Final Grades for Every Houston Rockets Starter in 2012-13

Eric EdelmanCorrespondent IMay 31, 2013

Final Grades for Every Houston Rockets Starter in 2012-13

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    The young guns of the Houston Rockets are currently at home watching the playoffs from the comfort of their living room, but despite the disappointing end to their postseason run, they still have a lot to be proud of.

    A playoff berth, a near 50-win season and a solidified grouping are all things this team should hold their heads up high about; especially considering all of their key components are in their mid to early 20s—Omer Asik is the resident starting grandpa at the decrepit age of 26.

    Their frontcourt isn’t terrible, but the team's success is in large part because of their smaller guys—you could say they are the ones who encompass their core.

    The Rockets' key pieces include a versatile swingman in Chandler Parsons, a clever, wily slasher of a shooting guard named James Harden, and, although he has had his difficulties, point guard Jeremy Lin isn’t all that bad either.

    One of the team’s biggest strengths also happens to be one of its biggest weaknesses—a curious paradox without question.

    The Rockets are a youthful bunch, and while the word “youthful” evokes cute words like “upside” and “potential,” it can also bring to mind negative descriptors like “inexperienced” and “raw”.

    One minute we’re cheering their young, semi-reckless enthusiasm, and other times we’re screaming at our television for their over-eagerness when attempting to make that extra pass.

    That being said, we have yet to see what this team is truly capable of, but the glimpses of greatness we have spotted throughout the season—especially from their starting five—are things we should applaud and examine with a careful eye.

    After a full season together, does the Rockets' starting five make the grade? Let's find out.

Jeremy Lin

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    Jeremy Lin came into the season with plenty to smile about.

    Receiving a hefty contract, becoming the face of a franchise largely without a clear-cut identity and still living off the fame from a really cool winning streak from the season before, Jeremy Lin could do no wrong.

    While hype is definitely a cool thing, it can also be a detriment.

    Lin is like James Gandolfini—he starred as the protagonist in a really cool show, but when he was cast to play a new character, people couldn’t help but still see him in the old role.

    Jeremy Lin was typecast as “that point guard from the New York Knicks.” Becoming the starting point guard in Houston allowed him to shed his old identity, but it also meant he would bear more blame after having nothing to lose playing for a beleaguered Knicks team.

    Yes, Houston cannot compare to the mega metropolis and monstrous media hub that is New York City, but Lin certainly signed on knowing he had a bigger role to play.

    Jeremy Lin—even as a Knick—has always been deceptive.

    He’s faster than he looks, he can jump higher than you think and he’s without question a lot tougher despite the slight frame and boyish disposition.

    Lin continues to get by off of his deceptiveness, but at times, physical guards have exposed his lack of strength and athleticism. He is certainly very intelligent, but sometimes his cerebral nature gets the best of him.

    Jeremy tends to do a bit too much with the ball, and if he isn’t coming off of a screen, he has trouble breaking people off the dribble. Lin’s almost three turnovers per game is evidence of his tendency to turn the ball over frequently.  

    He’s still young, and he’s still transitioning into his new role even after a whole season has passed, but his struggles here and there are nothing to be alarmed about.

    Yes, he does a bit too much, yes, his offensive game—especially his shooting stroke—have a lot of growing to do, but there’s nothing critically broken with his game.

    Lin, along with his buddies, deserve a lot more time to grow before we hit them with the “scrub” or “mediocre” moniker.

    He did a nice job manning his position, but his inconsistency and difficulties against bigger, stronger guards made him a liability on both ends of the floor. Despite his unfortunate injury in the postseason, his durability in starting all 82 regular season games is to be admired.

    Regular Season Numbers: 13.4 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.0 RPG, 44% FG, 2.9 TO  

    Postseason Numbers: 4.0 PPG, 2.0 APG, 2.0 RPG, 25% FG, 2 TO   

    Final Grade: B-

James Harden

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    Similar to Jeremy Lin, James Harden also experienced a drastic change in individual tasking.

    Before the start of the season, Harden was the beloved, bearded off-the-bench assassin for the the Oklahoma City Thunder, and then he ended up as the starting shooting guard for the Houston Rockets.

    Talk about a shift in power. 

    Anybody who watched him in a Thunder uniform knows what he’s capable of doing with the ball in his hands. The guy is a master at generating offense, whether it’s for himself or others. He has a swift pull-up jumper from deep, he’s very adept at getting to the line and he’s capable of playing the role of distributor if need be.

    Harden did a solid job of putting up some offensive numbers, and he’s competent at guarding opponents in man-to-man situations. At times, he gets a bit lackadaisical and is prone to lapses on defensive rotations, but as great as he is offensively, it’s to be expected that he might have a flaw in his repertoire.

    Similar to Jeremy Lin, he also has a tendency to do a little too much with the ball, and his turnover numbers reflect this issue.

    Harden single-handedly makes the Rockets an offensive threat, and he’s a legit superstar in the making. At only 23 years old, Harden has so much more to add to his game, and thankfully, Houston should be able to hang on to him for some time to come.

    He had some rough shooting games in the playoffs, but that time period in particular demonstrated he’s capable of big time scoring performances in key games, despite the lopsided shooting numbers.

    The Beard tends to overshoot at times, make questionable passes, and he isn’t a defensive master, but all in all, a solid year for a guy playing his first full season as a starter.

    Regular season numbers: 25.9 PPG, 5.8 AST, 4.9 REB, 43% FG, 3.8 TO

    Postseason numbers:  26.3 PPG, 4.5 AST, 6.7 REB, 39% FG, 4.5 TO

    Final Grade: A-

Chandler Parsons

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    Yes, Jeremy Lin and James Harden get most of the glory, but Chandler Parsons definitely deserves plenty of credit for Houston’s success as well.

    Parsons is a good shooter, solid defender, and he’s athletic. He is a perfect teammate for guys like Harden and Lin because he excels at getting the job done without the ball in his hands. He’s always moving, ready to catch the ball and shoot, and most of all, he’s always hustling.

    Parsons isn’t afraid to hit the deck for 50-50 balls, and he, like Jeremy Lin, is a lot tougher than his exterior might lead you to believe.

    It would be too disrespectful to pass him off as purely a system player, but it’s safe to say that the breakneck pace of Houston’s offense really covers up some of the flaws in his game.

    His handles are shaky, and much of his offense is predicated off spot-up shots or transition buckets, but he’s an excellent complementary piece to have on a team like this. As long as he doesn't have to generate the flow of the offense, but rather, play within it, he'll have a long career as long as he stays healthy. 

    Regular season numbers: 15.5 PPG, 3.5 AST, 5.3 REB, 38% 3FG

    Postseason numbers: 18.2 PPG, 3.7 AST, 6.5 REB, 40% 3FG

    Final Grade: B+

Greg Smith

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    Because trading Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris left Greg Smith as the de facto starting power forward, Kevin McHale’s fiddling of lineups—especially in the playoffs—are a sign that the four-spot in particular is a weakness for this team.

    Smith isn’t terrible, but he isn’t amazing either.

    He has decent enough touch around the hoop so he’s not completely useless, but other aspects of his game are still limited. In the OKC series, he struggled at times to match the physicality of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, and it was as if he was nonexistent.

    Throughout the season Smith played just fine in a supplementary role, but it remains to be seen if Houston can survive an entire season with him as the full-fledged starter.

    McHale actually opted for smaller lineups in some playoff games where he had a 6’9”, 227-pound Chandler Parsons get away with playing power forward, but for the Rockets to match up with bigger, stronger front lines, they need a legit big body to battle other bigs on both blocks.

    Regular season numbers: 6.0 PPG, 4.6 REB, 0.6 BLK, 62% FG

    Postseason numbers:  3.6 PPG, 2.6 REB, 0.4 BLK, 66% FG

    Final Grade: D 

Omer Asik

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    We definitely tend to rag on players if their numbers don’t jump off the page, but Omer Asik is an example of someone who still makes their presence known sans awesome stats—although a double-double average for the season is pretty awesome come to think of it.

    Asik is perfect for work on the offensive glass. He’s 7’0”, lengthy and he’s incredibly strong. Any semblance of an elite level postgame is nonexistent, but he gets the job done off of putbacks and offensive rebounds. Nonexistent is pretty harsh, but it’s not like his jumphooks are exactly reliable offense—put it this way, he doesn’t have the touch of say an Al Jefferson or David West, but it’s good enough to wear he can score on easy opportunities.

    On the other side of the floor he’s a competent defender, and while he isn’t leaping three feet in the air while delivering earthquake inducing swats, he still plays solid defense in a subtle fashion.

    He doesn’t swipe at the ball but instead opts for putting his hands straight up and he’s effective at changing shots in the lane thanks to his height and length. But that isn’t to say he doesn’t get blocks—Asik averages around a block per game.

    He’s also a terrific rebounder aside from his work on the offensive boards; when he does his job well, Houston tends to own the rebounding margin. With three smaller guys on the floor that tend to get beat by their respective man, Asik also has a lot to worry about being the anchor of this defense.

    Aside from the team’s defensive frustrations, for Omer to go from a reserve on Chicago’s bench to the starting center in Houston, Asik has done a commendable job dealing with the transition process.

    It’s also worth nothing he played and started in all 82 regular season games—phenomenal durability for an NBA big of his size.

    Regular season numbers: 10.1 PPG, 11.7 REB, 1.1 BLK, 54% FG

    Posteason numbers: 12.3 PPG, 11.2 REB, 1.7 BLK, 56% FG

    Final Grade: B-