The Houston Rockets are a team in transition. Houston jettisoned veterans Courtney Lee, Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic and Luis Scola while adding young Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.
Houston has positioned itself to be flexible enough to make a major trade and acquire a franchise star. In the meantime, the Rockets will pair Lin and Asik with Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons and several talented rookies to try and get back to the NBA Playoffs.
Here is a breakdown of the Houston Rockets' 2012-2013 NBA roster.
Jeremy Lin is the Rockets' marquee addition of the offseason. Houston pried Lin away from the Knicks with a backloaded "poison-pill" contract that would have forced New York to pay him $15 million in 2015, which was about $45 million when luxury tax calculations were included.
Leaving aside the fact that the Knicks got themselves into that luxury predicament by signing retirees (oh wait, they still play) Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd to long-term contracts, New York's loss is Houston's gain. Lin proved last year, even in a short sample of games, that he is a smart decision-maker who has a good first step, underrated speed, and the ability to either get to the basket or pass to open teammates while on the move.
Lin replaces Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic. Both Lowry and Dragic played at near all-star levels during parts of last season so Lin probably does not represent an enormous upgrade. But Lin is also not a one-hit wonder: He will be Houston's leader and starting point guard for years to come.
Martin is one of the few holdovers from last year's talented Houston team. He is a lethal shooter when healthy, one of the NBA's best from beyond the arc.
However, Martin has struggled to stay healthy the last several seasons and Houston will not hesitate to plug in young Jeremy Lamb, their talented 2012 draft pick, if he falters.
Martin may also find himself at the center of a major trade for a superstar. Houston spent the offseason angling to acquire Dwight Howard. That has not happened but the Rockets definitely have the assets to acquire a franchise star in the middle or on the wing.
If Houston facilitates a trade that gets Howard to Los Angeles (and nets Houston Andrew Bynum) or makes a deal to acquire another franchise player (perhaps Al Horford, if Atlanta wants to clear space and have the cap room to sign both Chris Paul and Howard) Martin's huge contract will be a big part of the deal.
The Rockets organization is completely behind Parsons, a talented swingman forward who has underrated athleticism, an excellent shooting stroke and a penchant for strong defensive play.
Houston believes Parsons can morph into a star. He averaged 9.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2 assists in borderline starter minutes last season and was near the league average in player efficiency.
The Rockets will give Parsons time and space to develop but watch out if 2012 first-round draft pick Royce White slims down and swipes away minutes in a point forward role.
With Luis Scola amnestied, Patterson is the de facto starter at power forward for the Rockets. Patterson is really a top bench player who averaged 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds with decent percentages last season but he will handle the starter's load until someone else steps up to the plate.
Patterson will have several young, hungry players pushing him for minutes and his starting spot. Donatas Motiejunas, a former big-time star in Europe, looked great in summer league and can score at will. If he adapts to the NBA game and learns that defense is also a part of basketball, he could become a star. Houston will also be watching Royce White, their 2012 draft pick closely because White is a point forward type who could develop into either a starting wing (if he slims down) or power forward.
If either of the two develops, Patterson may be sent back to a bench role. Or, if Houston completes a major trade, Patterson is one of the most likely players to be dealt.
Asik is a stat geek's dream: A 7'-plus defensive center with enormous arms who clogs the paint, blocks seemingly every shot, and instantly reduces his opponent's per possession scoring.
That is why Houston's office, which is run by statisticians, paid Asik $25 million over three years to come to Houston, shocking the Chicago Bulls into letting him walk.
But is Asik a true starting center? He will have to prove it this season. Asik's incredible plus-minus numbers came in less than 20 minutes per game and alongside Taj Gibson, perhaps the best help defender in the NBA. He is also very prone to fouling and has a limited-to-nonexistent offensive game.
So, Asik may end up a steal for Houston but they have a lot of work to get him to reach stardom.
Lamb is Houston's scoring guard of the future. A star for Connecticut's 2011 National Championship team as a freshman, Lamb is a tantalizing combination of length, athleticism, scoring ability and natural defensive instincts.
While some question Lamb's ability to become an NBA star, his skill set looks like the complete package. He is a two-way player who knows how to win and the greatest complaint against him—that he is occasionally passive and does not score enough—is belied by the fact that his stats look nearly identical to those of Harrison Barnes, the North Carolina star and sixth overall pick.
If Lamb gets off to a strong start, he could push Kevin Martin for the starting spot.
The enigma. Jones is an incredible talent but can he live up to it and become an NBA star?
Jones was once the top prospect on a Kentucky Wildcats team that went to the NCAA Final Four. Then, Jones won an NCAA National Title but was eclipsed by teammates Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Often inconsistent and unable to put his entire package of talent together, Jones fell out of the lottery to Houston.
But make no mistake, he has the talent to become either the team's starting small forward or a Lamar Odom-type hybrid forward. Jones shoots the ball well, rebounds efficiently, and knows how to get to the rim, even if he doesn't always play with aggression.
That said, Jones is also Houston's most tantalizing piece in any trade for an NBA franchise player. Like Lamb and Kevin Martin, he is likely to be moved in any major deal.
White is a very interesting talent: A brawny player with bruising size in the post who also has a deft shooting touch from mid-range and an uncanny ability to pass the ball.
In fact, White may have been the best passing forward in college basketball last season. He brings that unique skill set to Houston and may become the team's power forward starter.
Or, if he slims down, White may become the Rockets' point forward.
Motiejunas is already a star...on half of the court.
He is a very gifted offensive player. His nearly 7' size creates major mismatches because he plays with the fluidity of a wingman and shoots at a high percentage all the way out past the three point line.
If Motiejunas can learn even passable defense, he will be the team's starting power forward by the end of the 2012-2013 season.
Indeed, if everything goes right, could Houston field a future lineup of Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lamb, Chandler Parsons, Donatas Motiejunas and Andrew Bynum?