Houston Rockets: 30 Team Previews in 30 Days

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Houston Rockets: 30 Team Previews in 30 Days
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2009-'10 Statistics

Finished 42-40, third in Southwest Division, ninth in Western Conference

Postseason

Missed Postseason

Additions and Re-Signings

Courtney Lee via trade, Patrick Patterson via draft, Luis Scola via re-signing, Kyle Lowry via re-signing, Brad Miller via free agency, and Alexander Johnson via free agency.

Losses

Trevor Ariza via trade, David Andersen via free agency, and Brian Cook via free agency.

The 2010-'11 season won't be critical for the Houston Rockets because of their postseason contension, but rather for the status of their all-star franchise center in Yao Ming who was forced to sit out all of last season due to a near career ending foot injury.

At 7'6", injuries to body parts such as the foot could spell disaster and it might in the case of Yao who has been discussing the probability of never playing basketball again because of it. Selected as the number one pick in 2002, he has been nothing short of brilliant for Houston and has contributed 19 points and nine rebounds for his career with the Rockets.

Since joining the team, Yao has made the Rockets a regular in the postseason, helping them become very familiar with winning 50 plus games. Without a formidable center last season, the Rockets missed the playoff's for the first time since 2005, when Yao only played 57 games. The tallest player in the NBA has made the Rockets into contenders thanks to his smooth mid-range jumper and his fantastic post moves, while using his giant frame to affect shots on the defensive end.

Without Yao the Rockets were forced to start 6'6" Chuck Hayes as their center, and as expected the team suffered in the paint and from all aspects of the court due to Yao's ability to attract double teams as well. The team was fortunate that their 6' point guard, Aaron Brooks was able to break out of his shell and drop 20 points per game while dishing out five assists.

The 2.5 three pointers per game at 40 percent, tied for first in the league,  turned Brooks into one of the premiere three-point shooters in the league as he attempted to compensate for Yao's absence on the offensive side. Brooks is entering his fourth year in the league and if Yao returns, will be one of already four dangerous scoring threat's on the floor.

The Rockets rely a lot of consistency on the offensive side with five players averaging double figures for the season and recently acquired Kevin Martin leading the way at 21 points per game. The balanced attack allowed the Rockets to become a potent offensive team at 103 points per contest.

Martin has become the offensive leader for this team and will be for awhile if he continues to impress with his ability to drive and shoot from anywhere on the court. This upcoming season will be his first year with the Rockets where he will finally be able to display his talent among a contender, rather than a bottom dweller where he was the only scorer on the Sacramento Kings for five and a half seasons.

Martin will need to improve his passing at Houston, considering he averaged more turnovers than assists last season. His impressive range should allow his teammates to get open for easier buckets, but he will need to raise his assist average considerably if he wants to be recognized as an all-star and elite player in this league.

After losing Ron Artest last season in favor of signing Trevor Ariza, the Rockets now have neither of the small forwards after a trade that sent Ariza to New Orleans as part of a four team trade. Houston acquired swing man Courtney Lee from the Nets in return. Lee has been in the league for only two years, but has already shown great strides in his short career.

He was a starter for the Magic in the NBA finals two years ago before being traded to the Nets last season where he averaged 13 points and four rebounds as the starting shooting guard. Like Martin, he will also need to improve his assist to turnover ratio, and improve on their passing ability if they want to make the Rockets into contenders again.

With veterans like Shane Battier and Luis Scola on the team, the Rockets also have depth in the youth department with players such as Aaron Brooks, Chase Budinger, and Jordan Hill soon to be leading the way. Budinger surprised many last season as a knock down three-point shooter with range and an ability to drive as well. His 37 percent three-point shooting impressed Houston as it gave them another threat from the outside to play alongside other shooters in Brooks and Martin.

Jordan Hill hasn't had the chance to truly prove himself, averaging only 13 minutes per game in his two year career, but impressed when he was out on the floor for Houston. At six points and five rebounds per game in only 16 minutes of game time, Hill could greatly help out this undersized Rockets team and add versatility to the power forward spot where Scola is mainly used as a scorer and Hill could be used as a post-up option.

The Rockets might look at Patrick Patterson though as a more reliable big man after taking him out of the University of Kentucky in this past draft. Patterson is a big body at 6'8 and 223 pounds and has a jump shot to go along with his post game, something that Hill cannot boast as well. Patrick averaged 14 points on 58 percent shooting, along with seven rebounds per game.

The rebounding total will need to improve for Patterson if he ever wants to be considered a threatening power forward and compete with the Dirk Nowtizkis and Tim Duncans of this league. With time and maybe with guidance from Yao, Patterson has the chance and ability to become a reliable power forward for the Rockets who would love to have his size on the court when they need it.

This is a make or break season for the Rockets and it's all riding on the foot of Yao Ming. If they can get him back into prime position as the threatening center he has been for his career to go along with the number of shooters and to help the Rockets become a better defensive team once again, then this Houston team can easily find themselves back in the playoff's.

At 102 points per game allowed, it was obvious that Yao's presence in the middle was missed greatly and that Shane Battier can't be the only reliable defender on the court. The defense, passing, and rebounding all need to greatly improve for this undersized Rockets team, but with time and hopefully fast healing injuries then Houston will see themselves as regulars come postseason time once again.

Projected Starting Lineup

PG-Aaron Brooks

SG-Kevin Martin

SF-Shane Battier

PF-Luis Scola

C-Yao Ming

Prediction

49-33

This is Part ten of a 30-day series of 2010-11 season previews of each NBA team. My profile will contain every other team that has been previewed before.

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