The Houston Rockets made a flurry of transactions this offseason, including the biggest one of them all—signing Dwight Howard. It will be the smaller signings that build a championship team, though, and the preseason will be where those sleeper candidates make a crack at the final roster.
Aside from power forward, the Rockets are deep at every position. This won't create a ton of opportunities for young guys to crack the roster, but there are always surprises in training camp.
The preseason is also for veteran players looking to re-establish their worth. Houston has a few guys in that scenario as well, so training camp and the preseason schedule should be filled with the watchful eyes of the team's coaching staff.
Most teams usually have a sleeper player crack the roster after a strong showing in the preseason, so it will be interesting to see which Rocket does that in 2013-14. Young guys generally don't make rosters unless they are expected to get playing time, so leaving them in the D-League to develop is often the best option.
With that being the case, sleeper players should have a decent impact on this year's Rockets.
Robert Covington, Forward
Robert Covington, an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee State University, brings a sharpshooter's mentality at the forward position to the Rockets. In his three seasons at TSU, Covington recorded three-point percentages of 46, 45.3 and 38.8. If the guy can shoot like that in the NBA, then he'll find his way onto the team.
While small forward is stocked with significant depth, Covington could latch on at power forward. The guys in place have yet to separate themselves from each other, and adding a rookie with scoring potential could make things even more difficult for head coach Kevin McHale.
Covington has great length and plays adequate defense, though his body size is lacking for the power forward position. He weighs just 204 pounds, making him quite thin for a man standing 6'9". This could prove to be a disadvantage at the NBA level.
In the Orlando Summer League, Covington played well. He averaged 12.4 points and 5.0 rebounds in 23.4 minutes per game. This represented a great first step for the rookie.
In training camp, Covington will have to prove he can hold his own against veteran power forwards. He mostly played against inexperienced guys in Orlando, so progressing from that will be the key to his inclusion on the roster.
Ronnie Brewer, Guard/Forward
The signing of Ronnie Brewer has the potential to become the most underrated signing by general manager Daryl Morey this offseason. Sure, Brewer isn't the same offensive weapon who averaged 13.7 points per game in 2008-09 with the Utah Jazz. He brings something to the table that the Rockets desperately need, though—perimeter defense.
Brewer will more than likely find his way onto the roster. He provides great depth behind James Harden and could even find more playing time at the position than Francisco Garcia should training camp go his way.
The guard/forward is so useful because of the lockdown defense he can provide along the perimeter. He gives the team a high-energy option along the perimeter who also has the ability to guard guys slightly larger than himself (he stands 6'7").
In late-game situations, expect Brewer to play his way into action. McHale can go to Garcia when he needs a big three-pointer and then go to his bench to Brewer to stop the opponent on the other hand. Swaps like these could become frequent for the Rockets if Brewer can live up to potential.
In an offseason that saw Morey bring aboard Howard and several other bench options, the signing of Brewer could become an important one. The defense he can provide will be invaluable.
Greg Smith, Forward/Center
Greg Smith is almost guaranteed a role on the roster. He can play both center and power forward, and the fact that he isn't a rookie bodes well for him—as does the fact that he shot 62 percent from the floor last season.
The big man fell out of favor a bit in the postseason, playing in just 59 minutes over six games after averaging nearly 16 minutes per game in the regular season. Some defensive struggles and inconsistencies in the post led to this happening.
Smith can work his way into more playing time, though, with a strong showing in the preseason and a little help from his teammates at power forward. If Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas struggle in more substantial roles, Smith could find a few starts there for the taking.
He's a sleeper candidate to be a serviceable starter at the power forward position, even if playing time could be hard to come by at first. Should McHale work with Smith during training camp, he can turn the 6'10" big man in to a quality player.
Finding consistency will be key, as will establishing his presence defensively. He has great hands and decent length, so it could just be about putting all of the pieces together.