Predicting Houston Rockets' Final 15-Man Roster
The Houston Rockets had an eventful offseason that will result in a 15-man roster that looks noticeably different from last season.
After signing Dwight Howard, Reggie Williams, Omri Casspi and Marcus Camby (and adding three new rookies into the mix), the Rockets have a test ahead of them in training camp. Getting all the new pieces to gel together and form a winner will be a difficult task, but head coach Kevin McHale did that exact thing in 2012-13 when James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik came to town.
The starting lineup figures to look different this season. There are locks at a few obvious positions, but power forward appears to be up for grabs. The same can be said for a few of the first roles off the bench. McHale has a ton of options and will utilize each player in the best way he sees fit.
Trimming the fat at both point guard (five players) and small forward (four players) could prove to be the most daunting task, though it's always better to have an excess of (rather than a lack of) bodies. This should bode well for the Rockets during the course of an 82-game schedule.
The depth chart is obviously subject to change as we near the beginning of the season, but predicting which players will fill which roles will make for an easier understanding of the training camp situation.
Starter: Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin will likely be the starting point guard out of training camp. He has just a bit more experience than Patrick Beverley and is capable of playing at a much higher level (even if it comes in spurts). Lin commands the ball a decent amount, though, so it'll be interesting to see if the chemistry between he and James Harden has changed after a full season together.
After his first full season as a starting point guard, Lin should be better in 2013-14. He has great work ethic and is good with the ball in his hands. Questions have arisen as to whether or not the Rockets are the best fit for him as a player, but it may be too early to assess that. Give him a season with Harden and Dwight Howard at his disposal and we'll see if he needs a home elsewhere.
First Off the Bench: Patrick Beverley
Beverley is a high-energy point guard who is fine with playing second-fiddle to guys like Harden and Howard. He is not a great scorer, but that doesn't mean he isn't capable of putting the ball in the basket when called upon.
As the first point guard off the bench, Beverley will see a ton of minutes. Kevin McHale has always favored him over Lin in fourth quarters, and his skill set is a bit different from his teammate's. His playing time will largely be influenced by which of his teammates are on the court. Don't be shocked if he starts a handful of games here and there as well.
Next Off the Bench: Aaron Brooks
Aaron Brooks averaged just 5.4 minutes over seven games in Houston last season, and it's fair to say that he'll have a similar role on the team again. Brooks found success with the Rockets from 2008 to 2010, but he's no longer the same score-first point guard. He's a role player who is best used sporadically.
Getting him into games won't be a must for McHale, but it shouldn't be something he shies away from. Brooks has shown the ability to get hot and impact games. He won't play much defense and he won't distribute the ball all that well, but he can put the ball in the basket.
Last Off the Bench: Isaiah Canaan
The team's lone selection in the 2013 NBA draft, Isaiah Canaan will likely find his way into less than half of the team's games. As the fourth point guard on a team with a clear starter and reserve, finding minutes will be difficult.
He has a ton of potential as a small scoring guard and should turn some heads in training camp, but there just aren't enough minutes to go around. It could be a completely different story in a year or two, but for now, Canaan will see action in mostly blowouts.
Starter: James Harden
James Harden will again be asked to carry the Rockets into the postseason, but he'll have some help from Dwight Howard in his second season as the star of the team. This pairing should bring results to a team that didn't have all that much to cheer about prior to last season.
While his scoring totals may drop just a little bit because of the presence of Howard, Harden could see an increase in assists. No longer will Harden have to use up the entire shot clock waiting for an opening during isolation plays. Now, he can dish down low to Howard and possibly get the ball back when the big man is double teamed.
It's a pairing that should benefit both players, as well as the Rockets. Look for Harden to be up there in the MVP voting once again.
First Off the Bench: Reggie Williams
Newcomer Reggie Williams will play the under-appreciated role of backing up Harden. James Anderson filled that position last season, though his performance was inconsistent and he is no longer with the team as a result.
Williams comes over from the Charlotte Bobcats after playing just 77 games over the past two seasons. Staying healthy will be key, but limiting his minutes could help to do just that. He'll only be asked to play around 10-12 minutes per night (at most), so keeping his legs fresh shouldn't be an issue.
He's a talented scorer when he gets hot and will be an improvement over Anderson.
Next Off the Bench: Francisco Garcia
Francisco Garcia was re-signed over the offseason to be the team' sharp-shooter and veteran presence. He's one of just a few players on the team who has significant NBA experience.
While being a reserve to Chandler Parsons will likely be where Garcia sees the most minutes, he could also find time at shooting guard. His shooting abilities are far greater than Williams', and he played a huge role for the team during last year's playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He's an extremely valuable asset.
Starter: Chandler Parsons
Chandler Parsons will look to continue his growth as a star in this league during the 2013-14 campaign. Playing alongside talented guys like Jeremy Lin, James Harden and Omer Asik helped him out, but throwing Dwight Howard into the mix should help him become even more well-rounded.
Having a legitimate talent down low will result in better looks for him on the perimeter, as well as a few more assists on dump-ins in the paint. He may have a bit of a smaller role offensively, though, as Howard will likely assume duties as the team's second option. This could help to make Parsons more efficient, however.
Fans of Parsons shouldn't worry about his role or future with the team. He's one of the most important pieces to the championship puzzle in Houston and will be utilized in a way that helps the team win.
First Off the Bench: Francisco Garcia
This is where Francisco Garcia will see a majority of his playing time. He proved during the playoffs that he can hit clutch shots and carry the offense in short bursts, making him an ideal candidate to back up Parsons.
Garcia is arguably the best three-point shooter on the team (Harden gives him the best competition), and situations that call for a three could force Kevin McHale to go with a lineup featuring Lin, Harden, Garcia, Parsons and a big man down low (possibly Donatas Motiejunas).
Expect him to play a big role with the team.
Next Off the Bench: Omri Casspi
The Houston Chronicle believes that Omri Casspi will fill a Carlos Delfino-like role for the Rockets, though seeing him with that much playing time seems a little unrealistic at this point in the offseason. Parsons and Garcia will play nearly all of the 48 minutes (Parsons averaged 36.3 by himself last season), with maybe five or so minutes available for Casspi to see the floor.
That doesn't mean these minutes won't be important, though. Casspi is a decent shooter from deep and has shown the ability to grab a few rebounds here and there. For his tenure in Houston to be considered a success, he'll have to hit a few big shots and play solid defense. He's not a game-changer, but by no means is he a useless component.
Starter: Terrence Jones
Power forward is where things really start to get tricky. Terrence Jones, an athletic second-year who has both offensive and defensive potential, should get the nod on opening night after a great showing in the Orlando Summer League. With a strong training camp, he should be able to set himself apart from the pack.
Various opinions exist about Omer Asik's ability to play alongside Dwight Howard at power forward, but Asik has played well in reserve center roles and Jones offers much more athleticism. Asik is probably the better player, but Jones' ability to run and create give the offense more versatility. Plus, his ability to cover other power forwards like himself gives him the advantage over a slower Asik.
Jones will have some growing pains as a starter, but the results shouldn't be too discouraging. Look for him to grow next season.
First Off the Bench: Donatas Motiejunas
Donatas Motiejunas was considered the front-runner for the starter's job prior to Jones' breakout in Orlando. Motiejunas is a bigger body, but can shoot a little better from deep and has a better post game. His potential is much less than his teammate's, however.
Motiejunas played soft at times defensively last season, so look for Kevin McHale to work with him during training camp. If he toughens up on both ends of the floor, he could stand to find even more playing time. By the end of the season, he'll have started his fair share of games. It may be too early to rely on Jones to start every single game. A situation in which McHale rides the hot hand isn't completely out of the question.
Next off the Bench: Greg Smith
Greg Smith had a field goal percentage (62 percent) just a fraction of a point lower than his free-throw percentage (62.3 percent) last season, but he'll likely see a bit less of a role in 2013-14. A team this deep will do that to some players, as there simply isn't enough time to go around.
The 6'10" big man has all the makings of a quality reserve center, but Smith has proven himself to be very streaky as both a scorer and defender. This is something that McHale can't afford to rely on consistently. When Smith gets in games, McHale needs him to play well and do his job.
Expect 10-12 minutes per game for Smith this season, with the potential for more if he improves. Of course, there's also the potential for less if he continues his inconsistencies.
Starter: Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard, the crown jewel of the past offseason, will have an enormous impact on the outcome of the season. If he plays well and gels with the rest of the Rockets team, then Houston could feasibly climb into the top-four or five teams in the Western Conference.
His rebounding and shot-blocking ability will be welcomed by everyone in the locker room, as will his dominance in the paint. His personality should help to win over the city as well.
There really isn't much to say about Howard that hasn't already been said. He's a crucial member of the Rockets and will be treated as such. He'll play upwards of 32-35 minutes per game and will be featured in the offense. Look for him and James Harden to form a formidable duo.
First Off the Bench: Omer Asik
Omer Asik may have been the only loser residing in the city of Houston as a result of the Howard signing, as he goes from unquestioned starter to a player whose role is in a state of flux. He can come off the bench behind Howard, start at power forward or get traded by midseason.
At the start of the season, he should fill a reserve role at center. He did just that during his first two seasons in the league with the Chicago Bulls and earned himself a nice contract from the Rockets as a result of his performance. He'll play significantly less than the 30.0 minutes per game he averaged last season, but 18-20 minutes per contest shouldn't be out of the question.
Next Off the Bench: Marcus Camby
Marcus Camby, a Rocket during the 2011-12 season, will take a different role in his second go-around in Houston. He played over 20 minutes per game then, but won't see more than 10 per game this season. Even that many minutes could be hard to come by.
With Howard and Asik handling nearly all the responsibilities at center, Camby will be absent from more than a few games this season. McHale could very well choose to not use him during games where the match-ups aren't great or the scores are too tight.
Camby is on the last leg of his career and doesn't have all that much left in the tank. He's a great player to have for one of the final roster spots, but shouldn't make an impact this season.