Pre-Training Camp Player Power Rankings for Houston Rockets

Jake Lapin@lapin_62094Correspondent ISeptember 11, 2013

Pre-Training Camp Player Power Rankings for Houston Rockets

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    The NBA season can't come any sooner, as the Houston Rockets are getting closer and closer to the start of training camp. The Rockets currently have 19 players under contract who will be participating in training camp activities.

    When the season starts, only 12 guys can dress out for the games. That means there are seven guys who won't make it on the roster for the regular season. Players will be battling it out for a spot on the team once camp begins.

    Here's a look ahead at the rankings of each player under contract and the potential roles for each player once the new season is under way.

Nos. 19-15

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    19. Jordan Henriquez

    Henriquez was a last minute addition to the Rockets' roster for training camp as an undrafted free agent. During his senior season at Kansas State, he averaged 5.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Those stats definitely do not jump off the page.

    Henriquez is better known for his defense. He will get a chance to work with the team and develop his game during training camp, but he has no shot at making the final roster. He is bound for the D-League if he doesn't get cut first.


    18. B.J. Young

    Young is another undrafted free agent the Rockets added to their squad for the NBA summer league. The young guard from Arkansas averaged 15.2 points per contest during his sophomore season last year.

    Young is also a long shot to make the team, but I expect him to stick around in the D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Young can score the ball, which should definitely catch the Rockets' attention.


    17. Marcus Camby

    As if the Rockets didn't already have enough centers, Houston signed free agent and long-time veteran Marcus Camby. The Camby Man played in Houston two seasons ago before going to the New York Knicks in a sign-and-trade.

    The Rockets are in a much different position than they were during Camby's last stint. They didn't have Dwight Howard or Omer Asik, and they were not legitimate contenders like they will be this year.

    At 39 years old, Camby will not get much playing time this season, if any. He was brought in to provide leadership and experience in a young locker room. Camby is more like an extra coach than he is a backup center. He is not the dominant defender he was many years ago, but he is an experienced vet that can help an inexperienced team.


    16. Robert Covington

    The last of the three UFAs, Covington has the best chance to make the Rockets. His chances are still slim, but Covington has impressed in his little time with Houston thus far.

    During the summer league, Covington averaged 12.4 points per game in only 23.4 minutes. He has a great three-point shot, hitting on 38.8 percent of his attempts from deep during his senior year at Tennessee State. During the previous two seasons, he was well over 40 percent from three.

    Even if Covington doesn't make the team to start the season, he has a decent chance of getting some minutes down the road. He will excel in the D-League with Rio Grande. Houston may be on to something with this guy.


    15. Isaiah Canaan

    Canaan was the Rockets' only draft pick this past summer. The crafty guard out of Murray State was a consensus All-American two seasons ago.

    For the Racers, Canaan was a consistent three-point shooter, shooting over 40 percent in his college career. He does need some work on his defense and his turnovers, averaging 3.2 per game last season.

    Canaan will most likely start this season playing for the Vipers. If all goes well, he could be getting minutes with Houston by midseason. Canaan has talent, but the depth chart at point guard is already pretty full. Aaron Brooks, Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin are all ahead of him. If there are any injuries though, his name will be called.

Nos. 14-11

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    14. Reggie Williams

    The Rockets brought in Reggie Williams as a free agent to add to their three-point attack. The Rockets love shooting threes, firing the most attempts in the league last season.

    In his career, Williams is a 37.1 percent shooter from behind the arc. Anyone who can spot up from three will fit in to the Rockets' system, which is why Houston is giving Williams a chance to redeem his career after only averaging 3.7 points per game last season with Charlotte.

    Williams' playing time may be a bit sporadic, but he should get some chances to see the floor.


    13. Omri Casspi

    Like Williams, Casspi was also brought in to help Houston's three-point barrage. Casspi struggled last year with Cleveland, averaging only 4.0 points per contest, but he is a 35.5 percent career three-point shooter.

    The Rockets have high hopes for Casspi and Williams this season. Both of them struggled this past season with bad teams, but hopefully in a new environment with a lightning-quick offense they can each thrive. Again, just like Williams, Casspi will not have ample opportunities, but he should get enough minutes to show what he can do.


    12. Aaron Brooks

    Once the starting point guard on this team, Brooks is far removed from his glory days in Houston. AB played in China and Sacramento before coming back to his original team in Houston. Now he's back, but this time he's the third-string point guard.

    Brooks is a speedy, score-first point guard and a 36.4 percent career three-point shooter. He can fill it up, but his defense is a glaring weakness.

    With Beverley and Lin still ahead of Brooks on the depth chart, he will not get consistent minutes every night. He will have to seize every opportunity he can to put points on the scoreboard. However, if there were an injury to Lin or Beverley, Brooks would immediately become a big-impact player.


    11. Donatas Motiejunas

    The Rockets traded for Motiejunas on draft night a couple of years ago with high hopes for the big man. The former Polish basketball league champion has an artful low-post game and a decent mid-range jumper that he has brought from Europe to the NBA.

    Motiejunas started 14 games last year with the Rockets. His defense and rebounding are still an issue, which lost him the starting role to Greg Smith near the end of the season.

    The power forward position is the biggest question mark for the Rockets heading into the season. It's up for grabs, and Motiejunas will be fighting for it along with Smith and Terrence Jones.

10. Greg Smith

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    Greg Smith has been in the Rockets' organization for a few years now. After a lot of time in the D-League and on the bench, he has worked his way into the rotation. At the end of the season, he even started 10 games for Houston.

    Smith started last season as the backup center for Omer Asik, but made the transition to power forward.

    Smith is deceivingly quick and has a decent post game. He only averaged 6.0 points per game last season, but he can run in transition better than most big men. He also can clean the glass, averaging just under 5.0 boards per game in only 15.9 minutes.

    Like I said before, the power forward spot is up for grabs, and Smith has as good a chance as any to snatch it. If he doesn't get the job, he still will see the floor plenty.

9. Ronnie Brewer

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    Ronnie Brewer is another player on the long list of free agents GM Daryl Morey brought in this past summer. Brewer played for both the Knicks and the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, not having much of an impact for either.

    Brewer's best attribute is his perimeter defense, which the Rockets definitely need. As a team, Houston was 28th in the league in opponent points per game. Defense was the Rockets' biggest problem all of last year, and was a pressing issue this offseason.

    Brewer was a smart signing for a team that struggles so much on defense. Other guards on the depth chart such as Jeremy Lin and James Harden are poor defenders and cannot contain elite scoring guards from around the league. That's where Brewer comes in.

    Brewer will not get a ton of minutes, but if there is a big defensive possession, expect to see him on the floor.

8. Terrence Jones

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    Jones was one of three first-round picks for Houston in the 2012 draft, but he was the only one who played as a Rocket this past year. After a slow start, Jones began to show some flashes of potential near the end of the season.

    Last year, Jones averaged 5.5 points in just under 15 minutes per game. He didn't score a single point in January, February or March, but scored double-digit points in four games in April, including a double-double.

    During the summer league, Jones posted 15.8 points and 7.0 boards per game in only 27.5 minutes. He definitely has talent, and is the early favorite to win the starting job at power forward. He is still young and has plenty of time to keep improving, but he could be a big-impact player as soon as this year for the Rockets.

7. Francisco Garcia

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    The Rockets received Francisco Garcia in a trade as an extra piece to make the deal work. The center of the trade was young power forward Thomas Robinson, but as it turned out, Garcia was the more important acquisition.

    While Robinson got limited minutes last season, Garcia was a huge role player who ended up starting in the playoffs against OKC. Garcia took on the daunting task of guarding Kevin Durant, and he also made some huge threes.

    In the playoffs, Garcia averaged 10.7 points and 2.8 three-pointers per game. His performance earned him a new contract with the Rockets this season after they declined his team option.

    Garcia should get steady minutes backing up Harden and Parsons as one of the team's best three-point shooters. He also has veteran experience, something that is rare on this young team.

6. Patrick Beverley

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    Drafted in 2009, Beverley could not find work in the NBA, forcing him to play overseas for a few years before the Rockets found their diamond in the rough. Beverley came to Houston midseason last year and immediately proved he belonged.

    It wasn't until the playoffs, however, when Houston realized how key Beverley actually was to the team. Jeremy Lin was struggling to guard Russell Westbrook, especially with his chest injury, and Beverley stepped up to the challenge.

    Beverley played well the entire series, starting a few games and averaging 11.8 points, 5.5 boards and 2.8 assists.

    This season, Bev will get a ton of minutes as the backup point guard behind Lin. Beverley is a better defender than Lin, and he also has a better three-point shot with a career 37.5 percentage, topping Lin's 33.2 career percentage.

    You could argue Beverley should be the starter rather than Lin because he is a better fit alongside James Harden. Even if he doesn't start, he still could get plenty of minutes with Harden instead of Lin, if coach Kevin McHale chooses to go in that direction.

5. Jeremy Lin

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    Jeremy Lin has had plenty of ups and downs during his career in the NBA. He went from living on a teammate's couch to the center of attention in Times Square to a secondary role behind James Harden in Houston.

    This year, Lin must find a consistent role with the Rockets in order to define himself as a player. GM Daryl Morey signed Lin away from the Knicks to become the face of the franchise, but that was before James Harden from OKC fell into his lap.

    Now, Lin has had to adjust his game and focus on playing offense without being the dominant ball-handler. Last year, the Rockets experimented with playing Harden and Lin together, but this year Dwight Howard is in the mix, and the Rockets have a championship mentality.

    There's a possibility Lin might spend most of his minutes running with the second unit, which now includes former starter Omer Asik. This way, Lin's talents will be utilized most effectively because he will be able to run the pick-and-roll, which is what he excelled at in New York during Linsanity. Lin's best game last season came against the Spurs when he dropped 38 points while Harden was sidelined with an injury.

    The Rockets' coaching staff must figure out how to distribute the minutes and whether Lin and Harden will play on the floor together. Any way they strategize, however, Lin will still be a valuable asset with his aggressiveness, facilitation skills and an improved jump shot.

4. Omer Asik

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    When the Rockets first got Asik, people were not sure he would be able to take on the starting role. He was a proven defender, but he played very limited minutes in Chicago with the Bulls behind Joakim Noah.

    Asik proved the doubters wrong, averaging a double-double last season with 10.1 points and 11.7 boards per game, good for third in the league.

    The problem is, he was behind the rebound king Dwight Howard, who now wears a Rockets jersey too. Howard signed on with Houston over the summer and has left Asik confused and upset.

    Asik has proven himself to be a reliable starter in this league, and had no intentions of backing up Howard. He requested a trade, but Daryl Morey denied his request, hoping Asik will soon see the bigger picture.

    There have been talks about putting Howard at power forward and starting him alongside Asik, but whether that would work well is still uncertain.

    Asik is one of the best rim protectors in the league and definitely deserves a big chunk of playing time. The Rockets could experiment with both him and Howard in the starting lineup, but either way he will play a huge role in Houston's success this season and for seasons to come.

3. Chandler Parsons

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    Chandler Parsons has become an instrumental piece to the Rockets' puzzle. In the playoffs against OKC, he announced himself to the world, averaging 18.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. In a desperation Game 4, he poured in 27 points to go along with his 10 boards and eight assists, helping the Rockets stave off elimination.

    Over the summer, Parsons participated in USA Basketball minicamp with other budding stars from across the league. He is getting attention nationwide, and that will continue to happen so long as the Rockets take that next step this year with Dwight Howard on board.

    Parsons has several attributes to his game that significantly help the Rockets. His three-point shooting (38.5 percent from three last season) has been stellar, his perimeter defense is among the best on the team and he can also gather up a bunch of rebounds and assists.

    Parsons is the clear-cut starter at small forward, and he can also play the stretch 4 if the Rockets decide to play small ball like they did in the playoffs.

    Parsons has improved greatly since Houston drafted him 38th overall, and he continues to raise his ceiling of potential.

2. Dwight Howard

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    The Dwightmare is over, or at least for the time being, as Dwight Howard has chosen to make Houston his new home. The Rockets have now skyrocketed up the Western Conference power rankings, immediately becoming contenders.

    Howard gives the Rockets a second superstar to play along James Harden. Howard is the best big man in the game. His freakish strength and athleticism make him a blocking and rebounding machine.

    With Howard in the middle, he will surely help the Rockets and their defensive woes. He is the best in the business at clogging up the lane and changing shots in the paint.

    His offensive game has room for improvement, but he's been working with former Rockets great Hakeem Olajuwon on the low post. He is a superior big man for the pick-and-roll, which the Rockets like to use quite often (one in every four half-court possessions).

    Last season, Howard averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 boards per game, and it was considered a bad season for him coming off back surgery. Other teams better look out, because Rocket Man is healthy and the new-and-improved Rockets are on the rise.

1. James Harden

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    At the top spot of the Rockets player power rankings, James Harden is the man. He came to Houston just before the beginning of last season when his contract talks with OKC broke down. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year became the go-to guy on his new team.

    Harden averaged 25.9 points last season, fifth best in the entire league. He got the vast majority of the Rockets' touches, either in pick-and-roll or isolation sets. The Rockets offense tried to focus on efficiency, only taking three-pointers or shots near the rim. That style fits perfectly with Harden's skill set.

    Harden has a great three-point stroke, averaging 37 percent from deep over his career. He also is phenomenal at attacking the rim. He is deceivingly quick and is able to penetrate the lane.

    Harden holds the ball out with his strong hands, which draws a lot of fouls. He led the league in free-throw attempts, and he made the second most only behind his former teammate Kevin Durant.

    The Rockets have big expectations this season, and fans are looking for Harden to lead the charge. Houston will go as far as he will take them. He will be the guy with the ball in his hands in crunch time. If the Rockets have a great year finishing near the top of the standings, and Harden reproduces his numbers from last year, he could be a dark-horse MVP candidate.

    Fear the beard. Enough said.