal one he posted during his injury plagued 2009-10 year where he only played 24 games. If Houston wants to squeak into the playoffs and top all the other teams in the West, Kevin Martin has got to return to being one of the best pure scorers in the league. This team is riddled with nice complimentary role players, it needs one star guy to take the lead when the game is on the line. If he continues to disappoint, don't be surprised if Houston looks to trade him.
The hubbub surrounding Jeremy Lin has dwindled considerably since he took New York by storm last season. He became the talk of ESPN and the NBA world and for good reason. Lin was a scrap bench player getting cut by teams left and right and the Knicks finally gave him a chance and he ran with it. Literally. Lin zipped through defenders and put up circus shots that had opposing fans cheering for him. The Linsanity sizzled as the season ended but he showed a ton of promise. He nabbed his first big contract this past summer from Houston and now he has to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. The turnovers need to drop drastically if he wants to lead an NBA team to the playoffs, especially in the West. He may not have as much media and fanfare surrounding him right now, but that may be a good thing for him. He can go out and relax and prove that he was worth the big contract.
The combination of Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson in the front court could prove to be a more underrated one. Patterson improved last season during his sophomore campaign as he proved to the Rockets that he is capable of handling a starting job. Parsons posted a very nice rookie year en route to NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors. If all things go according to plan, these two guys could emerge as the anchors for this young and deep team.
The Rockets are a team many in the NBA could take notes from. They have been rebuilding the past few seasons but still remained competitive. This is not a doormat team and as the years go by, they’ll become even better. This could be a top 4 team within a year or two as their young players flourish together. The chemistry being created will prove to be invaluable and there are several guys on this roster that could become All-Star caliber guys. Only time will tell, but this is certainly a team to keep your eye on this season and going forward.
Season Outlook: They’ll lose a lot of games by single digits but the West’s final playoff spot will be up for grabs coming down to the final game of the season. I expect the Rockets to clinch it.
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