Rockets fans this year will now be rooting for a legitimate contender.
As the 2013-14 season approaches, there are a handful of things every fan should know about the new and improved Houston Rockets.
If you call yourself a fan, then you should already be aware of the obvious. For example, any Houston fan should know that the Rockets landed superstar Dwight Howard during free agency. You should also know that the bearded fellow who always has the ball is James Harden, and he has crashed onto the scene as a superstar and a potential MVP candidate.
Rockets fans have a lot to be excited about as we head into the new season. Houston has a young team with an opportunity to contend.
Before the new season begins, here are five things every fan needs to know about the Rockets.
The arrival of Dwight Howard among many other new faces will help the Rockets get better immediately.
The Rockets' roster will look much different than it did at the end of last season. GM Daryl Morey did some mixing and matching over the summer, bringing in a large handful of new faces in attempt to build a championship roster.
Dwight Howard (free agent)
Ronnie Brewer (free agent)
Reggie Williams (free agent)
Marcus Camby (free agent)
Omri Casspi (free agent)
Isaiah Canaan (draft)
Robert Covington (undrafted free agent)
BJ Young (undrafted free agent)
Jordan Henriquez (undrafted free agent)
Marko Todorovic (trade; overseas)
Kostas Papanikolaou (trade; overseas)
Howard is obviously the most significant addition, but there are plenty of other role guys who will have an impact.
Reggie Williams and Omri Casspi were brought in to play very specific roles. In their careers, they each have had some success at shooting spot-up threes. The Rockets love the three-ball, launching the most threes per game in the league last season.
Ronnie Brewer was signed as an additional perimeter defender. The Rockets struggled mightily on defense all of last year, relinquishing the third most points per game. They already brought in Howard to clog up the middle, but the perimeter defense still needs a lot of work, and Brewer will help resolve that issue.
The signing of Marcus Camby gives the Rockets a player-coach. Camby is already 39 years old and will probably not see the floor too often, but he brings veteran leadership into the locker room. The Rockets are a very young team without a lot of experience. Camby provides much-needed maturity to an inexperienced roster.
The majority of the new players will not have much impact this season, if any at all, for the Rockets. A handful of these guys are undrafted free agents that will get some work in at training camp but will end up in the D-League or cut. A couple of them are from overseas and may not even see a day in the NBA.
When all of these new faces come to town, however, others must leave to make room.
Carlos Delfino (free agent)
James Anderson (waived)
Thomas Robinson (trade)
Tim Ohlbrecht (waived)
Royce White (trade)
Delfino will be missed dearly. He had a lot of success in Houston, especially from behind the arc, in his one-year stint with the Rockets.
The Rockets shipped off Thomas Robinson in a trade in order to clear cap space for Dwight Howard. Robinson is a tremendous athlete with a lot of potential, but he did not have a huge impact for the Rockets last season.
James Anderson is the only other departing player that saw any significant minutes. Ohlbrecht hardly saw the floor, and White refused to play due to an anxiety disorder.
In the end, the Rockets lost a couple of good players, but they brought in much more talent. They won't be missing too many of these guys for long because their new roster is stacked and ready to make a championship run.
With the Rockets' new additions, there were talks that Lin and Asik may be on their way out of Houston.
With the addition of Dwight Howard, the futures of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik with the Houston Rockets remain uncertain. For the time being, Daryl Morey has told reporters that neither of the two are going anywhere, according to Brett Pollakoff of NBC sports.
Lin and Asik both signed "poison pill" contracts as restricted free agents last summers with the Rockets. The Knicks and Bulls respectively could not match the offers, giving the Rockets a brand-new nucleus.
Since then, the Rockets have acquired two superstars in James Harden and Howard. Lin and Asik have essentially become redundant because the Rockets have found new players that do what Lin and Asik do, but better. Lin is a solid pick-and-roll player, but Harden is elite. Asik is a top tier defender in the paint, but Howard is the best in the business.
So what do the Rockets do now?
It's definitely possible that the Rockets will trade either or both of these guys by the end of the season, despite reports that say otherwise. Asik has expressed discontent with coming off the bench behind Howard, but Howard and other teammates have told Morey that they want Asik to stick around.
It'll be interesting to see how the players adapt to their new roles and if the Rockets decide to make any moves. If the team is winning, I doubt they will make any drastic trades, but if they struggle, Lin and/or Asik could be in a new uniform by the end of the year.
Will Dwight Howard and Omer Asik possibly play alongside each other?
One solution to the Omer Asik problem would be to play Dwight Howard at power forward. According to Pollakoff at NBC Sports, Morey has said that it's certainly a possibility. If Dwight can make the transition to the 4, that would allow Asik to remain in the starting lineup and keep him happy.
It's hard to imagine these two guys playing alongside each other though. They are two of the top rim protectors in the league, and they would shut down opposing offenses in the paint.
Coach Kevin McHale would have to find a way to mesh the two together offensively, which is not an easy task. Neither Asik nor Howard is gifted at scoring in the low post. The Rockets' offense last season consisted of a lot of fast-break opportunities and three-pointers, which doesn't compliment a big man's game.
I'm not saying that it's impossible for the two big men to play well together, but McHale and his staff will have their work cut out for them. Howard has played center his entire life. He is 6'11", which isn't that tall for an NBA center, but he makes up for it with tremendous athleticism and physical play.
It would be difficult for Howard to guard a stretch 4 that plays offense away from the paint. Howard and Asik playing together would be a great matchup against teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, with two big men like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. However, Howard would struggle guarding smaller power forwards who can shoot from mid and long-range, like his former teammate and current New Orleans Pelican Ryan Anderson.
It would be an experiment to play Howard and Asik together in the same lineup, but it may be worth a shot if the Rockets' coaching staff can figure out a way to do it effectively.
James Harden is coming off the best year of his career, and he is only getting better.
James Harden fell into Daryl Morey's lap last offseason when Oklahoma City decided he wasn't worth the money. OKC has already regretted this decision, and they are about to regret it a lot more.
Harden won the Sixth Man of the Year Award in his final year with the Thunder. After a less-than-impressive showing in the Finals against the Miami Heat, people were unsure whether Harden would rise to the occasion under the spotlight in Houston.
He did just that.
Harden had a career season, averaging 25.9 points per game, good enough for fifth best in the NBA and a spot on the All-NBA Third Team. He has established himself as an elite scorer in the league, and the best part is that he is only 23 years old.
Harden has a very bright future. He has already cracked his way into the top tier of players, and he is still very young with plenty of time to perfect his craft. Harden is surrounded by a contending roster, unlike last year, and will be paired up with superstar center Dwight Howard.
It's hard to imagine that Harden will do better than last year, but I'm telling you he will do just that. Fear the beard, because he is just getting started.
Chandler Parsons announced himself to the world during the playoffs against OKC.
Believe it or not, entering only his third year, Chandler Parsons is the longest-tenured player on the Rockets. He is the only player left on the roster from his rookie season.
Parsons was drafted 38th overall back in 2011, and not many people thought anything of it. Now, all the teams who let him slip are banging their heads.
After a stellar playoff performance, Parsons has gotten some recognition from around the league. He was a key contributor in the Rockets' fight against the top-seeded Thunder. Parsons' big play on the national stage has gotten attention nationwide.
Parsons recently switched to agent Dan Fegan, the same one as Dwight Howard. Parsons was a front-runner for the recruitment of Howard over the summer as well.
He has appeared on ESPN's SportsNation and First Take with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. He also was selected to participate in USA Basketball mini-camp with other budding stars from around the league.
Parsons is a glue guy on the Rockets' roster. He is an above-average perimeter defender that can shoot the three and attack the rim. His height and athleticism are a lethal combination for a small forward, who can also play the stretch 4 at times if the Rockets want to play small ball.
If you don't know Parsons yet, get to know him. He will be around for years to come in Houston.