Grading Every Position Heading into Houston Rockets Training Camp
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With new additions here and there, the Houston Rockets have quality players up and down the roster at each position.
The center position is stacked with superstar Dwight Howard joining forces with Omer Asik in the frontcourt. Other positions, such as power forward, still have some glaring weaknesses.
There are high expectations this season in Houston, so as we get set for training camp in early October, here's a preview and grades for each position on the Rockets' roster.
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Players: Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Aaron Brooks, Isaiah Canaan
At point guard, the Rockets have a handful of capable players that could fill the role.
Jeremy Lin had a decent season last year, averaging 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game. In the playoffs, however, Lin was a no-show, only posting 4.0 points and 2.0 assists per contest while battling a chest injury.
Lin will get the nod as the starter, but he won't have a lot of breathing room from his backup Patrick Beverley.
Beverley stepped in when Lin went down in the playoffs, and he played admirably. Bev put up 11.8 points and 5.5 boards a game, while also playing tough defense on opposing guards with his terrific hustle. I wouldn't be surprised if Beverley earns himself some starting time this season, or at least some running time with the first unit.
Aaron Brooks and Isaiah Canaan most likely won't see any significant minutes, but they each are respectable players. Brooks is a career 36.4 percent shooter from three, and Canaan was an accurate shooter himself at Murray State, connecting on 41.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
The Rockets don't have a stud point guard, but they have plenty of competent role players that can get the job done.
Overall grade: B-
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Players: James Harden, Ronnie Brewer, Reggie Williams, BJ Young
The Rockets have arguably the best shooting guard in the league, but it's a pretty big drop-off after that. James Harden established himself as an elite scorer last season in his first year with the Rockets, but he doesn't have a lot of backup help.
Harden averaged 25.9 points per game, good for fifth best in the NBA last season. He can shoot from deep (37.0 percent for his career) and attack the basket as well as anybody. Harden specializes in creating contact and getting to the line, attempting more free throws than anyone else in the league.
Harden is primed to have another career year in H-town, but the question is who will play when he needs to rest. Ronnie Brewer appears to be that guy.
The Rockets signed Brewer as a free agent this past summer to help their perimeter defense. Brewer is an above-average defender, and the Rockets need all the help they can get in that category, surrendering the third most opponent points per game.
After Brewer, the depth at shooting guard is fairly barren.
Reggie Williams was also an addition via free agency over the summer. He is a career 37.1 percent three-point shooter, but he will struggle to get minutes on a consistent basis simply because the Rockets are too deep. BJ Young, an undrafted free agent, is almost guaranteed to end up in the D-Leauge after training camp.
If Harden can build on last year's huge success, Houston has nothing to worry about at shooting guard. If he goes down though, I don' think the Rockets would be able to recover.
Overall grade: B+
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Players: Chandler Parsons, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Robert Covington
The small forward position isn't the strongest for the Rockets, but it's nothing to be ashamed of either.
Chandler Parsons is becoming a noteworthy player in the NBA. He had a phenomenal performance during the playoffs against OKC, averaging 18.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Parsons is a budding star, and his unique combination of height and athleticism will go a long way for the Rockets.
Backing up Parsons, Francisco Garcia will be a valuable contributor for Houston. Garcia was a big part of the Rockets' run in the playoffs, putting up 10.7 points per contest and guarding Kevin Durant for the majority of the series.
Playoffs aside, Garcia had a minimal role for the Rockets, so it will be interesting to see how much time he gets throughout the year. Either way, his veteran leadership and three-point shot will help out a lot.
Moving down the bench, Omri Casspi is next on the depth chart at the 3 position. Casspi joined the team as a free agent during the offseason, but it is unclear what his role will be for Houston. Casspi was irrelevant last year riding the bench in Cleveland with the Cavaliers. His 4.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per game certainly don't stand out, so it's hard to imagine him having a big season for the Rockets.
Lastly, Robert Covington is on the training camp roster as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee State. He is a long shot to make the team, but he could make his way onto the roster if he continues to impress at camp and then in the D-League.
Overall grade: B-
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Players: Terrence Jones, Greg Smith, Donatas Motiejunas
Power forward is the one position where the Rockets don't have a definitive starter. The spot is up for grabs, and any one of these three guys has a reasonable chance to win the job.
Greg Smith ended the regular season as the starter. In his 10 starts, he averaged 8.8 points and 5.6 boards. Smith can hold his own in the paint on defense and can run in transition well for a big man.
Donatas Motiejunas also got some of the starts last season. He started 14 games in which he posted 9.3 points. D-Mo has some good moves in the low post and is a natural scorer, but he cannot defend or rebound well enough to stay in the game.
Last, but not least, Terrence Jones has a shot at becoming a key role player for Houston. Jones barely got any playing time near the beginning of his rookie season, but he really came on strong after the All-Star break averaging 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Jones showed his potential and will try to capitalize on it during his sophomore campaign.
There's no obvious choice, but I predict Greg Smith will begin the year as the starter. There have been talks about Dwight Howard making the transition to power forward, but I don't think the Rockets will entertain that idea for too long. If Smith doesn't impress or if Jones breaks out, then Jones can win over the job by the end of the year.
The starting power forward could rotate all season long, with no one standing out among the rest.
Overall grade: C-
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Players: Dwight Howard, Omer Asik, Marcus Camby, Jordan Henriquez
After winning the Dwight Howard sweepstakes during free agency, the Rockets now have two of the elite defensive centers in the NBA. Howard is perhaps the best center on the planet, and Omer Asik is an outstanding defensive player as well.
Howard is a superstar and is unquestionably the starting center. In an off-year with a sore back, Howard still averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 boards a game with the LA Lakers. He is one of the most dominant players in the league, clogging up the paint and forcing opposing teams to plan around him. His offense has room for improvement, but he has been working out with former Rockets great Hakeem Olajuwon.
Omer Asik was a formidable starter last season with Houston. He posted 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per contest, and he was the only shred of hope the Rockets had defensively. Asik was reportedly upset that he was bumped to the bench upon Howard's arrival, but that doesn't mean he can't adjust to his role and still play well.
Beyond these two big guys, there really isn't much depth at the center position.
Marcus Camby signed with Houston over the summer, but his role will be leadership off the court more than it will be on it. Camby probably will not even dress out for most games, but his veteran experience will come in handy down the road.
The last player on the depth chart is Jordan Henriquez. Henriquez was a solid defender at Kansas State last season, but the undrafted free agent has virtually no chance of making the team.
Overall grade: A