2013 Free Agency

2012 Team Preview: Houston Rockets

In Season Previews on October 23, 2012 at 7:56 am

Houston Rockets

Starters

  • PG – Jeremy Lin
  • SG – Kevin Martin
  • SF – Chandler Parsons
  • PF – Patrick Patterson
  • C  – Omer Asik

A very weak starting lineup. Probably bottom five in the league. No above average starters. Two middle of the pack starters (Asik, Kev Martin). Two firmly below average starters (Parsons, Lin). One very poor starter (Patterson).

All eyes on Jeremy Lin and how well he responds in his third season. Can he repeat the success he achieved in New York? Or will he plummet and bottom out?

Jeremy Lin is a ball-dominant high usage PG who is heavily reliant on pick and rolls to be successful. The Rockets use a lot of PnRs so this should be a mutually beneficial fit. Lin is a weak floor-general who doesn’t organize an offense well enough and is only really a playmaker out of the pick and roll and an unexceptional one at that. A limited athlete who’s lack of quickness causes him problems defensively. Often punished by more athletic opponents. Good possession creator as both a rebounder and steal generator.

A solid shot-creator in the pick and roll but an otherwise limited scorer. A largely inefficient offensive threat. Not efficient enough to command so much time on the ball and shot attempts on a good team but the Rockets are desperate enough to allow him the same freedom Lin had in New York under D’Antoni. So-so TS% combined with high turnover numbers. Mistake prone player.

Omer Asik was the other off-season addition that caught a lot of attention. Paid around $8 million a year. Asik was a 15 minute a night reserve center in Chicago. An extremely limited offensive player. Probably the least skilled starting center in the league. No jump-shot. Non-passer. Non-shot creator. So-so finisher around the basket. Sets excellent screens both on and off the ball.

Asik’s limitations offensively means he is a minutes-limited starter. He shouldn’t be playing more than 25-28 minutes a night and if he is, it says more about his team than how he is playing … a damning sign and indictment of his team’s lack of interior defense outside of him. That’s the case in Houston so it may happen. I doubt Kevin McHale will go that way (prefers skilled bigs) but it’s possible.

Asik is one of the best defensive centers in the league and very strong rebounder. His ability to contain his check defensively and provide high level rim protection and overall team defense is very valuable. As his ability to create extra possessions for his team. This is where he’ll earn his paycheck (and I do expect him to be worth that money).

Kevin Martin is a high scoring (20-25ppg threat) and uber-efficient (60+% TS%) two guard who continues to show no interest in playing defense or rebounding. One of the worst defender/rebounders in the league at his position. Also fails to create shots for teammates. His negatives in non-scoring departments often neutralize his very positive scoring contributions. More of a 2nd option offensively than a main go-to guy. Struggles to create one-on-one (that’s the reason). Excellent movement off the ball and at scoring within the flow of an offense (based around ball-movement and cutting). Average passer.

I expect Jeremy Lin (PnR reliant) and Kevin Martin (needs lots of ball/player movement) to endure similar problems offensively as Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin did in Sacramento. They operate best within different types of offenses so there will be major diminishing returns here as they try to work together. I expect the Rockets to side with Jeremy Lin and be more of a PnR dominated side with Martin sliding into the background … and eventually being traded elsewhere prior to the trade deadline. Likely for a low price.

That leaves two other placeholders – Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson.

Chandler Parsons is a good defender/rebounder with good size and average athleticism. An intelligent offensive player who moves into space well and keeps the ball moving. Serviceable three point shooter (33.7% last year). Very limited shot-creator. Cannot create his own looks. Needs teammates to create opportunities for him. Closer to an average backup SF than a solid starter. Due to weak alternatives, Parsons is the best option Houston have for now as their starting SF.

Patrick Patterson is Houston’s most experienced power forward and that seems to be the only reason he is currently penciled in as their starting four this season. I think there is a good chance he loses the job before the season is finished. Very inconsistent his first two years in the league.

Bench

  • PG – Shaun Livingston, Scott Machado
  • SG – Jeremy Lamb, Gary Forbes
  • SF – Carlos Delfino, Marcus Morris
  • PF – Terrence Jones, (Donatus Motiejunas), (Marcus Morris), Royce White, JaJuan Johnson, Jon Brockmon
  • C  – Donatus Motiejunas, Greg Smith

A dodgy looking bench. Quite a few unknowns. No clear high level bench players. One strong bench player in Delfino. One mediocre one in Livingston. Several rookies (unknowns) and other inexperienced young players.

Carlos Delfino is the best player here. A good defender/rebounder. A good ball-handler and passer. A very good perimeter shooter. Lots of quality role-player type contributions.

Shaun Livingston is a big point guard who can create matchup problems at 6-7. That helps make him a dangerous shot-creator against smaller guards. Good decision maker / floor general.

Jeremy Lamb is a rookie shooting guard out of UCONN. Very athletic and rangy. Was a good scorer and a very good shooter in college. Defensive potential. Potential as a possession-creator also. Not always as aggressive/assertive as he should be.

Terrence Jones will be an NBA ready contributor. Should be a capable defensive player. Likely a below average but serviceable rebounder. A skilled PF offensively but still learning how to best utilize his skill-set so can be inconsistent. Very athletic with good size. Most dependable option at PF.

Donatus Motiejunas looks to be Houston’s best rookie. Given their lack of size (outside of Asik) and their abundance of forwards, it looks like Motiejunas is going to be forced to play the center position almost exclusively this year. A weak defensive player and dodgy rebounder. Not suited to being a team’s anchor defensively. Will struggle individually and undermine Houston’s integrity as a defensive/rebounding unit while manning the five position. A very skilled low post scorer with good range on his jump-shot. One of the most skilled 7 foot offensive players in the league. Already. Very talented.

Gary Forbes is a really good defender/rebounder. A high level athlete with good size. Nice alternative as a third string SG to Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb who are both likely to struggle defensively.

Marcus Morris is a combo-forward. Potent post player in college and should be one too at the SF position in the NBA. Will need to rely more on his face-up game and his speed as a PF. Played too little to know what he is capable of yet.

Royce White is a very talented power forward with lots of flaws in his game. Offensively, White has an iffy jump-shot + a bad shot-selection + is turnover prone + great at highlight passes but less interested in simple ball-movement. All these flaws combined make White an ineffective offensive option despite an attractive skill-set.

The attractive skill-set = Good size at 6-8 270lbs. Too big and strong for smaller forwards. Too many guard skills (ball-handling, playmaking, dribble penetration) for bigger defenders. That ability to create matchup problems is very important for his long term future but until White fixes some of those flaws, he won’t be able to capitalize on those positive attributes effectively (consistently) enough.

Royce White’s lack of explosive quickness will limit him against top notch defensive players. Similar raw talent / player to Antoine Walker. Another guy who was often shut-down by top athletes/defenders at the PF position (like Kenyon Martin). Not quite athletic enough or skilled enough to defeat top defender/athletes. Still, against most of the rest of the league, Royce White will be able to create matchup problems.

White is also a very strong rebounder but looks to be a deficient defensive player. Has good enough quickness combined with excellent and decent size/length to give him enough physical talent to become a quality defensive player in the NBA down the road. Likely to struggle defensively his first few years.

So overall, I’d expect Royce White to be a train-wreck his rookie season. Far too many flaws that need addressing. Very good raw talent that with refinement could create a very effective and well above average starting PF down the road (in a similar mold to Antoine Walker).

JaJuan Johnson is a lightweight PF. A good athlete. Below average rebounder. Very poor defensive player. Has a nice midrange shot and is a good finisher around the basket. Limited playing time last year and struggled with nerves at times.

Jon Brockmon is a limited defender and offensive player. Excellent rebounder though. He could see some playing time at center behind Omer Asik.

Interior Defense

Omer Asik is the Rockets only capable interior defender so one should accept the Rockets defense to fall apart whenever he is off the court. Since he is ideally a minutes-limited player, that likely means that Houston will play large chunks of games without any type of capable interior defensive presence.

As for their perimeter defense, their guards are pretty much all liabilities but their two small forwards are both good defensive players. No high level defenders. Only two above-average ones. At least two who are large liabilities. So a limited perimeter defense also.

Ugly times ahead for Houston …

Overall

A lottery team. Could be anywhere from a 20-25 win team to a 30-35 win team.

Heck, it’s possible that they don’t even make it to 20 wins but that would be very disappointing. I am expecting enough things to go right to keep them well clear of that embarrassment.

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