Spotlighting and Breaking Down Houston Rockets' Point Guard Position
The Houston Rockets have a handful of players deserving of playing time at the point guard position, even though there is clearly a hierarchy in place. The four guards in question certainly won't receive equal playing time, and there will even be several games where only two of the four see the court.
Head coach Kevin McHale is lucky to have several different options at point for the 2013-14 season. He can match his personnel with nearly any in-game situation and give his team the best chance to win.
Even if the group isn't the most talented in the NBA, it certainly has the players to get the job done.
Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley headline the group, while Aaron Brooks and Isaiah Canaan will see lesser playing time. The quartet will be tasked with leading a team littered with quality talent. James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons will be relying on each player to feed them the ball when open.
Even if the numbers don't reflect it, the primary job of these four is to make plays. Teams with playmaking point guards often fare better than those without, so Lin and Co. must look to set up their teammates whenever possible.
If they can do that, then the Rockets will make huge strides this season.
Lin will likely be the starter out of training camp, even though a case can be made for Beverley to start. The two guards have entirely different skill sets, and it's that diversity that should make them a strong tandem in the backcourt.
Critics (including myself) don't love Lin with the Rockets. He and Harden clash in too many ways.
Lin is undoubtedly a starting point guard in the NBA. He has the talent, motivation and personality to lead a team. The only problem is, his skills don't fit with what Harden and the Rockets are trying to do.
Lin is fantastic with the ball in his hands. In terms of strict offensive potential from the position, Lin might rank as a top-10 point guard. He is great at getting to the basket, forcing contact and hitting tough shots. No stranger to the charity stripe, Lin has knocked down 78.9 percent of his career free throws.
Given the fact that Harden is a ball-handler and offensive weapon with the ball in his hands, Lin doesn't represent a perfect fit. Harden is the focus of the offense. Having him clash with Lin is not great for the team's success.
Still, the Rockets played pretty well with the two of them in 2012-13, and another season together under their belts should bode well for both guards. I do see Lin losing a bit of playing time to Beverley, though, but how much of a decrease remains to be seen.
Lin should play around 28 to 30 minutes per game this season with per-game totals of 13 points, six assists and three rebounds. Expect him to cut that turnover mark down just a bit from the 2.9 per game he posted last season.
Beverley isn't necessarily a better point guard than Lin, but he is definitely a better fit for Houston's offense.
Beverley isn't much of an offensive weapon, though he does have the ability to dish the ball out and set up his teammates. The offense ran smoothly in the playoffs against Oklahoma City with him at the point, since him at the point means Harden gets to control the ball more.
That's what makes Beverley such a good fit.
Harden controls the ball a lot regardless of which point guard is in the game. Instead of wasting Lin's offensive ability by watching Harden essentially play the point, Beverley can play and set up his teammates when the ball comes his way. When the ball comes Lin's way, he's more apt to try and score.
And, let's be honest here. Which player are you more confident in driving to the basket—Lin or Harden?
Beverley is a high-energy guy who plays solid defense on the perimeter and can knock down open shots from time to time. It'll be interesting to see how he responds to more playing time this season.
He played just 17.4 minutes per game last season, and I think that will increase to around 20 or so this season. His performance towards the end of the season and in the playoffs showed Houston that he can play. In 20 minutes, per-game averages of eight points, five assists and two steals would be well within the realm of possibility.
Brooks won't receive all that much playing time this season, and expecting the same player who dropped nearly 20 points per game in Houston as the starting point guard in 2009-10 is simply unreasonable. Brooks still has plenty of offensive potential, but he's just not as explosive as he used to be.
With Lin potentially seeing time at shooting guard when McHale chooses to go small, Brooks could grab time playing alongside the team's starter. This represents his best opportunity for time, and it could result in eight to 10 minutes per contest.
Brooks could also sneak into the lineup when Houston is in need of a three. He's not the best shooter on the team, but he shot 37.3 percent from deep last season and 39.8 percent in 2009-10. Somewhere in that range should be a safe bet for the 28-year-old.
Believe it or not, Brooks is the veteran point guard on the team. He'll be tasked with mentoring the young guards as much as possible. Rookie Isaiah Canaan especially could learn a lot from him, as the two will be spending plenty of quality time on the bench together.
If Brooks sees eight minutes per night, then he could feasibly score around four points per game. Should he do that with a three-point percentage above 35, the Rockets can't help but be happy with his production.
Isaiah Canaan, a talented point guard with plenty of offensive potential, will likely draw the short stick this season.
As a rookie, he simply doesn't have the seniority to crack the rotation consistently. He'll probably see a few "DNP (Coach's Decision)" notations next to his name in the box scores, but this shouldn't discourage him.
Canaan is strong with the ball in his hands and is capable of scoring in traffic. He's an above-average shooter and handles the ball pretty well. Given his lack of experience at the NBA level, the aforementioned players will have the upper hand over him on the depth chart.
Come midseason, Canaan has the talent to overtake Brooks. If he sits and learns from him while on the bench, then Canaan could be given his shot. With younger legs and more upside, Canaan is probably a better option for the Rockets from the start.
His lack of inexperience gives McHale a good excuse to sit him on the bench, though. Allowing the youngster to learn the speed of the game while watching from the bench is a safe play by the coaching staff.
If Canaan stays in the same role I project (a role as the No. 4 point guard), expect him to only play in about 40 games this season—and in no more than five minutes per game. It'll be a learning experience for him from Day 1, and it'll be interesting to see how he handles himself.
The Rockets expect good things from him, but they may not reap the benefits of his skills until next season.
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