Houston Rockets: 4 Ways the Rockets Will Prove Doubters Wrong
The Houston Rockets have undergone major changes since last season, and their fans hope it translates to competing with the best the Western Conference has to offer sooner rather than later.
The Rockets used a handful of assets this offseason to infuse more youth on to the roster, as well as a few key veterans who will play major roles immediately.
Doubters will point to Houston's key departures from last year's roster as reasons to believe the team will fade in 2012. The Rockets are more committed to their rebuilding project now than ever, but it shouldn't translate to more losses this season like most assume.
Here are four ways the Rockets will prove doubters wrong.
Jeremy Lin Will Thrive
Jeremy Lin will be given every opportunity possible to duplicate the success he enjoyed last season with the New York Knicks. Lin produced his biggest numbers when he was given the keys to New York's offense. He was allowed to run the offense as a traditional point guard, both setting up the offense and penetrating when openings were there.
Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale allowed Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic to do much of the same last year when running Houston's offense. Jeremy Lin should slot in seamlessly to this same role.
Lin should be expected to produce much like he did before Carmelo Anthony returned from injury last year—a return which saw Lin's role change and his production slip. This dip in production has fueled doubters ever since Lin received his contract from the Rockets.
The Rockets will be a different team than Lin's New York Knicks last year. He will have less outside pressure, less national attention and a functional organization behind him. The team is built around Lin to be a major part of the offense, which should only help him reach his full potential.
Lin should be expected to produce something close to 18 points and eight assists per game this year. It also wouldn't be a major shock to see Lin playing in the all-star game in Houston in February.
The Houston Rockets crumbled toward the end of last season, in large part, because of poor defense. The Rockets lacked any ability to contest shots at the basket.
For all the offense Luis Scola brought to the team, his lack of ability to provide a defensive presence began to hurt the team. Samuel Dalembert was the only shot-blocking big man the Rockets had, and his impact over the course of the year wasn't enough.
The offseason addition of Omer Asik was huge for the Rockets, as he should fill Houston's desperate need for defense around the basket. Asik won't just add shot-blocking, but a defensive presence that helped make the Chicago Bulls one of the premier defensive teams in the league over the past few years.
Patrick Patterson will also inherit an expanded role with the departure of Luis Scola this offseason. Patterson is a defensive upgrade to Scola, and he provides more athleticism on both ends of the floor. Patterson still has room to develop as an NBA player, so a significant bump in production could be possible.
Kevin McHale enters his second year as the team's head coach, and his imprint on the Rockets' defense should show up more. With another offseason to implement his philosophy, and new players better-suited to execute the defensive game plan, McHale should be able to install a more defensive-minded attitude with this team.
Youth Equals Speed
The Houston Rockets will rely on several rookies and young players right away this season. The Rockets should be faster than most opponents they face because of the young speed they feature up and down the roster.
The only returning Rockets player from last year's opening night starting lineup is Kevin Martin, and his spot as a starter isn't a lock. Rookie Jeremy Lamb should see more playing time as the year goes on, possibly taking the starting shooting guard job from Martin altogether eventually.
Terrence Jones, Royce White and Donatas Motiejunas will all play key reserve roles as rookies.
Jones used his length and quickness to dominate the Summer League, and proved he will be ready for a role off the bench immediately. He should be used to match up against the longer wing players in the NBA like Kevin Durant and Danny Granger.
Motiejunas had ups and downs in his Summer League showing, but displayed advanced offensive ability and a dangerous outside touch for a big man. Motiejunas will give head coach Kevin McHale the flexibility to employ lineups that force the other team's big man to defend him all over the floor.
White has the most unique skill set of any player on the roster, but he is also one of the rawest. White was prone to turnovers in Summer League play, but showed the ability to handle the ball well for a big man. He can run in the open floor and has advanced vision for a forward.
All of these young players will play major roles with the Rockets this year, and they'll only be relied on more as the season goes on.
Loaded with Assets
The good news from missing out on Dwight Howard is that the Houston Rockets are still loaded with attractive NBA assets going forward. On top of all the young players already on Houston's roster, the Rockets also possess other valuable assets NBA teams covet.
Kevin Martin's expiring contract could allow a team to dump one of their problematic contracts in a trade, and also acquire a shooting guard who averages over 20 points per game in his career as a starter.
Martin's price will be steep, and it's likely he ends the year in Houston. It's hard to imagine a team giving Rockets general manager Daryl Morey what he would ask for in a trade for Martin.
The most valuable non-player asset the Rockets possess is the guaranteed lottery pick they acquired for Kyle Lowry over the offseason from the Toronto Raptors. The Rockets shouldn't be expected to move this pick unless they're acquiring a top player in the league.
Houston's fans are sick of hearing this by now, but the team is still in a great position to upgrade the roster going forward because of the assets they possess. The roster could see several changes by the time the trade deadline passes.
The Rockets' ability to make impact moves with their many assets going forward should translate to winning sooner than later.