As a site, we ranked all the NBA teams from worst to best for our release of season previews. Day twenty-five’s release of a season preview ends up being the offensively deadly, Houston Rockets. Hamed Qashmar will provide a recap of their past season, an offseason recap, and then finally the season preview all of us fans are eager for.
Last Season’s Record: 56-26
Playoff Status: Lost 4-1 in Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors
The Houston Rockets are coming off a wonderful season in which James Harden led them for the majority of the year without their defensive anchor Dwight Howard. Coach Kevin McHale did a masterful job with dealing with key injuries and utilizing players who normally would not get any minutes on a winning team like the Rockets. Once the Rockets made it the playoffs, they made quick work in the first round, then battled back from 3-1, and upset the Los Angeles Clippers. In the Western Conference Finals, Houston was embarrassed by Golden State, and were shown they had some work to do for next season. Furthermore, the Rockets made key additions this offseason to retool for next year, and we will take a look at those changes.
In the 2015 NBA Draft, Houston was looked at to either add a perimeter player, or power forward. With the eighteen pick in the draft, Houston selected Sam Dekker, a small forward out of Wisconsin. Dekker will bring a decent defender, incredible athleticism, and a development offensive piece to the Rocket’s bench. Dekker will need to develop his three point shot, if he wants to see regular minutes during the season, as he struggled this past season at Wisconsin with his range. In the second round, Houston selected Montrezl Harrell, who they just recently signed to a three year deal, and he as well will provide a great energizer off the bench. Harrell is compared most often to Kenneth Faried, with their lack of shooting ability, but great hustle and rebounding skills. So far, Houston looks to have had a successful draft, adding good developmental players.
The biggest addition of the offseason, by far, was troubled point guard Ty Lawson. In a deal strung up by genius GM Daryl Morey, the Rockets received Ty Lawson and a future second-round pick for Nick Johnson, Kostas Papanikolaou, Pablo Prigioni and Joey Dorsey. The players given up by the Rockets are dispensable and easily replaceable, especially considering Houston’s history of making savvy decisions and under-the-radar moves. One thing Houston clearly lacked was a secondary playmaker, but they signed Josh Smith and he acted as the secondary playmaker behind James Harden. However, Smith opted to leave Houston; in addition, it is not the most efficient way to have your power forward as one of the primary playmakers. Patrick Beverley missed a lot of time last year, but even then, the Rockets needed a point guard who can make plays offensively. Beverley is a great defender, knockdown shooter, and hustle player, but Lawson gives them what they need and takes a lot pressure off of a James Harden. I would expect around 15 points and anywhere between 6-8 assists out of Lawson; expect his efficiency to increase as well. Backing Lawson up will be defensive specialist Patrick Beverly; he’ll come off the bench to provide a spark with his defensive tenacity, three point shooting, and hustle that he is known for.
At the two-guard, the Rockets have MVP runner-up James Harden. Harden is one of the league’s best and most impactful offensive forces; he has stepped his defense up as well, ranking in the top 10 defensive win shares and steals. Last season, Harden served as the Rocket’s primary playmaker. However, as stated previously, the addition of Ty Lawson will alleviate the pressure of holding the offensive load he endured last season. Harden’s efficiency is expected to increase due to decrease in work load. He’ll be backed up by eighth year swing man, Corey Brewer. Like Beverly, Brewer will provide a defensive spark, three point shooting, and hustle plays. Brewer also brings veteran leadership and championship experience (he was part of the Mavs’ 2011 run). The Rockets will have one of the better back courts in the Western Conference, which is essential for success.
Playing the three for Houston is three and D specialist Trevor Ariza. This will be his second season as a member of the Rockets; notice how many specialist the Rockets have. The Rockets have star power combined with the role players and specialists have the makings of becoming an elite contender. Ariza will serve to space the floor and allow for Lawson and Harden to do what they do best and slash to the basket. Ariza will not be a huge offensive force this season, but his defensive, and locking down the opponent’s best player is what he will be leaned upon to do.
In the low-post, the Rockets have a few options with Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones. Both players offer unique skill sets that compliment Dwight Howard well. Both can knockdown mid-range shots and both have some three point range, although they are not very consistent, they do have the ability to knock down threes. Motiejunas is much better than Jones in the low-post. In fact, Motiejunas was one of the most efficient players on the block. His assortment of left handed hooks and post shots combined with his tremendous size makes it very difficult to stop. As for Jones, he is a bit smaller in size but has a high motor (when he tries) and is a more athletic option with some play making capability in the open court. The four spot may be the weakest position for Houston, but they are so strong at other positions that it makes up for it. We all know what Dwight Howard will bring. Although his elite athleticism is starting to fade away, Harden still has the defensive awareness to protect the rim at a high level, and with the addition of Lawson, he will not be leaned upon for as much offense either.
Going into the 2015-2016 season, Houston is looked at as a championship contender once again. The biggest hole for the team is their power forward position. As stated above they have the choices of Motiejunas and Jones, and whoever they select might hold the key to team success this year. James Harden will electrify the league once again, and will be a likely MVP candidate again, with a good shot to win it. The addition of Lawson will increase their point guard depth, and provide the Rockets with one of the most electric back courts in the league. Ariza and Howard will look to keep the perimeter and interior defense locked down. Houston has quality bench players, all with different skill sets to combat opponents. Beverley, Brewer, and Jason Terry provide defense and offense to the back court, Dekker and K.J. McDaniels provides good two-way potential on the wing, while Jones, Harrell, and Clint Capela provide interior depth. With the likes of Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Los Angeles in the conference it will not be easy to make it to the NBA finals, but Houston has all the talent to make a consecutive conference title, and this time win it, and advance to the finals.
By: Hamed Qashmar, @HamedQashmar
Edited By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17