Players Who Must Take Great Leaps Forward for the Houston Rockets to Contend

Ross Bentley@@imrossbentleySenior Analyst IDecember 1, 2012

Players Who Must Take Great Leaps Forward for the Houston Rockets to Contend

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    The revamped Houston Rockets sit at 7-8, third in the Southwest division and log-jammed in the middle of the West, tied for eighth place.

    Expectations were low for the Rockets coming into this year. The team retained only four players from last year's squad and failed to land Dwight Howard despite a large amount of their offseason devoted to him.

    Still, the team did make a few significant roster moves, signing Jeremy Lin and trading for Omer Asik and James Harden.

    Harden has proven he is a superstar in the making for Houston, averaging over 24 PPG for the team.

    Asik has also played his role well, currently averaging a double-double, and is third in the NBA in rebounding. 

    However, Lin as well as a few other Rockets players will need to improve going forward if this young Rockets team is going to contend.

    Here are four Houston players who must step up if the Rockets want to make the postseason.

4. Carlos Delfino

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    Carlos Delfino missed the last seven games for the Rockets with a groin injury. When he does return to the Rockets lineup, interim coach Kalvin Sampson will likely look for more production out of the Argentinian.

    Delfino is averaging a mediocre 8.1 PPG and 3.9 PPG in nearly 24 minutes of action for Houston this season.

    Delfino has shown that he is a capable double-digit scorer and deadly shooter. However he is shooting only 33 percent for Houston and under 32 percent from deep.

    Houston will also look for Delfino to be more aggressive on the offensive end. In eight games, the 6'6'' forward has attempted only eight free throws, making six of them.

3. Terrence Jones

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    Terrence Jones's lack of production hasn't completely been his fault.

    After all, the rookie out of Kentucky is playing just over 10 minutes a game and is competing for minutes with several other big men including Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris and Greg Smith.

    Still, Houston was expecting more from their only first-round pick still on the roster.

    Jones just hasn't totally grasped the NBA game yet. However, as he showed at Kentucky he has the body and scoring ability to translate to the NBA game.

    Marcus Morris has been the spark off the bench in the frontcourt that Houston has needed. Jones playing up to his potential would add another much-needed weapon off of the stagnant Houston bench.

2. Toney Douglas

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    If the Rockets had a legitimate backup point guard, it is possible they could be putting pressure on Jeremy Lin for the starting spot.

    However, Toney Douglas has been unable to really shine at all despite getting significant time so far this year for the Rockets.

    Douglas is scoring at a respectable 5.5 PPG in just over 15 minutes, but he has only 25 total assists in 14 games played.

    Another problem for Douglas has been taking care of the ball. In John Hollinger's player statistics, Douglas ranks seventh in all of the NBA in worst turn over ratio.

    Douglas also is shooting a woeful 28.4 percent from the field. The only other Rockets point guard is rookie Scott Macahado, but Houston may be searching around soon for someone to take Douglas's spot as the team's backup lead guard.

    Houston needs a point guard that cannot only push Lin, but also lead the Rockets second unit, and unless he makes drastic improvements going forward, it is clear that Toney Douglas is not that player.

1. Jeremy Lin

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    It is safe to say that Linsanity has died down almost entirely since Jeremy Lin's magical outbreak last season with the Knicks.

    Lin is by no means playing terribly for Houston, he is third on the team in points at 10.5 and is leading the roster in both assists and steals.

    However, Lin's play is not worth the near $8.5 million that the Rockets are spending on him this year. More importantly, he will simply have to play better if the Rockets are going to win more games.

    James Harden is scoring at a rampant pace, but more help from his backcourt partner would serve him well going forward.

    Lin is having a hard time creating his own shots, which is why he is shooting under 40 percent for the season. 

    He has also never been a great three-point shooter which has continued this year. He isn't much better than Toney Douglas on those turnovers, ranking 15th worst in the league in John Hollinger's statistics.

    If Lin is unable to play better for the Rockets the rest of this season, it is unlikely they will be able to make the postseason in the Western Conference.