The Houston Rockets adopted a completely different style of play last season, once news of Yao Ming's career threatening injury returned in a negative manner. With no legitimate big man to anchor Houston in the middle, a necessity for wins in the NBA, the Rockets sweated out a mediocre season, with limited tools, earning the monicre of a hustle heavy squad.
Playing this upbeat, small-ball system was alien territory to many of the players on the roster, having worked hard under Coach Adelman's defensively orientated playbook. Rick Adelman himself claimed to struggle somewhat in adjusting to a completely new style of play, yet managed to orchestrate his makeshift squad to a winning record. Houston earned a 42-40 regular season record in 2009-2010.
The whole point in this change in basketball styles was due to the fact that this undermanned Houston team could no longer facilitate their offense which was essentially centered around Yao Ming, and as a result their defensive sets would need to be drastically altered.
However with Yao Ming back, and rumoured to be in excellent shape, the immediate future is bright for the Houston Rockets, especially when you have a simply dynamite front office.
When he feared Yao Ming's return would not be as imminent as planned, Daryl Morey once again struck gold with the simply brilliant signing if Brad Miller, utilising the teams mid-level exception to get him there. Miller could not be a better compliment to the already established big men on the roster. He boasts a decent mid range jumper, which will clear the paint somewhat for Yao, the low post presence in Scola, and the recently acquired athletic center Jordan Hill, who can't do alot more than dunk.
Houston also drafted wisely this summer, raking in potential steal Patrick Patterson with their 14th pick, a somewhat undersized power forward with allegedly stunning potential. Patterson boasts a great post game (which may be his greatest offensive asset considering his size), a surprisingly efficient jumpshot for the four spot, and great athleticism.
However Patterson has been noted for his mediocre all round defense, which is just the icing in the cake of his flaws, which include his poor dribbling skills and what may be the most distinguishable characteristic of his game: "Jack of all trades, master if none". Despite his inability to grasp these skills Houston can still be justifiably optimistic. Best case scenario: with this pick Houston could have replaced the Carl Landry prototype they dealt last February in order to acquire Kevin Martin.
Jared Jeffries may be little more than a roster stuffer, but his solid defense and high IQ give Houston another body under the basket, Even if that is all he comes to on this Rockets team. Another body.
And that is what repeatedly killed Houston last year, its sheer lack of men to protect the paint, an area in the Toyota Center which was appropriately coined as "The Red Carpet". There is only so much a 6-6, blue collar, mean machine (i.e Chuck Hayes) can do to stop the Dwight Howards and Pau Gasols of the world.
But thanks to Daryl Morey and his now legendary negotiating and team-building gifts, Houston may be the deepest team in the league, with possibly the best frontline in the west, behind LA of course.
Houston isn't out of the doghouse quite yet, many questions are unanswered. But Yao and company have the talent to make some noise in the west, and potentially compete for the conference title, with their frontcourt leading the way.