NBA 2009 Season Prediction: The Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets have claimed two consecutive NBA titles (1994, 1995), four conference titles (1981, 1986, 1994, 1995), and four divisional titles (1977, 1986, 1993, 1994).
The players most noted for the two titles in '94 and '95, are Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler (Drexler was only on the 1995 championship team).
Since then, the Rockets have been plagued by above-average mediocrity. They have made the playoffs the past two seasons, but in both instances, they have been eliminated by the Utah Jazz in the first round.
This led the Rockets' management to fire Head Coach Jeff Van Gundy after the 2006-2007 season. Van Gundy was replaced by the great Rick Aldelman.
Aldelman has coached the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, and Golden State Warriors.
When coaching in Portland, he helped lead the Blazers to three straight Western Conference Finals appearances from 1990-1992. In 1990, the Blazers advanced to the NBA Finals where they were knocked off by the Isiah Thomas led Detroit Pistons. In the 1991 Western Conference Finals, the Blazers were eliminated by the Magic Johnson led Los Angeles Lakers, and in '92, the Blazers made it to the NBA Finals again, before losing to the Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls.
In 2002, Aldelman led the Sacramento Kings to the 2002 Western Conference Finals, where they eventually were beat out by the eventual champions, the Lakers.
As you can see, Aldelman brings great coaching experience and knowledge to this already loaded roster. Speaking of which, let's get right to analyzing the Rockets' current roster.
This roster is simply put, loaded with talent. There is also a calming presence of leadership to a relatively young team in some aspects. Here is my projected starting lineup for the Rockets:
The starting point guard position is difficult to pick and/or predict. Steve Francis, who has been a starting point guard for many years, has been plagued by knee injuries the past two seasons. Still, when he is healthy, Francis is a beast. If Francis is not 100% coming into the season, I would give the edge to Rafer Alston, who has been in the league just as long as Francis.
SG: Tracy McGrady
Tracy McGrady is a franchise SG. His eleven years of experience bring knowledge and leadership to the table. McGrady can just flat as well. There is no question that he will start at SG, unless he is injured.
SF: Ron Artest
Artest reunites with coach Rick Adelman, as he played under Adelman in Sacramento for half a year. Artest brings offensive scoring to the team, and strengthens the already strong Rockets defense.
PF: Luis Scola
Scola has brought some much needed rebounding and inside presence that the Rockets desperately showed a lack of in their 2006 NBA Playoffs loss to the Utah Jazz, and he came at a very small price as the Rockets traded away seldom-used Vassilis Spanoulis for him.
Hopefully, Scola will be another piece of the puzzle that the Rockets are attempting to build so they can regain their elite championship stats from the 1990s.
C: Yao Ming
Despite losing Yao Ming to a season-ending foot injury last season, the Rockets still won ten games in their 22-game win streak last season without him. If Yao was able to play, that streak probably would have gone longer, and they would most likely have gotten past the first round of the playoffs.
PG: Aaron Brooks
Aaron Brooks was a High School All-American when he arrived in Eugene at the University of Oregon, and it took him just about three years before his true potential was harnessed.
We have seen very bright spots in his NBA game, but his consistency is still an issue. Still, it is not a huge stretch of the imagination to think that Brooks will be the Rockets' starting PG in years to come.
SG: Brent Barry
The former Oregon State University standout brings tons of playoff experience to the Rockets, and a much needed boost to the team's three-point production.
SF: Shane Battier
Battier is one of the most well-bred players that Mike Krzyzewski has coached at Duke. He is a great shooter who can anchor this second team with leadership and experience, as well as some not-to-shabby defense.
The only other PF on the current Rockets roster is Chuck Hayes, out of Kentucky. The Rockets still have yet to sign their two PF draft picks, Maarty Leunen and Joey Dorsey. Carl Landry is also a free agent.
As of now, Hayes has the spot, but a lot could change in the next few months leading up to opening night.
C: Dikembe Mutombo
The seventeen year veteran has seen it all. He started at C for the Rockets when Yao Ming went down with a season-ending foot injury. He can still be a force in the paint; he recorded 22 rebounds on March 2nd, 2008.
He also had five blocked shots on January 10th, 2008, which put him over Kareem Abdul-Jabar on the all time blocked shots list. He is now second only to Hakeem Olajuwon.
The key to the Rockets success this season will be for Yao Ming to stay healthy. When he is, he and Mutombo form one of the best combinations of centers in the league.
Also, the starting point guard position needs to be solidified. If all this happens, then we can definitely expect to see this team advance past the first round of the playoffs.
This roster is just downright loaded. A potent offense, awe-inspiring defense, and a great coaching staff. We will definitely be hearing more of this team.
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