Breaking Down the Ideal Starting Lineup for New-Look Houston Rockets

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2012

Breaking Down the Ideal Starting Lineup for New-Look Houston Rockets

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    Sorting out the Houston Rockets' rotation and playing style this season will be an ongoing task for Head Coach Kevin McHale, and not just because so many of his players are young and relatively unknown commodities.

    He'll also have to determine how veterans like Kevin Martin fit in, assuming General Manager Daryl Morey doesn't first complete his complete his fire sale with another trade or two.

    And, he'll be left to decide how versatile forwards like Royce White and Terrence Jones fit into the NBA, much less his roster.

    The Rockets may not claim many wins this season, but that doesn't mean it's a lost cause. On the contrary, this may be one of the organization's most productive campaigns in recent memory. It just won't see the dividends from its investment right away.

    Those will come along soon enough.

    In the meantime, here's a look at what McHale should do with his starting lineup. That'll at least clear up his first order of business.

Point Guard–Jeremy Lin

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    For all the uncertainty surrounding the Houston Rockets' gameplan, at least they know what they have at the point guard position.

    At least, we think they know what they have.

    Jeremy Lin may be the fastest rising star in memory, but he's still relatively unproven in the grand scheme of things. That he's one of the most proven players on this roster really says more about the roster than it does about Lin.

    Nevertheless, you'd have to be quite the pessimist to believe Lin's meteoric success was anything but a sign of things to come. It's not as if he was putting up those numbers in the Las Vegas Summer League–they were real games against top-notch competition.

    So yes, give the man his due.

    A world in which he turns into a flop would be more surprising than one in which he continues at his current pace. That–and his hefty new contract–are why he belongs in the starting lineup. He'll arguably be Houston's best player from day one, and he'll have a low-pressure opportunity to grow with young teammates and build something from scratch.

Shooting Guard–Jeremy Lamb

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    Before commenting with reminders that Kevin Martin is still on the roster and far more proven than rookie Jeremy Lamb, remembering that we're talking about an ideal starting lineup here.

    The only thing 29-year-old Kevin Martin will do for the Houston Rockets at this point is worsen their position in the draft lottery. He's good enough to help this team win a few games, and that's the problem.

    Why would they want to win a few more games when they could instead add something special to an already impressive young nucleus? This is the time to tank a season if there ever was one.

    And besides, this is the last year on Martin's contract, and there's a pretty good chance he winds up traded by the deadline. 

    More importantly, Jeremy Lamb needs some playing time. There's no good reason to stunt his development when young peers like Jeremy Lin, Terrence Jones and Royce White reason to get so many minutes from the start.

    This is a rebuilding season, so we might as well get an extended look at the guys who will be here two or three years from now when this ship starts to right its course.

Small Forward–Chandler Parsons

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    Chandler Parsons had an impressive rookie season, and if you aren't yet familiar with the kid, you should change that ASAP.

    The 6'9" forward can shoot from the perimeter, rebound, defend and is decently explosive. His relatively rapid development made forward Chase Budinger expendable prior to the draft, and it would be hard to argue against Parsons starting after he did just that in 57 games last season.

    Whether the 23-year-old has legitimate star potential remains unclear, but he's turned out awfully well for a second-round pick. 

    Until someone else proves capable of making a greater impact from the 3 position, it will rightfully belong to Parsons. He gives Lin another target who can spot up and shoot from the wing, and he gives the Rockets a lineup that should be pretty long at just about every spot.

Power Forward–Terrence Jones

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    Yes, you could make the argument that Royce White should be in the starting lineup, but Terrence Jones is a little bit longer, a little bit quicker, and he probably has more all-around upside.

    Plus, White's ability to create plays and exploit his unconventional skill set would be even more valuable coming off the bench. His passing would give the Rockets the option of trotting out a point forward when Jeremy Lin takes a breather, and that's not a bad thing with Shaun Livingston and Toney Douglas projected to be the only guys backing up Lin.

    Jones, meanwhile, is obviously something of a Tweener, but that kind of versatility could play well alongside Chandler Parsons, who is himself a bit bigger than the average small forward.

    Head Coach Kevin McHale will have the flexibility to play around with different scenarios and simply allow matchups to determine where these guys fit on the defensive end.

    How Jones impacts the game offensively is a different question altogether, but you'd certainly like to see him spending as much time as possible finding his way to the basket (as opposed to settling for perimeter jumpers).

    Starting him at power forward may be the best way of ensuring he does just that, and the fact that he can spread the floor a bit is a nice bonus.

    To be sure, Houston has some other options at the 4 including Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris, but you'd have to give Jones the edge right now given his considerable upside.

Center–Omer Asik

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    The rationale here is short and sweet.

    Given the money the Houston Rockets just invested in Omer Asik ($25 million over three seasons), he better be in the starting lineup. Otherwise, the club's willingness to part ways with veterans like Marcus Camby and Samuel Dalembert would understandably come under some serious scrutiny.

    Asik is a solid rebounder who plays the kind of defense you'd expect from a guy who cultivated his NBA game under Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

    That said, he's never played significant minutes on a consistent basis, so this season will be an unprecedented opportunity for the 26-year-old.

    There's little doubt he'll make the most of it, but don't expect him to become an All-Star center overnight (or probably ever).