How to Solve the Houston Rockets' Power Forward Problem
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The power forward position is the Houston Rockets' biggest area of weakness. There are a number of directions the team can go in, but none are a guaranteed solution.
The battle is essentially a triple-threat match between Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and former starting center Omer Asik. All three men bring something different to the table, but who is the best choice?
In an attempt to arrive at a winner, here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of each potential starter.
(Note: All stats are from the 2012-13 regular season. The playoff numbers were too small to be factored into the equation.)
2012-13 Statistics: 82 games (82 starts, at center), 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
Upside: Asik is coming off of the best season of his career, averaging a double-double per night. At seven feet and 255 pounds, pairing him with Dwight Howard gives the team a "Twin Tower" kind of combination on the inside.
Where Asik really excels is on the offensive glass.
His 3.4 offensive rebounds per game last season was good for seventh in the NBA. He's a strong finisher at the rim and an avid shot-blocker.
As an added bonus, starting Asik would allow Houston to get more bang for their buck. Asik is set to make $5.2 million this upcoming season with a cap hit of $8.3 million. That's a lot of money to keep on the bench. The big man could also build on his trade value by logging starter's minutes as opposed to being Howard's caddy.
If nothing else, a happy and productive Asik could lead to a deal for a more natural fit at the 4. A trade with New Orleans for sharpshooter Ryan Anderson is a move that would work out great for both teams.
Downside: There's the obvious concern of whether Asik and Howard can play together. Both men are at their best playing around the basket. Howard has a little bit more range on his shot (42 percent shooter between 3 and 10 feet, as opposed to 27 percent for Asik), but both prefer to patrol the paint.
Also, Asik isn't a natural power forward.
He has spent his three years in the NBA at center. Will he be able to defend quicker forwards? Can he develop a decent enough jump shot to stay out of D12's way around the rim? Will his hands of stone soften up so that he can become a better go-to option?
These are all legitimate questions that can only be answered on the court.
2012-13 Statistics: 44 games (14 starts), 5.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game
Upside: Like Asik, Donatas Motiejunas brings great size to the power forward. The 22-year-old stands seven feet tall and weighs in at 222 pounds. Also, while he struggled with it last season, during his days in the Euroleague, D-Mo showed potential of being a solid outside shooter.
If the lefty can develop his jumper, he would give the Rockets a good inside-outside option at the 4. Athletically, he has an advantage over the slow-footed Asik and may be better suited to guard smaller power forwards.
He's also a proficient option in the pick-and-roll.
According to SynergySports (subscription required), D-Mo converted 41 percent of his attempts as the roll man, including going 4-of-9 from the three-point line. With a year in the pros now under his belt, he is only going to continue getting better.
Downside: Motiejunas is still very raw, as evidenced by his stat line during his rookie season. A team with championship aspirations won't have the time to bring their starting forward along slowly. Dwight Howard didn't come to Houston to play babysitter. Whoever gets the nod at power forward needs to have an idea of what he's doing.
Also, Motiejunas needs to add some bulk and be more of a physical presence on the inside.
At 222 pounds, there is a risk that he will get thrown around by stronger forwards. Plus, until he becomes an avid shooter, his offensive game is very limited.
Defensively, he has the size and potential to be a factor, but that wasn't the case last season. With starter's minutes, he could have a better chance of developing—or become the team's biggest liability on the floor.
2012-13 Statistics: 19 games (0 starts), 5.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and one block per game
Upside: At 6'9" and 252 pounds, Terrence Jones doesn't have the height of the aforementioned two options, but he has the bulk to hold his own inside. He's a little bit of a tweener that could excel in a smaller lineup.
He has also shown a willingness to expand the range on his jump shot.
61 of Jones' 94 shot attempts came away from the rim, including 21 from behind the arc. The outside shot still needs some work, but it's something that he can develop into a solid weapon.
The former Kentucky Wildcat also seemed to come into his own on the defensive end late last season. In the final four games of the season, he notched 13 blocks (6 of them against Phoenix alone). He can also be a serviceable rebounder, especially playing alongside Dwight Howard.
Downside: The problem with Jones' candidacy is that there's such a small sample size to judge him from. Of the three, Jones had the least amount of playing time (although he did log nearly 23 minutes per game during the month of April). He's also the youngest option at 21 years old.
Making matters worse, Jones isn't a natural power forward either.
He has the speed and athleticism to be passable at the position, but he's more of a hybrid 3/4. Plus, until his jumper improves, he still needs some work to become the inside-outside presence he was drafted to be.
As the shortest of the trio, he doesn't give the Rockets the same size advantage that Asik and Motiejunas do. There just isn't a particular category in which he emerges as the top dog over the other two big men. He isn't a better defender or rebounder than Asik, and he isn't a much better shooter than D-Mo.
He's a solid player that is a tough case to make as a starter.
While he isn't a natural fit for the position, Omer Asik makes the most sense to be the Houston Rockets' starting power forward. He gives the team another shot-blocker on the floor, which is huge for a team that gave up 102.5 points per game last year.
His prowess on the offensive boards will open up more opportunities for a team that has a plethora of scoring options. Once he gets better at catching the ball, Asik will be more of a factor in the team's uptempo scheme.
None of the options are perfect, but Asik offers the least amount of worries.
With his skill set and contract, it would be wise for the team to showcase him as much as possible. Playing him and Howard together will have its rough moments, but the good will outweigh the bad.
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