Final First-Half Player Power Rankings for Houston Rockets
The 2013-14 season is nearly halfway over, which means it's time for another installment of the Houston Rockets player power rankings.
Dwight Howard is finally starting to look like he's in superstar shape, but his partner in crime James Harden is in a rough patch. Role players like Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones are playing well, but others like Francisco Garcia and Greg Smith need to step it up.
Injuries have prevented the Rockets from soaring so far this year, so hopefully they can get healthy and finish off the second half strong.
With injures not counting against the player, the player rankings are in order of how well players are performing in their individual roles on the team, as well as how much they contribute to the overall effort of the Rockets while they are on the court. Take a look at the halfway-point player power rankings for Houston.
All stats are from ESPN, unless otherwise cited, and are accurate as of Tuesday, January 7.
The Bottom 5
15. Robert Covington
Covington signed on with Houston as an undrafted free agent to play in the summer league. After a promising performance in Orlando, he earned himself the final spot on the Rockets' roster.
So far this season, Covington has been taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity in the D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He is averaging 19.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, with an incredible +/- rating of over 22. However, the Rockets signed Covington because of his three-point shooting, but he is only connecting on 31.7 percent of his attempts from behind the arc.
If Covington can get that three-point percentage up and continue to play efficiently, he will get the call to come play for Houston before the year is over.
14. Isaiah Canaan
Canaan was playing extremely well in the valley before getting called up to the big leagues after Patrick Beverley fractured his right hand. As of late, Canaan has been riding the pine for the Rockets, appearing in just one game during a blowout loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
His 21.7 points and 9.2 assists per game with Rio Grande were enough to get him recognized by management. When Beverley returns, Canaan will most likely return to the valley because of the Rockets' tremendous depth at point guard.
With Beverley, Jeremy Lin and Aaron Brooks all ahead of Canaan on the depth chart, he will just have to wait for his opportunity to play in the NBA, but he is definitely capable.
13. Ronnie Brewer
This has been a disappointing season for Ronnie Brewer, most likely because he's a poor fit in Houston's system. Brewer is a defensive specialist, which the Rockets really need, but he can't score worth a lick. When he gets the ball on offense, he completely disrupts the Rockets' offensive rhythm, making him a liability.
His lack of any offensive game is why he has only appeared in 16 games this year and is averaging a pitiful 0.3 points in those appearances. He's a 25.6 percent career three-point shooter, and the Rockets attempt the most threes per game in the NBA.
Brewer may not even be on the team by the end of the year, but he gets the nod ahead of the two D-Leaguers on the power ranks simply because he has been on the roster all season long.
12. Donatas Motiejunas
Daryl Morey and Houston fans were hoping that Motiejunas would have more of an impact after coming over from the Polish League. His game has not exactly translated to the NBA as smoothly as Morey thought it would, and as a result, his minutes have taken a huge hit.
D-Mo has shown some flashes of low-post potential but has not played consistently enough to get a foothold in the rotation. He has seen the floor in only 17 games all year and is averaging 2.7 points and 1.5 boards.
With Omer Asik and Greg Smith struggling with injuries, Motiejunas was still sent down to the D-League. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Motiejunas wants to be traded. He wants more playing time, plain and simple.
11. Greg Smith
Injuries have plagued Greg Smith all season long and have kept him on the sideline. He has only played in nine games this year, and the Rockets need him to get healthy with all of their big-man issues.
With Asik still out, Smith is the primary backup at center for Dwight Howard. Smith can clog up the middle and run the floor well for a big man. He just needs to get that knee to cooperate.
10. Omer Asik
What can I say? The only reason Omer Asik is as high as No. 10 is so I can use a whole slide to rant about him.
After such a remarkable season as the starter last year with Houston, Asik has been grumpy and uncooperative this season since the Rockets signed Dwight Howard. As formidable as Asik is, you can't blame Morey for going out and signing a superstar in Dwight Howard.
Coach Kevin McHale tried to play the two centers together, but the spacing was off, and the whole experiment was a disaster. So McHale did what had to be done and put Asik on the bench, and the Turkish big man demanded a trade for the second time.
Morey gave himself a deadline to deal Asik, but he didn't get any offers that he was willing to pull the trigger for and decided to keep him instead.
If Asik can get his act together and shake off his nagging knee injury, the Rockets would have elite rim protection for 48 minutes a game. Asik is a top-five defensive center, and Howard may be the best. If their minutes are staggered properly, the Rockets can become a top-tier team defensively and can really become dangerous in this league.
9. Francisco Garcia
Speaking of disappointments this season, Francisco Garcia would fit into that category. He has not been the same player who wreaked havoc against Oklahoma City in the playoffs.
Garcia's stats are mundane, and he has not been much of a spark for the Rockets' second unit. His best attribute is his three-point shot, but he's only hitting 34.3 percent from deep this year. That just isn't cutting it.
Hopefully Garcia can get that percentage up and over 40 percent come playoff time. Houston needs him at his best if it wants to compete with the top teams of the West.
8. Aaron Brooks
Brooks has gotten a lot of minutes for a third-string point guard, thanks to numerous injuries in the Rockets' backcourt. Due to Beverley's fractured hand, Lin's knee and back problems and James Harden's sprained ankle, Brooks has been a key part of the Rockets' rotation.
Brooks' 39.6 three-point percentage is the best on the team. His shooting stroke is invaluable to the Rockets' second unit. He also is super quick and uncannily talented at finishing in the paint over taller defenders.
His defense is a weakness, which is something he has in common with most of the Rockets' guards. However, his ability to provide a spark off the bench when needed makes him a quality role player.
7. Omri Casspi
Omri Casspi has developed into a key contributor for the Rockets. He wasn't expected to do much after signing a deal over summer, but he proved that he was worth keeping with a scorching preseason and quick start to the regular season.
Casspi has become one of the most reliable players off the bench for Houston. His 35.4 three-point percentage is adequate for the stretch-4 spot in the Rockets offense, and he's athletic enough to cut to the basket and run in transition.
As it turns out, Casspi is just another one of Morey's sneaky moves that worked out very well. He is an important part of Houston's rotation.
6. Jeremy Lin
Lin was thriving as the Rockets' sixth man this season, but injuries have ruined it all. At first, he couldn't stay healthy enough to play, dealing with a knee contusion and back spasms. Now, he's healthy once again, but Beverley's broken hand has put Lin back in the starting lineup.
As a starter, Lin scores more points per game because of the increase in minutes, but he is much less efficient. His field-goal percentage was over 50 percent coming off the bench but down to 46 percent as a starter.
Regardless of whether he is in the starting lineup or not, Lin is playing his best basketball since Linsanity in New York a couple of seasons ago. His 37.3 three-point percentage is much better than his career 34.0 percent, and his field-goal percentage is drastically higher as well. His defense and turnovers are still prevalent issues, but he has truly become a great role player with the Rockets.
Lin is a better fit in the second unit because he plays his best with the ball in his hands. When he is in the same lineup as Harden, he is not nearly as effective because Harden hogs the ball. When Beverley comes back, Lin should return to his sixth-man role.
5. Patrick Beverley
Beverley's injury is a huge hit to the Rockets. He is the best perimeter defender on the team by a wide margin, and his all-out effort night in and night out will be dearly missed.
For Beverley, the stats don't tell the whole story. He is very dependable defensively for the Rockets. He has shut down talented point guards all season long, such as Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Mike Conley. With Beverley out, Lin and Brooks have not been able to defend decent point guards, and it's killing the Rockets.
On the offensive end, Beverley could improve a bit. His three-point percentage is down to 33.3, which will have to go up when the playoffs come around. He also isn't a great facilitator, but usually he plays alongside Harden, so he doesn't have to handle the ball too often anyway.
Houston will just have to wait for Beverley's hand to heal. They need him back as soon as possible.
4. Terrence Jones
Terrence Jones is the only remaining first-rounder of the Rockets' three in the 2012 draft. He has earned himself a spot in the starting lineup as an athletic stretch 4, playing alongside Dwight Howard in the frontcourt.
After a rocky start, Houston took off once Jones was put in the starting five instead of Omer Asik. He's a solid stretch 4 because of his outside shooting ability and athleticism on defense.
The three-point shooting has become a question mark for Jones. After shooting 47.6 percent from deep in November, he only shot 19.4 percent in December. These percentages are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of the league average, so it is unclear whether Jones can hit from three or not. My guess is his hot November was mostly a fluke.
The Rockets offense was rolling when Jones was hitting the three, but now it has come back down to earth. Fortunately, Jones' other attributes are still helping the Rockets win. He is still much quicker than other big men and a freakish athlete. He can run the floor, defend in the post and is always an alley-oop threat. His 1.4 blocks per game don't hurt either.
The good news for Houston is that Jones is just 21 years old and will keep improving his all-around game.
3. James Harden
Surprised to see the Beard so soon at No. 3? This may be a bit harsh, but let me explain.
James Harden is obviously "the guy" on the Houston Rockets. He is the team's best player and therefore should be a leader. That being said, he is underperforming because we all know how good this guy can really be.
His stats across the board are down a bit, which is to be expected with Dwight Howard now taking away some of his touches. He's still fifth in the league in scoring and is pretty efficient if you take away a few of his disastrous shooting nights.
He turns the ball over way too much. He does not take care of the basketball like he should, and the Rockets have way too many empty possessions as a result.
The biggest knock on Harden, however, is his defense, or lack thereof. Harden's defensive effort is putrid. He will never obtain superstar status in the NBA until he decides to exert effort on both ends of the floor. Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade have always gotten the nod over him as better shooting guards because of their prowess on BOTH ends of the floor.
Harden could be an MVP candidate if he can muster up even just a little effort on D. He's that good offensively. He, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are far and away the top pure scorers in the league.
He's shooting a career-low 32.3 percent from behind the arc, but that should come around by the end of the season. When he's shooting the ball well, he cannot be guarded. His deceptive quickness allows him to penetrate the lane, and his strength and footwork get him two points with a layup or a pair of free throws almost every time.
Harden is only 24 years old. If he can keep up the offense and pick up the defense, he may one day be the best player in the league.
2. Dwight Howard
LeBron James had to prove to the world that he was not the villain and that he could win, and he has done just that with the Miami Heat. Now it is Dwight Howard's turn.
Howard has lost popularity amid his two team changes in the past two years. After wanting a trade from Orlando, to a nightmarish season in L.A., Howard finally made his decision to come to Houston and try to start fresh.
Slowly but surely, Howard is returning to his MVP form as "Rocket Man."
He is among the league leaders in rebounds, blocks (1.8 ppg) and field-goal percentage (.580). He has 21 double-doubles this season, tied for third most in the NBA. His post game is better than ever, thanks to the help of Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. He can finish with both hands down low, and he has new moves that make him almost automatic in single coverage. He forces opponents to double-team him, which opens up the three-point shot for Houston.
His free-throw percentage (55.3 percent) is still not very good, but he has proven that he can knock them down just often enough to prevent teams from hacking him.
He's still one of the most dominant defensive players in the league. He clogs up the paint and blocks or affects any shot that goes up in that area. With Dwight in the game, Houston is sufficient on defense, but without him they are among the worst in the league.
Clearly things are looking up for Howard. However, he still gets booed in half the stadiums across the country. Dwight is criticized because he likes to smile and can't be serious. He still has a lot to prove, but he is certainly heading in the right direction with Houston.
1. Chandler Parsons
Chandler Parsons walks away with the top spot of the countdown. Why? Because he's the most crucial piece to the Rockets' puzzle.
Parsons is the quintessential stat-sheet stuffer. He can shoot, pass, defend and rebound. There's nothing he can't do. His presence is critical for making the Rockets' offensive system work.
Parsons is a sharp shooter, and his length and athleticism make him a terrific slasher. He's shooting 37.5 percent from three, and he is an excellent finisher at the rim. His offensive talents help Houston space the floor well and light up the scoreboard.
Parsons has struggled with back spasms for a while, and to make matters worse, his knee is now giving him a hard time. The Rockets need Parsons at 100 percent.
Morey has a tough decision lying ahead of him. Parsons is still on his rookie contract from when he was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, which means he is making less than a million dollars per year. That value won't last forever, and the Rockets must decide if Parsons is worthy of a max deal that would make him the third star in Houston's "Big Three."
I think that this Rockets core is good enough to win it all at some point in the near future. Parsons is definitely proving his worth. Houston needs him.