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Who Will Be The Houston Rockets' Starting Center?

NEW YORK - JANUARY 26:  Chuck Hayes #44 of the Houston Rockets looks on against the New York Knicks on January 26, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Taylor SmithAnalyst IOctober 22, 2009

It's no secret that the Houston Rockets will be "going small" in 2009.

How small, you ask?

Well, there's a very, very good chance that their starting center on opening night will be six-foot-six Chuck Hayes.

Fortunately for the Rockets, Hayes may be the only 6-foot-6 player in the league more than capable of starting on a frontline.

Why?

Quite simply, Hayes is one of the best post defenders in the entire league.

He's deceptively strong and uses it to his advantage when defending down low.

Hayes is proficient at forcing bigger players out of their comfort zones and off the low block.

His quick hands allow him to drive the ball-handler crazy and he always seems to know where to be at the right time.

While Hayes appears to be the frontrunner to start opening night, Houston's tallest active player, 29-year-old rookie center David Andersen, could eventually take his place in the starting lineup.

Andersen, six-foot-eleven, came to the Rockets over the summer from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for a future second-round draft pick, cash and future considerations.

While he has yet to play in a regular season NBA game, Andersen has shown so far in the preseason that he's deserving of meaningful NBA minutes. 

Andersen excels on the offensive end of the floor, where he's shown that he can score inside as well as shoot with range up to about 23 feet.

Andersen's rebounding has never been his strength as a basketball player and he hasn't exactly put up eye-popping rebounding numbers so far this preseason.

However, his size in front of the basket gives the Rockets their only shot-blocking threat; something that will be missed sorely without Yao or the recently-retired Dikembe Mutombo clogging the paint.

Six-foot-nine Pops Mensah-Bonsu will make the team, but it doesn't seem as though he'll be getting much (if any) time on the floor early on.

It'll definitely be a different season than the Rockets are used to in 2009-10, and it starts with the men manning the middle.

 

 

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