2011-2012 Houston Rockets Season Preview
The Houston Rockets have been aggressive in making changes. They have a new head coach. They have tried to make aggressive trades. They have even ponied up serious contract offers. However the Rockets are not really any different than last year. Will lack of change come back to haunt the Rockets?
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2011-2012 Houston Rockets:.
|Five Guys Think…|
Outside of the Portland Trail Blazers, no team in the NBA may have had worse luck over the last few years than the Rockets. That continued during the offseason as they had the league reject a deal that would have given them All-Star power forward Pau Gasol and the cap room to sign the top-ranked free agent Nene. Then they saw the Memphis Grizzlies match their offer sheet for restricted free agent center Marc Gasol. Unable to execute any of their plans, the Rockets are bound to fall behind the pack in the incredibly-tough Southwest Division. Counting on head coach Kevin McHale, the most questionable coaching hire of the offseason, to be competitive with a roster that management actively sought to overhaul is not a position any franchise would want to be in.
4th Place, Southwest Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
The offseason was a frustrating time for the Rockets, who struck out on every free agent and trade they pursued. As of this writing they are also without a starting center, or even a back-up unless you count Hasheem Thabeet. The Rockets have lots of nice young pieces, including Jeremy Lin and Marcus Morris, but unless one of the young big men steps up at center it’s going to be a long season for the Rockets. It doesn’t help that they play in the NBA’s toughest division.
5th Place – Southwest Division
- Bill Ingram
It’s not like we didn’t see the Yao Ming retirement coming, but despite that fact the Rockets still haven’t had any luck in tracking down a new franchise center. Pau Gasol would’ve fit the bill just fine had the Chris Paul trade worked out, and Pau’s brother Marc would’ve been equally interesting had he not signed a max four-year deal to stay in Memphis. Nene seems to view Houston as a third option, which means that when this is all said and done, the team’s best new addition might be… Samuel Dalembert? That doesn’t signal a major improvement to me, but Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Patrick Patterson are talented enough to at least keep things interesting. Rookies Marcus Morris and Donatas Motiejunas clog up the power forward rotation a little, but they’ll be worth watching, too. Despite all that, with essentially the same roster as last year with only a few minor tweaks, Houston doesn’t seem poised to work their way up the Western Conference ranks any time soon. Not without some sort of major trade or signing, which they still could potentially find a way to do.
4th Place, Southwest Division
- Joel Brigham
The retirement of center Yao Ming, due to chronic injury, ended an era in Houston which never fully seemed to get off the ground. For a team which boasts NBA championships and frequent playoff berths on the resume the Rockets have failed to lure in top tier talent via free agency as of late. Luis Scola and Kevin Martin are two more than capable veterans who produce nightly on a consistent basis, but the team lacks talent at center and the undersized but overachieving Chuck Hayes is no longer on the roster. They’ll compete hard but it’s likely another year on the outside looking in of the postseason for Houston.
5th Place, Southwest Division
- Lang Greene
After David Stern vetoed the three-team trade that would’ve sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Houston Rockets found themselves in a very awkward position. Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic had to start training camp with the organization that had just tried to trade them. The deal was a surprise to Martin, who had been assured several months earlier that the Rockets were going to build around him. Houston also missed out on the chance to acquire Pau Gasol and sign Nene, and now they must try to smooth over the situation and salvage their season. The Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs have improved, which will make it very difficult for the Rockets to make the playoffs out of the Southwest Division. While they’ll finish ahead of the rebuilding New Orleans Hornets in the standings, it’s going to be a tough year for the Rockets.
4th Place, Southwest Division
- Alex Kennedy
|Top Of The List|
Top Offensive Player: Kevin Martin may not play much defense, but he has been and remains one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA. His three-point marksmanship was the perfect complement to Yao Ming, but with Yao gone it will be interesting to see how well Martin can create his own offense without the open threes.
Top Defensive Player: Marc Gasol’s name was supposed to be here, but in his absence Kyle Lowry will take on the mantle as Houston’s best defender. He earned his way into the starting lineup last season with his defense and his toughness, and he played so well the Rockets traded away Aaron Brooks. Lowry’s bulldog-like approach will spearhead Houston’s defensive assault this season.
Top Playmaker: As things stand, Kyle Lowry is the only real playmaker on the team, and he will likely be responsible for more of the scoring than passing this season. Still, the ball will start in Lowry’s hands, and he is a very capable passer when given a wealth of targets to hit. It just may turn out that, more often than not, he needs to go ahead and take the shot rather than distribute.
Top Clutch Player: Yao Ming’s name was supposed to go here, but in his absence someone is going to have to step up. Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry are the most obvious choices, but there is a ton of young talent in Houston just waiting to emerge. Patrick Patterson could turn out to be the next force for Houston, and his ability to get to the basket could help him become one of Houston’s clutch players.
The Unheralded Player: Luis Scola doesn’t get much attention outside of Houston (unless you count Argentina), but he is consistently one of the toughest players on both ends of the floor. His numbers are not unlike those of Pau Gasol, who almost replaced him in the failed three-way trade with the Lakers and Hornets. Scola gives his team 110% every night and never looks for credit . . .and never gets it, either.
Best New Addition: Marc Gasol’s name was supposed to go here, but instead Jonny Flynn is going to grab a spot in our preview. Flynn is a fantastic locker room presence, and will be a glue guy from the get-go. He is a capable back-up point guard and feels he has something to prove after being limited by injuries last season. He could be an X-factor for the Rockets this season.
– Bill Ingram
|Who We Like|
1. Kyle Lowry – Lowry may not have star power, but his determination and hard work made him a starter last season, and he was a huge catalyst for the Rockets as they made their push for the playoffs. He averaged career-highs of 13.5 points and 6.7 assists last season, and should be even better as the full time starter in 2011-12.
2. Kevin Martin – Despite being prominently mentioned in various trade rumors, Martin is still in Houston and preparing to be the team’s leading scorer this season. Martin’s durability is an issue, but when he’s in the lineup he gives Houston a tremendous scoring touch from all over the floor. His ability to get to the line and make his free throws is significant, as well.
3. Patrick Patterson – Few players have worked as hard in the offseason as Patterson, and word is he could play a significant role for the Rockets this season. When it looked like Luis Scola might be traded there were some on the team saying Patterson is ready to start next to the likes of Pau Gasol. Unless something significant happens he could be starting next to Scola on opening night.
4. Courtney Lee – Another player who rarely gets much press, Lee’s strength is that he can defend both guard positions while also being a capable starter and set-up man. As things stand he’s the only shooting guard on the roster besides Martin, meaning he will have a chance to shine when Martin suffers the inevitable injury.
5. Jeremy Lin – Jeremy might be one of the lesser-known members of the squad, but make no mistake – Jeremy can flat out play. The Rockets will need to clear out some playing time for him, and he could possibly play some two when and if Martin gets hurt, but Lin has an outside chance to make an impact this season.
- Bill Ingram
The Rockets’ only real strength is their youth and potential as this stage. They have a ton of unproven talent, meaning lots of players who will be looking to prove they belong in the NBA. They aren’t going to win any games on star power, and they don’t have any real established star-level talent to fall back on. It’s going to be a rough year unless a few of these assets Houston has been collecting start to pan out.
- Bill Ingram
Where do we start? The front line is a clear weakness, as the Rockets don’t have a starting center, and the only center on the roster is Hasheem Thabeet. Unless the NBA designates the Rockets a D-League team this season Thabeet isn’t going to be a factor. Houston will have problems rebounding, defending and coming up with low post points if they don’t land a center before the season starts.
Houston tried to re-sign head coach Rick Adelman, but he was tired of what he saw as continued failings on the part of the team’s front office. Kevin McHale will now take the helm, signaling a significant step back on the coaching front for the Rockets. I’ll go so far as to say that coaching is now a weakness of the team for the first time in decades.
The other glaring weakness in Houston is in the general manager’s chair, where Daryl Morey has failed time and time again to make a trade or attract a free agent to help the Rocket stay competitive. If the team is as bad on the court this season as they are on paper right now, this could be Morey’s last season with the Rockets.
- Bill Ingram
|The Coach’s Chair By Anthony Macri|
Guys, I can’t control the business end. You know that. None of us really can. All we can do is perform like professionals and do what we can to win basketball games. And we definitely have enough talent to be competitive in the Western Conference. This entire team has spent their careers undervalued: Kyle, Kevin, you guys more than any others. We need you to have excellent games on the offensive end every night and to play at least well-enough defensively. The real key for us might be the play of you, Hasheem. Can you give us 20-25 productive minutes a night? If you can, things could be very interesting even if we don’t make another move. Men, do everything you can to ignore the rumors and the gossip. All we have is each other – let’s give the front office a reason to keep us together by getting it done on the court.
- Anthony Macri
|The Burning Question|
Who’s going to play center?
Since the Rockets have thus far failed to land any of their free agent targets, we’re left to wonder who will play center. Will McHale suit up? That might be a better option than the dreadfully inept Thabeet. As of this writing it seems the most likely scenario is that Houston radically overpays Samuel Dalembert to come to town . . .and that’s not a promising scenario, either.
- Bill Ingram
How do you see the Rockets this season, leave your comments below…