How Do the Rockets Beat the NBA?

The season is rapidly approaching, and the time for previews and speculation is here. The Houston Rockets have as much to speculate on as any team in the league, with a new superstar in Dwight Howard. Nobody knows how the Rockets will be able to defeat other teams in the league, but we can certainly speculate and postulate all month long. I’ll be doing exactly that for the next few weeks, looking at how the Rockets will have to approach each team in each division to achieve victory.

The Rockets are one of the most peculiar teams in the league, as their recent rebuilding efforts have left them with a team comprised half of contending pieces and half of movable assets. Having Dwight Howard and Ömer Aşık on the same team isn’t optimal, but it was unavoidable. Jeremy Lin, while a good point guard who still has massive potential, probably isn’t the best fit for the lineup. Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas show some promise, but aren’t what you want for a team hoping to win it all. James Harden and Dwight Howard, on the other hand, may well be the two best players at their respective positions.

So how does this still-evolving group of players leverage their skills to beat every single team? That’s what I’ll be examining for the next three weeks. Many teams have changed, many players have progressed, and the Rockets themselves are a very new animal. Let’s engage in speculation for a few weeks, argue in the comments, and get ready for the season to begin. It’s finally September.

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Total comments: 78
  • Sir Thursday says 11 months ago

    I'm not underestimating what Splitter is capable of........I'm saying I don't know if he will get much better than he is now. while he is a decent big man he does have limitations.

    You also have to factor in that he's 29 already, having played in Europe for quite a while before coming over to the NBA. Players of his age are unlikely to improve by leaps and bounds.

    ST

  • rockets best fan says 11 months ago

    Splitters stats shows he does far more than what the eye test can see and with a significant rise in minutes, he should produce around the area of his contract worth.

    I'm not underestimating what Splitter is capable of........I'm saying I don't know if he will get much better than he is now. while he is a decent big man he does have limitations.

  • Buckko says 11 months ago Splitters stats shows he does far more than what the eye test can see and with a significant rise in minutes, he should produce around the area of his contract worth.
  • rockets best fan says 11 months ago

    I don't think Duncan will decline that much, but I'm not sure about Splitters improvement.

    I agree on Splitter, however I think it will be hard for Duncan to duplicate last year's efforts

  • timetodienow1234567 says 11 months ago

    I think Splitter is underrated due to his lack of playing time and recent poor performance in the playoffs. He will never make up for Duncan's decline, but he's a solid defensive center, and offensively he's a pretty good finisher around the basket.


    I don't think Duncan will decline that much, but I'm not sure about Splitters improvement.
  • rockets best fan says 11 months ago

    Kawhi will cover for the decline of Manu, but unless Splitter or Baynes takes a huge step forward, they won't be able to make up for Duncan's decline. I still think they will win the division because they're not new. Houston will have growing pains as will Dallas and the stupid bird team. Memphis lacks an elite wing scorer so will struggle at times.

    I agree Kawhi will makeup for some of Manu's decline, but they are old all over.......no telling where the dam will spring a leak this year :lol:

  • 2016Champions says 11 months ago

    I think Splitter is underrated due to his lack of playing time and recent poor performance in the playoffs. He will never make up for Duncan's decline, but he's a solid defensive center, and offensively he's a pretty good finisher around the basket.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 11 months ago Kawhi will cover for the decline of Manu, but unless Splitter or Baynes takes a huge step forward, they won't be able to make up for Duncan's decline. I still think they will win the division because they're not new. Houston will have growing pains as will Dallas and the stupid bird team. Memphis lacks an elite wing scorer so will struggle at times.
  • rockets best fan says 11 months ago

    finally worked your way around to our division :)I agree San Antonio until defeated deserves to be considered top dog. however I expect Houston to take care of that in short order. they have cheated father time, but you can only keep plugging leaks in the dam for so long. I expect them to still be good, but last year they may have missed their last opportunity. Memphis will take a step back this year IMO. I agree with you.....they have basically the same team, but you make an excellent point that all the teams around them got drastically better this year. it's a case of (if you're not moving forward you're falling behind). they benefitted from a good playoff draw last year, but I don't expect them to have thatadvantage with the improvements out west this year. Dallas is a scoring machine with no brake pedal. so unless we get in to a shootout with them I see them as only a minor concern..........the Pelicans are a mystery. I like the young core, but Gordon is to injury prone and they still have no center. they are still a couple of pieces away from being a threat to us. as for wins in the division.............I say we split with the spurs, take Memphis down 3-1, take Dallas down 3-1 and sweep the Pelicans. when the dust clears we win the division followed by the Spurs, Memphis, the Pelicans and Dallas in the cellar

  • Red94 says 11 months ago New post: How Do the Rockets Beat the Southwest Division?
    By: Forrest Walker

    It’s game face time for the Houston Rockets, who have a particularly tough year ahead of them. After flying under the radar for years, the Rockets are not targets in a super stacked west. No division in that Western Conference is quite as stacked as the Southwest Division, and the Rockets now have to learn how to swim in the deep end.

    San Antonio Spurs

    The Spurs, until further notice, remain the crown prince oh the Southwest Division. Their dynasty seems endless, and their system is the key. With head coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R. C. Buford working together, the Spurs remain competitive even with their starting lineup missing. Their offseason was quiet, primarily featuring the loss of Gary Neal and the signing of Marco Bellinelli.. DeJuan Blair also left for greener pastures after a disappointing year.San Antonio needed little in the way of change after a Finals run last year, and they focused instead on keeping their core together.

    The Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard rank among the deadliest lineups in the league, Manu’s decline notwithstanding. Every game between these teams will be an absolute slugfest, and a showdown at each position. Parker is one of the best point guards in the league and the focal point of San Antonio’s offense now. Beverley’s defense is sure to be important for Houston’s well-being. Chandler Parsons will have to drape himself on Kawhi Leonard, who’s sure to do the same to him. Dwight Howard is sure to have a bone to pick with Tim Duncan after Duncan manhandled the Lakers in last year’s playoffs. Dwight’s ability will determine the matchup inside, and if Duncan gets going the Spurs are nearly unstoppable. As always with these teams, expect all four games to come right down to the wire. If Houston can go at Manu, somehow their point of weakness, they have a realistic shot to at least split this series.

    Memphis Grizzlies

    The Memphis Grizzlies are a very good team. With a sudden head coaching change, we don’t know how good they are just yet. Mike Miller and Kosta Koufos joined the club, adding needed depth to a team that often leans on starters. Apart from the question mark that is new head coach Dave Joerger, the Grizzlies seem to be in a similar place to last year. The downside for them is that the rest of the West improved as well.

    Memphis may be one of the few teams that Houston can trot out a twin towers style lineup, putting Asik on Marc Gasol, while Howard, a more athletic player, may be suited to guard Zach Randolph, a player who is at home shooting anywhere on the court. Mike Conley will be a real concern for Houston as well. Conley has emerged as one of the most competent point guards in the league, and is one of the few grizzlies with a three point shot. If Houston can take away the three from Memphis, they’ll have an easier time packing the paint and helping on defense, something which could mean a two-center lineup. No matter where they fall in the standings, there’s no reason to ever take this team lightly, and will be ready for them.

    Dallas Mavericks

    Are the Mavericks the worst team in the Southwest Division? That’s a strange question to ask of a team that won a championship in 2011, but happenstance and planning have conspired to bring us this strange team. Monta Ellis marks the biggest acquisition this summer, Ellis and Jose Calderon make up the starting backcourt for Dallas, a lineup that shouts three pointers, but has little to say about defense. With these players plus Dirk, the Mavs might be fun, fast and high scoring. They also might turn out to be the same as last year.

    The key to beating the Mavs is Dirk, as always. If Nowitzki gets in his zone, little on earth can stop him. The question wiill be if he can drag the rest of the team with him. It’s likely that Dalembert becomes a target for Dwight Howard. Dwight’s iffy shots in the post notwithstanding, he can overpower most big men in the league with his athleticism, making Samuel Dalembert worrk even harder on defense. Calderon and Ellis are likely to let players in regularly, making Dalembert’s job even harder. The Mavs might find some diamonds in the rough, but right now there’s just too much rough there. It’s hard to see the Mavs keeping up with the top teams in the conference.

    New Orleans Pelicans

    In the one year with no Hornets in the league, the Pelicans present a strange situation. Nobody knows exactly how good they’ll be just yet due to some serious upheaval. Greivis Vasquez was traded to Sacramento, where he may be able to continue his improvement. He’s been replaced by Jrue Holiday, a young all star who still has a high ceiling. The Pelicans also acquired Tyreke Evans, former rookie of the year and potential star. Along with Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis, the Pelicans are a team hoping to bank on ceiling as early as this year.

    The Pelicans eked out a win against the Rockets during the preseason, a fact which is cause for only minor concern. Houston’s starters looked superior all game long, and are likely to dominate in the regular season as well. The Pelicans, however, have players like Evans and Gordon who are happy to let fly from deep and push it right down a defense’s throat. As long as Parsons and Howard can remain committed on defense, the game should become very much about Anthony Davis, something New Orleans will be happy to allow. Davis is the future of their franchise, and the sooner he gets to establish himself, the better. Houston needs to go in and get wins against this team while their players are still developing, because they may be a much harder out next season.

  • Red94 says 11 months ago New post: How Do the Rockets Beat the Central Division?
    By: Forrest Walker

    James Harden and Dwight Howard plan on leading the Houston Rockets to a championship. Windows of opportunity in the NBA are short and brutal, unless you’re the Spurs, and the Rockets need to figure out how to win early and win often. The Rockets will need a gameplan against every team in the league just to make it to the Finals. Today we look at the competitors in the Central Division, and how the Rockets can plan for victory.

    Chicago Bulls

    The Bulls might be the best team in the Central Division. Much as the Western Conference has a stable of five or six top teams that are hard to rank, the Eastern Conference features the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks as a clear top five. Within that group, the Bulls seem better than the Knicks, worse than the Heat, and roughly equal to the Pacers and Nets. It’s anyone’s guess as to how effective the Bulls will be at returning to form with the return of Derrick Rose, but it’s doubtful Chicago will feel vindicated with anything less than a Conference Finals appearance.

    What changed for the Bulls this summer? Not very much apart from the departure of Nate Robinson. Oh, except for the return of Derrick Rose. I guess that event might be described as the most anticipated injury recovery in the NBA for the past two seasons. Yes, Rose is a huge part of their team. He played in their first preseason game and looked ready for more. Their offense should be functional again, and their defense will remain at its team-based Thibodeau-fueled heights.

    Head coach Tom Thibodeau is one of the most intimidating factors about the Bulls, a defensive-minded coach who isn’t afraid to run his starters into the ground. Many people have decried the loss of Chicago’s once-formidable bench unit, but with the starting five playing so extensively, the impact of the “Bench Mob’s” decline is somewhat lessened. Last season, the Rockets were able to push the pace on the Bulls and deliver a Christmas Day beatdown that was only fun for Houston faithfuls. Houston’s offense is designed to punish traditional defenses, and to get off shots before a defense can settle in and lock down. There were questions about Houston’s pace this season, but Saturday’s preseason game made it clear that the Rockets intend to continue pushing the pace and capitalizing on fast breaks.

    We know the Rockets will push the pace, but will that be enough? The rain of threes early in the shot clock will be hard for Chicago to stop completely, but Joakim Noah adds a difficult wrinkle. With Dwight Howard in the fold, it’s clear Houston is willing to go to him in the post once the defense has settled in. Unfortunately, Joakim Noah is one of the best big man defenders in the league, and he’s sure to make Dwight Howard’s life miserable. How well Howard can force double teams in the post is a major factor for Houston’s offense, and if Noah can handle Dwight with single coverage, the rest of the Rockets are in for a long night.

    Indiana Pacers

    The Pacers might be the best team in the Central Division, too. Roy Hibbert, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West and George Hill is a tough defensive unit to say the least, and the Pacers were the best defending team in the league last year. Danny Granger is ready to play this season, and adds extra depth to the team at the very worst. Lance Stephenson has shown a willingness and ability to play well in their systems at both ends of the court, and as a sixth man he would be exceptional.

    The Pacers acquired Luis Scola and Chris Copeland during the summer, two sneaky good pickups for their bench. Scola is a perfect fit in their reserve unit, allowing the power forward position to transition from David West’s deadly midrange shot to Luis Scola’s deadly midrange shot and crafty post play. Chris Copeland is a capable sophomore big who can space the floor and bring energy to the reserves. The Knicks’ decision to let him walk in the summer still remains confusing, but can only help the Pacers.

    The Pacers are a scary team. They easily handled Harden’s Rockets last year, and look constructed to be one of the toughest matchups for Houston again. Paul George is a masterful perimeter defender, and if he can keep goading Harden into playing iso ball, will be able to badly disrupt Houston’s system. Roy Hibbert has the height, size and skills to defend any big man in the league, including Dwight Howard. We’ve seen that Howard gets frustrated by overly physical defense, and Hibbert won’t hesitate to deploy anything he can to frustrate Dwight. While Danny Granger’s stock has fallen precipitously in recent years, he still has to be favored in a matchup between himself and Chandler Parsons, who displays a similar skill set.

    The Pacers’ defense is one matter, but the fact that they seem to be developing a competent offense is equally terrifying. The Pacers are increasingly willing to shoot three pointers, and it carried them to the Conference Finals. Hibbert is a solid post option, and George Hill is a capable distributor. Hill might not be a flashy point guard, but he maintains an even keel and seldom makes stupid errors. A showdown between these teams may simply come down to which team can hit their open shots better, which may somehow favor the Pacers. West and Scola are happy to shoot long two pointers, a shot which Houston is wary of themselves and may be too prone to give up to other teams. Expect these games to be close and physical no matter what the outcome.

    Detroit Pistons

    Continuing a theme, the Pistons look like they will be a defensively competent team with some real questions on the offensive side of the ball. We know that Andre Drummond and Josh Smith can and will play solid defense, and that Chauncey Billups will provide a stabilizing influence. What we don’t know is how Brandon Jennings will do, or is Greg Monroe can continue improving his game. There are a lot of question marks for the new look Pistons, a team which might just end up being a League Pass favorite.

    The Pistons made some moves in the summer. Josh Smith signed a contract in free agency, Brandon Jennings was acquired in a sign and trade for Brandon Knight, and Chauncey Billups returned to the team he won a championship with. All three players are expected to start, which raises an interesting question. Are Drummond, Monroe and Smith all going to play at the same time?

    The answer seems to be yes, and that presents an interesting opportunity for Houston. Smith can play as a wing, and can defend well in that position, but this lets the Rockets counter big with small. A lineup of Howard, Parsons, Harden, Lin and Beverley would be able to run circles around the Pistons’ bigs, and would be able to retreat off the perimeter with aplomb on defense. Billups and Jennings are the only starters who would present a credible threat from distance, and letting Josh Smith hike up long twos is a tried and true way to beat his teams. With more questions than answers, it’s hard to know what to expect from Detroit, but it’s also hard to expect a lot of wins.

    Cleveland Cavaliers

    The Cavaliers have a rising star in Kyrie Irving, and now have a decent roster to surround him. Anderson Varejao is great when healthy, and hopefully will recover from his blood clot soon. Dion Waiters is in his second season and shows improvement. Andrew Bynum on a two year contract with only $6m guaranteed is a calculated risk with potentially great rewards. The Cavs might challenge for a playoff berth this season if everything goes right, and that’s better than they’ve looked in years.

    The selection of Anthony Bennett first overall was a surprise in the 2013 NBA Draft, but in a relatively weak draft, the Cavaliers may not have hurt themselves. Picking up Bynum will either turn out to be a huge steal or a move of no consequence, and the rest of their team is very young except for Varejao. The Cavs are now focusing on growth and development, something which should be heartening for Cleveland fans.

    There are, of course, weaknesses in the Cavs team. Kyrie Irving is increasingly dynamic, skilled and unstoppable, but the rest of the team isn’t as intimidating. Nobody knows when or even if Bynum will play basketball again. Varejao is on the wrong side of 30, and is in recovery from a life-threatening blood clot. Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters still haven’t justified their draft rank, and Bennett is an even bigger question mark. Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee are competing for starting privileges at the three, and to be honest both deserve to come off the bench. Irving will tear into the Rockets’ defenses, but the rest of the team should be a paltry match on talent level alone. If Bynum and Varejao are healthy, the Cavs may pose a threat, but as it is the Rockets seem unlikely to drop games to Cleveland

    Milwaukee Bucks

    What are the Bucks doing? They’re certainly changing everything up, from their roster to their coaching. We don’t know what the endgame is, though, and we probably won’t until after this season. The Bucks lost both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis in free agency, making their team even more forward-heavy. John Henson and Larry Sanders are still solid players with bright futures, but now have O.J. Mayo and Luke Ridnour at the perimeter. Caron Butler made his way back to his home state, and Carlos Delfino left the Rockets to rejoin the Bucks. Add in Ekpe Udoh, Zaza Pachulia, Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Knight, and you have a team that seems pulled out of the clearance bin at a sporting goods store. None of those players are bad, and all of them are underappreciated, but it’s unclear exactly how the Bucks make sense as a team and not as a placeholder.

    If the Bucks are indeed throwing caution to the wind, they may be an easy out for most teams, but a surprising challenge from time to time. Mayo, Butler and Delfino are all happy to let fly with shots, and if they can find openings they can hurt any team. Ilyasova is a capable shooter and solid big, while Sanders seems to be a high-octane engine designed only for blocks. Ridnour is as staid a point guard as you can find, and has the bag of tricks you pick up after years of experience. He’ll give Lin some trouble, but ultimately the Rockets are better at every position except the four. As long as someone remembers to keep a hand in Ilyasova’s face and the Rockets don’t forget to guard the perimeter completely, the Bucks are among the easier games of the season.

  • Red94 says 11 months ago New post:
    By: Forrest Walker

    The Houston Rockets play their first exhibition game tomorrow. In a few short weeks, the safe harbor of the pre-season will be behind the Rockets, and the vicious storm of the Western Conference will be upon them. After three years of low expectations, Houston has to prove that they can weather the lofty expectations they’ve piled upon themselves. Now we look at the challenges the Northwest Division poses, and how the Rockets can overcome them.

    Oklahoma City Thunder

    The Oklahoma City Thunder are the scariest team in the Western Conference. The San Antonio Spurs are the cagiest, most dependably dangerous team. The Los Angeles Clippers are the deepest, and maybe hardest to gameplan for. The Rockets are in the elite as well, now, with their efficiency-first style and pair of elite talents. None of those teams are as immediately intimidating as this Thunder team. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the ten best players in the league, and LeBron James is the only player living who’s better than Durant. They have continuity, chemistry, youth, experience, talent and skill. Their offense has everything but a post up threat, and the past half decade of NBA play has shown that post play is no longer a necessity. Their defense has gone from good to great in recent years, and defensive stalwarts like Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison work alongside the continuously improving skills of Kevin Durant to create a consistently high level team defense. This team is the favorite to come out of the west, and there’s little argument to be made there.

    That little argument to be made comes in the form of a loose suture in Russell Westbrook’s ailing knee, resulting in him missing at least a month of regular season basketball. This is a complication of the meniscus tear he suffered while bumping into Patrick Beverley, an incident that occurred in the first round Rockets-Thunder series of last year’s playoffs. That injury nearly cost the Thunder that series, and it certainly cost them their second round loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Now that injury might cost them some regular season losses this season, and those losses may very well cause them to drop in the rankings of a brutal Western Conference. The only major change in the Thunder roster is the loss of Kevin Martin, who happily moved to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the offseason. Martin did a good job of replacing Harden’s scoring input, so that load will now have to be spread to a few other players, possibly including sophomore Jeremy Lamb.

    While the Westbrook injury means that the Thunder may struggle in the early part of the season, the Rockets have no realistic opportunities to capitalize on Oklahoma City’s misfortune. The Thunder and Rockets meet in Oklahoma City on December 29th, but there’s little chance that Westbrook is still out. Even should he be at less than 100%, the newfound rivalry between these teams, subdued as it may be, should push the Thunder to use any available resource, including a recovering Westbrook.Instead, this situation slightly increases the Rockets’ chances of sneaking into a high seed in the West. If the Thunder and Rockets are near each other in the standings, those four games they play against each other will be particularly meaningful for seeding going into the playoffs. Winning the season series would mean not only holding the tiebreaker, but at least a two game swing between the winning and losing teams. It’s absolutely critical that the Rockets leave it all on the court in those games, and they surely know that.

    The strategy that brought the Rockets back from losing three in a row to force a sixth game will surely be the first option. The Thunder have a penchant for small ball, but the Rockets are just as staffed to run that scheme. Lineups with Harden at the forward looked dangerous, but turned out to be critical to slowing the Thunder. Ibaka looked like he might be too much for Harden to handle, but in the end, Ibaka’s offensive game is predicated in large part on pick and pops and cleaning the glass, both of which Houston was ready for. Harden is tall enough to at least get a hand in Ibaka’s face, and having an elite rebounder in Ömer Aşık helped lessen the impact of Ibaka’s putbacks. Dwight Howard is an even better rebounder than Ömer Aşık. meaning that the same plan should be viable. The biggest concern is that Westbrook will simply overpower Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley if the guard the shot, or shoot over their heads with no warning should they guard the drive. Westbrook is a dangerous passer, a deadly midrange shooter and a fearless slasher, giving the Thunder a much-needed triple threat. Guarding against Westbrook will take actual, coordinated team defensive schemes, but thankfully Dwight Howard is as able a rim protector as exists in the league.

    All of this would be manageable were it not for the fact that the Thunder also include Kevin Durant, the deadliest scorer in the NBA. Without Westbrook, Durant had to do it all, and it eventually proved to be too much burden. Now, when Westbrook returns, Durant will be able to delegate the chaotic, unpredictable shots to Russell while taking his preferred, hyper efficient shots himself. The only fly in the ointment is that the Thunder lost Kevin Martin, a deadly marksman from three point range and a crafty seeker of foul calls. Jeremy Lamb may be able to spot up from the perimeter, but he hasn’t shown the ability to full take on the role Martin held. Reggie Jackson is a capable three point shooter, Sefolosha is a master of corner daggers, and Ibaka has been working on his three point shot, but losing Martin changes the shape of OKC’s perimeter threat. Durant is a threat from anywhere on the court, but Westbrook’s three point shot and shot choices leave something to be desired. Without Martin stretching out the defense as much, Houston can be quicker to rotate, trusting in closeouts more often. Seeing exactly how small they can play and how much rotating they can get away with will be critical for Houston.

    If a Howard, Harden, Parsons, Lin and Beverley lineup is viable on defense, that crew will more than hold their own on offense. More than last year, the Thunder will pay heavily any time Kendrick Perkins takes the floor against Houston. Ibaka’s greatest skill is as a shot blocker, but his effectiveness drops the farther from the basket he has to play. With Perkins on the floor, presumably to slow Howard, Ibaka would be forced to guard James Harden, Chandler Parsons or perhaps someone like Francisco Garcia. Whoever he faces off against will be three point catch and shoot threat at the least or a superstar level talent in James Harden at the most. Given Perkins’ almost total lack of offense, the Thunder have little option but to run Ibaka or Collison against Dwight Howard, and settle on a one big man lineup. In either scenario, Dwight Howard will do his best to body into the paint and draw help defenders in. As deadly as the Thunder’s offense is, this should prove to be an equally deadly attack for Houston, as every other Rocket on the floor is willing and able to sink three point shots the second they see daylight. This matchup should prove not only as a true test for the new Rockets, but as some of the most enjoyable basketball of the season. Highlight these dates, because all of them might be instant classics.

    Denver Nuggets

    The Denver Nuggets finished third in the Western Conference last season, had the best record in franchise history and looked poised to ride their high octane offense and lockdown defense all the way to the conference finals. Then Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors detonated on them, finishing not only the season, but the tenure of their head coach (George Karl), general manager (Masai Ujiri) and biggest-name player (Andre Iguodala) as well. With new head coach Brian Shaw, nobody’s quite sure what to expect from the Nuggets this season. They may remain good despite all the changes and make the playoffs, or they may flounder and hit the bottom of the standings. The only thing for sure is that losing Iguodala is a huge blow, especially since they lost him to the very team that knocked them out of the playoffs.

    The biggest additions for the Nuggets in the summer were J.J. Hickson and Nate Robinson, news which can’t make Denver fans happy. Iguodala was an elite wing defender, a capable player on offense, and a fantastic distributor. Hickson is a workmanlike big man who can shore up a team’s frontcourt depth, and Nate Robinson is energy, streaky shooting, and questionable decisions. Andre Miller remains on the team and he remains one of the craftiest point guards around. His old man game won’t last forever, but it’s still here today. JaVale McGee should now be the starting center with the loss of Kosta Koufos, and this could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on McGee’s development. Kenneth Faried is still a manimal, tearing into rebounds and blocks, but Danilo Gallinari is still out with an ACL injury.

    The Nuggets have one of the best home court advantages in the NBA, and some of it is due to the altitude at which they play. Road teams will always be winded by the thin Denver air in the mile high city, and this should help the Nuggets rack up a few wins. Unfortunately, it takes more than altitude to win games, and the Rockets should be able to show them that up close and personal. The Nuggets aren’t the only team with hyper-athletic big men any more, and Dwight HOward should be able to keep up with JaVale all night long. The Rockets are likely to trot out wave after wave of players at the 4, daring Faried to keep up with all of them. Ty Lawson remains one of the top ten point guards, however, and the Rockets will have their hands full with him. The point guard position is probably the position of greatest strength for the Nuggets, and LIn and Beverley will have their hands full trying to contain them. On the other hand, the wings are thin for Denver, leaving WIlson Chandler as the only threatening player in that rotation until Gallinari returns. James Harden should have a field day with Evan Fournier, and Harden’s defense can thankfully be hidden on the shooting guard spot. The Nuggets may pull out a game in Denver, but there’s no reason to believe that the Rockets can’t win this series.

    Minnesota Timberwolves

    How good are the Minnesota Timberwolves? Nobody knows. If you ask them, they’re sure to tell you they have eyes on a playoff berth. When healthy, perhaps they can make it. Unfortunately, they just can’t seem to stay healthy, and last year was almost comically full of injuries. This year, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are ready to play, and this may just be their first foray into the post season for those two young players.

    The main offseason move for Minnesota was the signing of Kevin Martin, a hyper-efficient scorer that Houston knows well. Martin is reunited with head coach Rick Adelman, a duo which has been united and reunited in all three of Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota. Chase Budinger also plays for his old Houston coach, but unfortunately remains sidelined by injury. Never prone to ailment in Houston, Budinger has suffered major injuries both seasons in Minnesota. The Wolves lost Andrei Kirilenko to the Brooklyn Nets in free agency, a loss which will hurt their depth and flexibility. Corey Brewer returns to the fold, however, and Shabazz Muhammad and Ronnie Turiaf look poised to make meaningful contributions.

    The Timberwolves have been a thorn in Houston’s side ever since Adelman moved north, winning 3 out of 4 in Adelman’s first year coaching the Wolves. The Rockets fared better last season, winning 2 of 3, but Houston needed big efforts to come back from deficits and win those two games. If the Wolves are healthy at all, expect a surprising amount of challenge yet again as one of the best coaches in the league leverages a pile of talent against a front office he knows well. Kevin Love is a monster on the glass, and Dwight Howard will have his hands full trying to contain him. His three point shot on the other end it top-tier, meaning that an athletic 3 or 4 will have to try to guard love on the perimeter while Howard or Ömer Aşık deal with Nikola Pekovic inside. Pekovic is one of the most powerful forces inside, and seeing him body up with Houston’s centers should be fascinating and potentially painful. Lin and Rubio will make for an intriguing matchup, with Rubio as the better passer but Lin as the better finisher. Both teams will have weapons on the perimeter, but Minnesota will be much more likely to run complex sets and an endless litany of backcuts.

    Once again, the Rockets should have an advantage on the wing, with Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin facing off against Chandler Parsons and James Harden. In previous years, Adelman’s coaching and the youth and talent of the Wolves could keep pace with Houston. This year, Houston has a marked advantage in talent, and are if anything just as young as Minnesota. Adelman’s schemes won’t be able to overcome Houston's advantages as long as McHale’s Rockets continue to play to their strengths and not let Minnesota dictate pace or style. As we’ve already learned, offense isn’t enough to beat top teams.

    Portland Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard is extremely good at basketball. The reigning rookie of the year pulled the Blazers from the basement they were expected to live in all they way to the front door of the playoffs. LaMarcus Aldridge might not be quite the franchise savior Portland hoped for, the Trail Blazers look ready to challenge for a playoff spot again, this time with added depth.

    The starting lineup of Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews is good if not great. Lopez and Matthews are the weak links there, and those links aren’t bad. The b team behind them, however, is where the most improvements were made. Portland finally has a real backup point guard in Mo Williams, and he’s leading a group consisting of Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson, and Meyers Leonard. Victor Claver and C.J. McCollum are the most likely to fill out the ranks after that, giving Portland a solid bench at the least. The only thing standing between them and an improved record this year is the improvement of the rest of the west as well, with only the Lakers and Suns looking to have any real drop off.

    Something else might stand between them and a playoff spot later in the year, specifically at the trade deadline. The rumors of LaMarcus Aldridge desiring a trade are still swirling, and they seem in sync with the fact that Aldridge is unlikely to contend for a title while in Portland. Few would be surprised if he were to be moved to a contender at the deadline, and his attempts to add a three point shot to his arsenal don’t hurt his trade value. If he’s on the Portland roster in April, he may be preparing to face the Thunder. If not, he may be preparing to face someone like the Hawks.

    In any situation, the Rockets have a number of advantages to attack from. Parsons and Batum should provide an exciting matchup, while Lillard may have his way with Lin. Limiting Portland’s three point looks will prove critical, especially with Aldridge getting in on the fun. Lillard will get past his man, meaning that a center must be at the rim at all times. This means that ALdridge is likely to be guarded by someone smaller than him, leading to a difficult tradeoff between postups and shooting for his defender. As long as Batum can be contained, the Rockets can expect the tandem of Aldridge and Lillard to score the lion’s share of the points but still lose. Adding Batum into the fray opens up the doors for that depth to strike, and this is the last thing the Rockets need.

    Utah Jazz

    The Utah Jazz don’t seem very good any more. Their entire frontcourt rotation consists of Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert and whatever remains of Andris Biedrins. Kanter and Favors show promise and skill, and should be capable starters for years. However, they still aren’t anywhere near the level of Dwight Howard and Ömer Aşık, who can actually take a break without the team falling apart. Gordon Hayward is a fascinating talent and yet another wing with a similar skill set to Chandler Parsons. Behind him, however, is the questionable group of Jeremy Evans, Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams. The rest of the wing rotation consists of Alec Burks and Brandon Rush, both of whom show promise but neither of whom are quite on a starter level yet. With Trey Burke and John Lucas III rounding out the point guard position, it’s hard to see this team challenging any of the top six teams in the west.

    Last year, an inferior Rockets team demolished a superior Jazz team by 45 points in Houston’s biggest blowout of the year. Such an extreme differential isn’t likely to happen again, as those require a lot of factors to come together. The roster changes for these teams, however, only shift that needle farther into the red that it’s been in for a while. The Jazz don’t seem to be trying to win games this year, and the Rockets will be happy to hand them losses.

  • thenit says 11 months ago Then we shouldn't call pro teams winning championship in the USA world champions either. I always hated that term.
  • BrentYen says 11 months ago

    Why is Lebron the best basketball player in the league but just "probably" the best player on the planet? Do you think that there is someone out there better than Lebron James as basketball but has just decided to do something else with his life?

    There are always possibilities, since we just do not know every single one of ppl who plays in the world. :rolleyes:

  • apt2rant says 11 months ago

    Why is Lebron the best basketball player in the league but just "probably" the best player on the planet? Do you think that there is someone out there better than Lebron James as basketball but has just decided to do something else with his life?

  • ale11 says 11 months ago

    Honest mistake, I guess

  • BrentYen says 11 months ago

    Kind of out of context, just wanna ask, it it a joke that I don get or it should be Atlanta Hawks instead of Atlanta Heat?

  • Red94 says 11 months ago New post: How Do the Rockets Beat the Southeast Division?
    By: Forrest Walker

    The NBA season is nearly here. Exhibition games start in a mere eight days. The Houston Rockets held their media day today, in preparation for training camp to begin. Now that the Rockets have two superstars on the roster, Houston has to prove that James Harden, Dwight Howard and the team assembled around them can compete for a championship. To beat every team, Houston has to beat each team, and today we’ll look at how they can attack the Southeast Division.

    Miami Heat

    Here’s a shocker: the defending NBA champions present the greatest challenge in the Southeast Division. The Heat sport the best basketball player in the league and probably on the planet. The Heat have also been to the finals every year since he arrived, and have won the last two championships. Of course, LeBron James isn’t their only weapon. The Heat are still Dwyane Wade’s team in a lot of ways, and Wade is still one of the elite players at his position, even with his injury problems last season. Chris Bosh headed to South Beach as well, filling out a truly mighty big three. With a group of veteran role players filling out the roster, the Heat are willing and able to win any given game against any given team.

    The off-season for the Heat was largely unremarkable. Chris Andersen, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Udonis Haslem all stayed with the team. Only Mike Miller moved on, leaving for the Memphis Grizzlies in free agency. Battier had already largely supplanted Miller’s role, however, making this departure easy to stomach. On the other hand, the Heat picked up two low-risk players in Greg Oden and MIchael Beasley. Oden is making his return after being out of the league due to recurring knee injury. Oden’s star level potential was perennially quashed by his ongoing battle with injury, and the Heat offer him an opportunity to contribute without being under external pressure to do so. Michael Beasley, for his part, is returning to his original NBA team after being summarily dropped by the Minnesota TImberwolves and the Phoenix Suns. Expecting much from either player seems hopeful at this time, but neither addition seems likely to harm the team.

    The good news for Houston is that James Harden is on the rise while Dwyane Wade is declining. The bad news for Houston is that the Rockets haven’t won even a single game against Miami since LeBron James signed on. The first two years of Miami’s “big three” era came against a Rockets team that barely resembles today’s squad, but last season saw a Rockets team that features most of the same players. The upside is that both games were close, and the Rockets are expected to be far better this year, given the inclusion of Dwight Howard. The Heat, however, are still likely to beat the Rockets in every game. Both games last season featured a sleepy start from LeBron James and a powerful finish to knock off Harden’s Rockets. A motivated Heat team is nearly unbeatable due to the level of sheer talent involved, and the Rockets have painted a giant red crosshairs on their backs this year. To beat a motivated LeBron, Wade and Bosh, The Rockets will have to pull heroic effort from their own stars.

    If Bosh continues to play center, Dwight will have his hands full with one of the craftiest big men scorers in the league. Bosh’s combination of skills is often underrated, but he remains a deadly midrange shooter, willing three point shooter (if not exactly good) and a very capable post player. Dwight Howard should be favored in that matchup, but Bosh pulling Howard away from the rim is the nightmare scenario. Leaving the paint uncontested would put Houston’s wing defenders on an island against two of the best drivers in the league. LeBron, when he decides to utilize all his skills, is unstoppable from anywhere, meaning that Chandler Parsons and possibly Francisco Garcia would be left having to hope for the best. Most likely this would mean giving him space in midrange in order to try to prevent the drive, a strategy that the Spurs used happily in the Finals. It worked for a few games until LeBron decided to bury them under an avalanche of jumpers. Meanwhile, this leaves James Harden on Dwyane Wade, a defensive matchup that can’t possibly end well. The Heat would then fill out their lineup with Chalmers, Allen and Battier, spacing the defense with deadly three point threats and preventing Houston from going big in return. In this case, Houston has to either double down on defense with Ömer Aşık and Dwight Howard patrolling the paint together, or double down on offense and try to bury the Heat right back. Bosh is a capable defender, but Howard is one of the most athletic and deadly pick and roll finishers in the league. Harden can’t guard Wade, but Wade can’t guard Harden very well either. The Rockets have their own three point shooters to pile onto the court, making this almost a mirror match. How well the Rockets can cope with small ball strategies is going to determine how well they can defend the Heat, and their defense is going to decide how these games turn out and these games should prove to be yardposts for a team looking to improve to championship status.

    Atlanta Heat

    The Atlanta Heat look different. Danny Ferry has cleaned house in the past two years, unloading a problematic Joe Johnson contract on the Brooklyn Nets and letting Josh Smith leave in free agency this summer. Al Horford and Paul Millsap make up their starting frontcourt, a pair of underrated and deadly players. Lou Williams will likely start at shooting guard now instead of coming off the bench, a promotion he’s deserved for some time. Jeff Teague still shows piles of promise, has been given to the keys to the offense. Elton Brand, Kyle Korver and Gustavo Ayon make up the rest of the highlights of the roster, which is both good and bad. The Hawks look ready to fight for a playoff spot in the relatively weak east, but look unlikely to make it any higher than sixth at best.

    The inclusion of Paul Millsap this summer was a huge get for Atlanta, who now have cap flexibility and potential going forward. The loss of Josh Smith stings for Atlanta, but the reloading effort takes precedence over a player who quite frankly has shown spotty decision making skills. Teague continues to be a tantalizing long-term option for Atlanta, and Korver’s defense isn’t nearly as bad as it’s made out to be. Atlanta will be interesting to watch going forward.

    Beating the Hawks will largely be a matter of containing their shooters. Korver is deadly from three, and the entire rotation of Horford, Millsap and Brand are happy to let loose from midrange. As long as the Rockets don’t stray from their marks or get lost on the pick and roll, Houston should be able to keep hands in faces. Teague should prove an interesting matchup for Jeremy Lin, as both point guards love to attack the basket, and both have similar roles to grow into.

    Washington Wizards

    Are the Washington Wizards a playoff team? This is the pressing question for Washington this season, a team which seems to be on the correct side of a rebuild. The Wizards suffered at the hands of injuries last season, and are hoping to avoid the same fate this year. Unfortunately, Emeka Okafor herniated a disc in his neck and Chris Singleton broke a bone in his left foot. Both players will miss at least the next 6 weeks, and their loss will hurt the Wizards’ chances.

    The biggest move the Wizards made in the off season was the addition of Eric Maynor, a backup point guard who should be able to lighten John Wall’s load somewhat. The Wizards’ hopes lie in the combination of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Nene, all of whom are capable players when healthy. Wall still has star potential, Beal’s ceiling is still unknown, and Nene is one of the more dependable big men in the league as long as his health holds. Unfortunately, health doesn’t seem to be Washington’s strong suit lately.

    The Rockets had trouble with the Wizards last season, splitting the season series with two tight games. Washington actually has a solid defense, including players such as Trevor Ariza. Ariza remains a solid defensive player, even if his offensive game seems to be stagnating. Without point guard John Wall much of last season, the Wizards relied on their defense to win games, and it only worked part of the time. Without Okafor, the defense will suffer, but Wall will make the offense functional, at the least. The Wizards should be able to provide a challenge for the Rockets, but a split season series would be a disappointment for Houston.

    Charlotte Bobcats

    The last season of the Charlotte Bobcats looks to be another painful one. They might be among the bottom of the pile in the NBA, but at least their nickname change to the Charlotte Hornets has already been submitted. The addition of Al Jefferson comes at a hefty price tag, but cap space is not an issue for this team. The Bobcats have had two historically weak seasons, which seems to be part of general manager Rich Cho’s plan. Al Jefferson might be a strong post player and a real veteran, but the rest of the roster has a lot of experience to gain. This team will probably be better than last year, but they’re still destined for the lottery.

    Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller all show promise for the Bobcats, but none of them are good NBA players yet. Bismack Biyombo remains a fan favorite, but has yet to match his hype with his play. The Bobcats also feature players such as Gerald Henderson, Ramon Sessions and Josh McRoberts. All of these players are in the NBA. The talent differential between the Bobcats and the Rockets is stark at the least, and insurmountable in all likelihood. The biggest threat the Bobcats can bring is to surprise the Rockets while their guard is down. Any team can sneak up on you, and Jefferson in particular may have something to prove. As long as the Rockets also have something to prove, as they will on the first game of the season, Houston should be able to take these games.

    Orlando Magic

    The Orlando Magic still don’t have Dwight Howard. The Orlando Magic used to have Dwight Howard, but now the Houston Rockets have Dwight Howard. The Orlando Magic have Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis, Tobias Harris, Jameer Nelson and Nikola Vucevic. The Orlando Magic also have something to prove against whatever team features Dwight Howard. The Houston Rockets have Dwight Howard, who has something to prove against the Orlando Magic. The Houston Rockets also have James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Ömer Aşık and Chandler Parsons. The Houston Rockets and the Orlando Magic will both play hard in the games in which they meet. The Houston Rockets have a better roster than the Orlando Magic and will almost surely win those games.

  • BrentYen says 11 months ago
    1. can Asik and Howard be more than a temporary matchup lineup. an ability to keep these 2 on the floor can be devastating defensively if the offensive spacing can be worked out.

    I personally feel if both can be better in terms of their interior passing. They can be deadly together as well. Alway feel teams with 2 big man who attack as a pair is about to become a lost art.

    2. can T-Jones or D-Mo step up to contribute consistently? even if D-12/Asik is successful they can't play all the time. we need one of the two between T-Jones and D-Mo to round out the rotation.

    It is hard to ask them to step up just in one summer, even if they try as hard as they can. Development takes time. So...I really doubt it. However, I do think they can be serviceable form time to time.

    3. PG........has Lin made the necessary adjustments to be able to thrive within the starting lineup.

    Compare to the adjustment needed for the D-Mo and T-Jones, I think Lin does not need to adjust as much, hence more likely he can thrive. I also want to point out that, PB will need to adjust as well. In a team point of view, we really need as more play maker as possible. He did not run the offense well IMO last season while needed. In the end, we want Harden and DH12 to be used as less as possible while still winning, so we gets more chance to have a better run deep into the season and most likely playoffs.

    A final remark, we also need to see how McHale works his coaching this time. He is also a big factor here.

  • rockets best fan says 11 months ago

    going into training camp the Rockets have 3 questions that stand head and shoulders above the rest of the adjustments needed to me. they are

    1. can Asik and Howard be more than a temporary matchup lineup. an ability to keep these 2 on the floor can be devastating defensively if the offensive spacing can be worked out.

    2. can T-Jones or D-Mo step up to contribute consistently? even if D-12/Asik is successful they can't play all the time. we need one of the two between T-Jones and D-Mo to round out the rotation.

    3. PG........has Lin made the necessary adjustments to be able to thrive within the starting lineup.

    these 3 factors will determine if the Rockets will pursue a trade to balance the lineup. other things like backup SG and SF minute distribution among others are issues as well, but are on the back burner compared to these 3. no matter how you size it up some of the kinks will have to be worked out as the seasons flows, but these 3 things will determine how we attack the season

  • thejohnnygold says 11 months ago

    Wasn't sure if this article had made the rounds or not, but I don't remember seeing it before. It's a quick little bit from Dwight basically saying he will be spending some time at the 4 and that it will be good. LINK followed by text from article. This will help the Rockets beat the NBA...

    -------------------------------

    Dwight Howard says he has no problem playing with Asik
    By Matt Moore | NBA writer
    August 19, 2013 12:39 pm ET
    7713_AsikHoward.jpg

    Can Dwight Howard and Omer Asik join forces successfully? (USATSI)

    We broke down Daryl Morey's Reddit "Ask Me Anything"on Sunday, and in it he discussed the possibility of playing Dwight Howard at power forward next to Omer Asik. Focus Taiwan spoke to Howard during an overseas trip and the Rockets' new big man says he's got no problem playing power forward for spurts.

    "There is no need to adjust. I have been playing basketball for my whole life. I started it up playing a point guard," the NBA star told reporters at a press conference to welcome his third visit to Taiwan.

    "I think it can make our team tougher. We need [me> being as a power forward some games and Asik being a center. We will have a big lineup, and it will be tough for teams to truly score," the 27-year-old center said.

    "You have two guys to play great defense in the paint. So I think it is positive, and it is no conflict," he added.

    via Dwight Howard comfortable with playing power forward | Sports | FOCUS TAIWAN - CNA ENGLISH NEWS.

    It's an interesting concept, but really, this is an example of how positions are wildly inappropriate in some situations. If Howard plays next to Asik, he's not going to be posting at the elbow, nor will he be spotting up for mid-range jumpers. He's still going to be the low-post option, he'll just have Asik at his weak side to clean up. Asik's not an offensive weapon, Howard is.

    What is notable?

    Howard was resistant to playing in the pick and roll in LA with the Lakers. He's talked openly about being excited to do so with James Harden in Houston. He was never critical of Pau Gasol in LA but never seemed totally comfortable next to him. Now he's really into playing next to Asik? Basically, Howard's entire attitude has changed since joining the Rockets. That's a good thing for everyone that got tired of him but it has to irritate Lakers fans a little bit.

  • thejohnnygold says 12 months ago

    3 losing seasons since 1984. I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

  • Buckko says 12 months ago

    I'll just post this link to Karl's career record right here. B)

    A lot of people outside of Colorado think he was a great coach but most Denver fans are glad he's gone simply because he gets out coached and hasn't had any successful playoff runs except for one in Seattle in the 90s and his W/L records are up and down. Its better to look for greener pastures than get stuck in the mud.

  • thejohnnygold says 12 months ago

    David lee plays no D and would have been man handled by Duncan. David lee just makes them weaker. G-Karl hasn't been known to be a fantastic coach, he just had a talented team in Denver.

    I'll just post this link to Karl's career record right here. B)

  • Buckko says 12 months ago

    When Barnes matures, they should play small ball with him at the 4.

  • Cooper says 12 months ago When they didnt have lee they were stuck starting Landry or going small with Barnes at the 4. Landry is basically a poor mans lee so I don't see how having lee would have made them worse.
  • Buckko says 12 months ago

    Doubtful, lee has always been terrible on D, look at countless big men, do they hurt their rebound #s by playing good D.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 12 months ago

    David lee plays no D and would have been man handled by Duncan. David lee just makes them weaker. G-Karl hasn't been known to be a fantastic coach, he just had a talented team in Denver.

    David Lee makes them weaker.................

    By no stretch of the imagination is Lee a complete player. But he's pretty dang talented. Every since that article came out about how Lee goes after boards before the play is over and letting the defense suffer because of it, he's become the most underrated player in the game. I think if Bogut stays healthy, Lee won't have to expend as much energy on the boards and you'll see him improve defensively.

  • Buckko says 12 months ago

    David lee plays no D and would have been man handled by Duncan. David lee just makes them weaker. G-Karl hasn't been known to be a fantastic coach, he just had a talented team in Denver.

  • rockets best fan says 12 months ago

    GS just got hot and beat a crippled Nuggets team in the playoffs but when the spurs shut them down.

    to some degree I agree. the GSW got hot at the right time, but they were without David Lee .....so they didn't have all their guns as well. in addition Mark Jackson just flat out coached G-Karl.

  • Buckko says 12 months ago

    GS just got hot and beat a crippled Nuggets team in the playoffs but when the spurs shut them down.

  • Cooper says 12 months ago Yeah I don't think they are in the okc Miami San Antonio category unless Barnes takes a big step. Even the rockets have more talent but GS was never that great to begin with adding Igudola helps a little but they are still behind the top teams.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 12 months ago They will miss Jack, because who can create their own shot besides Curry now? Iggy can't, Klay can't. Barnes somewhat can, but it was a small sample size. So when Curry goes down with his injuries, they will struggle to create their own shot. SA has Parker/Manu/Neal, Mia has James/Wade, OKC has KD/Westbrook, Houston has Harden/Lin, etc... So while Iggy is an upgrade talent wise, I wouldn't necessarily call him an upgrade fit wise. I think they will be a much bigger threat next year with a year of chemistry and learning a good system under their belts.
  • rockets best fan says 12 months ago

    "corpse of Jermaine Oneal"............that's funny :lol:Iggy won't be able to replace what J-Jack did. J-Jack was the player who came off the bench and provided a floor general for the second unit in addition to scoring. him and Landry anchored the second unit. Iggy does make their defense better, but heis not a shot creator like Jack. as for Douglas and Speights..........there is a reason the teams who had them didn't try to resign them. neither is a difference maker, where as the two they replaced were.

  • Cooper says 12 months ago I don't see anything Landry and jack do that iggy can't, Landry averaged one more rebound last year and for their careers it's tied at 5per game. Iggy is a better passer than jack, isn't quite as good a shooter but leave that to curry Thompson and Barnes. Plus they brought in speights and Douglas who aren't anything speacil but not a whole lot worse than who they are replacing. Their main problem is not losing landry or jack but rather the fact Bogut is going to miss 20games or more, in the regular season they could probably trought out a lee Barnes iggy Thompson curry lineup and try to put up 120 but that's not going to fly in the playoffs and without Ezeli who was at least a big body that played hard on defense they have the corpse of jermaine oneal which is less than inspiring.
  • rockets best fan says 12 months ago

    excellent read................I really only disagree in a couple of areas

    1. the Lakers are over the hill. S-Nash is only a shell of his self. his game has been snatch away by father time. while Gasol does have a little left in the tank, it's not enough to help this team be anything but bad. as for Kobe............I keep hearing this......he's injured, but it's Kobe. he will overcome it............ while he will come back.....that I have no doubt about. however realistically Kobe's skillset was already starting to decline to some degree before the injury and the type of injury he has is one of the worse injuries for a basketball player. in addition to him being 35 it's an old 35. his body has a lot of miles on it. I would like to think he will be close to the player he was before being injured, but while the mind is willing the body may not cooperate. this is the biggest question mark for the Lakers.

    2. GSW............it's amazing to me how easily everyone believes Iggy will push this team over the top. what they lost this summer in my mind is almost as huge as what they gained. J-Jack and C-Landry were vital pieces to this team last year and Jack was huge in the playoffs. Yes Iggy bring much to the table, but will it be enough to offset their losses and then some? I'm not to sure about that. I think they will be a little improved, but still close to the team they were last year................that's provided they stay healthy........which in the case of Bogut and Curry is no given

    as for the division as a hold I think you called the wins just about right.

  • Red94 says 12 months ago New post: How Do the Rockets Beat the Pacific Division?
    By: Forrest Walker

    The Houston Rockets are new and exciting. Hopes and dreams have given way to reality and responsibility, and now the new look Rockets have to go about the business of playing basketball. With James Harden and Dwight Howard leading the team, the Rockets are now expected to be able to keep up with any team in the league. Today we’ll look at the teams in the Pacific division and how the Rockets can plan for victory.

    Los Angeles Clippers

    The Los Angeles Clippers have effectively cemented their place at the top of the Pacific Division. The Clippers sailed their way to 56 wins and the 4th seed in the Western Conference, but lost out in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies, who tied their record. Chris Paul is still the best point guard in the League, Blake Griffin for all his skill still has piles of potential, a promising center in DeAndre Jordan and an increasingly deadly arsenal of shooters. The Clippers are a not only a playoff lock this season, but look to stay in the top four teams in the west. After the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, the Clippers can be expected to be the next biggest challenge for Houston in the west.

    Last year’s matchups weren’t exactly a walk in the park for Houston. To be specific, the first two were ugly losses, but the last one did, in fact, resemble a walk in the park. Los Angeles looked mighty coming out of the gates, but became an easier target midway through season, including their February loss to Houston. Various factors have been cited, some more plausible than others. The most likely explanation is that other teams simply figured out how to defend them effectively, and the team wasn’t ready to make changes on the fly which would put them back in a position to win. With head coach Vinnie del Negro replaced by Celtics great Doc Rivers, the coaching will surely improve. The Clippers also added talent such as J.J. Redick on the wings, moving them further into the realm of three point threat teams.

    What beat the Clippers last year is liable to beat them again this year. As the season progressed, many teams decided to prioritize keeping the ball out of Chris Paul’s hands. That was especially effective last year when the team had less shooting prowess in aggregate. This season, the addition of a few pressure valves on offense should help them stay aloft, and they’ll easily top fifty wins again. The Rockets have to believe in their defense, preferably after building up their defense, and do everything they can to be killed by anyone except Chris Paul. Without his shot creation, the Clippers will largely rely on jumpshooting, something which the Rockets will have to prioritize. On the other side, the Clippers are if anything worse than last year inside. Jordan has the tools to become a great defensive big man, but so far has gotten by on his athleticism and shot blocking. Dwight Howard is, quite simply, better than Jordan at his own game and that’s a matchup the Rockets will be able to lean on. The Rockets won’t be able to sweep this season series, but they can reasonably hope to split the four games.

    Los Angeles Lakers

    The Clippers’ big brother has fallen on hard times. The Los Angeles Lakers remain one of the most relevant teams in the league, and Kobe Bryant is still one of the best players in history. Pau Gasol and Steve Nash are still great players, and the three of them still have the potential to be imposing. That’s the good news. The bad news is that everything else that could go wrong is going wrong. Kobe is still recovering from his achilles rupture, and his return date is completely unknown. Nash and Gasol are aging rapidly and have been battling nagging injuries. With Metta World Peace amnestied, the rest of the roster is underwhelming. Nick Young may be their best player outside of the aforementioned three, which is nothing short of astounding. The Lakers still could find a formula which works, though, even though many are writing them off. If Dwight had never been on the Lakers at all, if last year was stricken from our collective memories, this team would look ready to make the playoffs and maybe make some noise.

    Unfortunately for the Lakers, last year did, in fact, happen. Ever since their last championship, the Lakers have been defeated by the eventual Western Conference champion in the last three playoffs. The Lakers were swept by the Spurs last season, though they did so without the services of Kobe Bryant. Given how poor the defense was and how uncoordinated the players seemed, it’s unlikely his inclusion would have stopped Tim Duncan from trolling Dwight Howard and the Lakers. The Lakers looked bad as far back as preseason exhibition, which split viewers down the middle. Half decried the end of the Lakers, while the other half called for patience. In the end, cooler heads proved incorrect, and the Lakers remained a mess all year. This year might be different, but expectations have been changed in a big way.

    This year, the Rockets are the better team. For the first time in a very, very long time, The Houston Rockets will be the favorites in every game they play against the Los Angeles Lakers. Oh, and the Rockets poached an all-star Center from the Lakers. The biggest danger for the Rockets is also the biggest danger for the Lakers. Both teams have something to prove. Kobe, should be be on the court, has a large degree of face to save. As good or bad as Howard may have been for Los Angeles, losing a player of his caliber is a slap to the face. At the same time, Dwight himself will almost assuredly be seeking his own vindication. In the eventual Kobe vs Dwight grudge match, the proof will be in the other players. Nash and Gasol remain two of the cagiest vets in the league, but Houston sports a roster full of young, skilled players. James Harden is at worst the third best shooting guard in the league, and Kobe increasingly finds himself on the wrong side of that player comparison. It won’t be a walk in the park, but Houston simply needs to play hard and play their game. The Lakers won’t make the wins easy, but those are wins that are in Houston’s grasp.

    Golden State Warriors

    Real NBA rivalries are a precious thing. There aren’t many left in the league, especially not ones that the players dive into whole-heartedly. The Knicks-Nets rivalry in New York is more publicity than substance, a rivalry in which players needle each other on camera and go to parties together in private. The Rockets and the Golden State Warriors, however, seem to genuinely dislike each other. The Rockets may have upgraded since the birth of this new rivalry, but the Warriors have made their own improvements as well. Andre Iguodala joined forces with an already forceful Warriors squad to shore up perimeter defense and act as another leader on the floor. With Stephen Curry metamorphosing from a sniper into some kind of pinpoint accurate orbital death ray from behind the arc, the Warriors are a playoff lock and in most years would easily win their division. The Clippers will likely pull that rug out from under them, but a 4-5 matchup in the first round between the Warriors and the Rockets seems extremely likely at this juncture, and something that the Rockets should dread but that viewers would love.

    This new rivalry began with the first showdown between these two teams, a showdown in which the Rockets buried the Warriors under a historic barrage of threes. After number 23 went down, Warriors head coach Mark Jackson decided to turn the firehose on Houston’s aspirations and began to intentionally foul the Rockets in order to prevent the fateful 24th three pointer in the game. The effort was ultimately successful and prevented the Rockets from becoming the sole owners of the record for most made threes in one regular season game. The Warriors may have spared themselves from being on the wrong side of history, but in doing so contributed to a brutal rivalry which saw the Warriors eventually eke out the Rockets for the sixth seed. The Warriors won the last of the four matchups, but the Rockets won all the previous three in convincing fashion.

    The best way to beat the Warriors seems to be at their own game. When the Rockets mercilessly rained down threes and attacked the basket and left defense to take care of itself, they were successful. The worry here is that Curry has since undergone a striking transformation into one of the most deadly assassins in the league. Iguodala is also sure to be glued to Harden’s beard, something which was disastrous for Harden last season. Bogut and Howard are both defensive minded centers who can finish at the rim, and Parsons is likely to be in a similar role to Iguodala. If any team is a mirror match for Houston, it’s Golden State. On paper, Dwight is a bigger addition than Iguodala, but in reality, the story may be different. Winning two out of three games against this team is going to be absolutely mission critical, and the way to do it will be to win the mirror match. Jackson is a smart and savvy coach who will rightly stop at nothing for his team, and head coach Kevin McHale will have to do the same. Expect scrappy play, trigger happy gunners and battles down low in these games, and for Jeremy Lin to play his best against his first NBA team.

    Sacramento Kings

    The Sacramento Kings were one of the biggest stories in the NBA last year, and not because of their play. An ownership group in Seattle did their best to acquire the team from the Maloof family, and seemed all but certain to buy the team and move it to Seattle to become the new zombie Sonics. For reasons that are still being debated, the NBA board of owners recommended against relocation, and a local ownership group acquired the team instead. Free of the almost universally hated Maloof brothers, the Kings are once again trying to right the ship and make sense of a truly bizarre roster. After being one of the most important and successful teams in the early 2000s, the Kings seems still mired in mediocrity.

    Last season was not kind to the Kings. They won a mere 28 games and seem no closer to figuring out the riddle of DeMarcus Cousins. They beat the Rockets in a February barn burner, but were soundly thumped by Houston in the remaining two showdowns. They may have moved difficult-to-manage Tyreke Evans and picked up the easygoing and much improved Greivis Vasquez, but still seem little prepared for a brutal Western Conference.

    The Kings remain in a similar category to last year. The teams who fancy themselves elite will look at the Kings as a must-win game, something which the Kings seem to be aware of and unhappy about. The Kings are liable to put up a good fight against any team in the league, but ultimately aren’t far enough along in their development to really challenge for a top spot. They may also be too far in their development to really slide down to the head of the tanking movement. The Kings should have a fairly effective offense, especially with willing shooters like Jimmer Fredette. Unfortunately, their defense is a bit shakier, meaning that the Rockets will want to attack the basket, hoist up shots and otherwise make them pay for being relatively inexperienced. Patrick Patterson may prove problematic with his knowledge of the Rockets’ system, but similarly the Rockets should know how to deal with him. The Kings losing this season series isn’t guaranteed, but it’s very likely.

    Phoenix Suns

    The Suns are tanking. There’s little more to the story, here. Eric Bledsoe is a good get amd will have a bright future. The Morris twins, Markieff and Marcus, show promise but still aren’t there yet. Goran Dragic is a solid point guard but doesn’t look the same on his own as he did as a backup. The Suns are the safest choice for the bottom of the west, and it’s primarily by design.

    The Suns, somehow, gave the Rockets a lot of trouble last season. Despite being favored to sweep the season series, the Rockets lost the first and last games in frustrating affairs, and won one of the four on a strange and fortuitous series of events, including a basket interference call on Jermaine O’Neal.

    The trick, this season, seems to be to not meet the Suns on the road on the second night of a back to back. Both losses came in that situation, and the good news is that Houston won’t be in that situation against the Suns this year. Dragic and Marcus Morris will surely try for revenge, but the Rockets should be able to take care of business as long as they don’t assume business will take care of itself. Bledsoe will try to use his impressive athleticism against Houston, but Dwight Howard should prove an able stopper at the rim. If Houston doesn’t sweep this series, something’s wrong.

  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago I prefer Corvettes but that's opinion.
  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago If you have too much talent to "evaluate" or "use" wouldn't it make sense to consolidate that into guys that will start or at least get significant minutes?
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    just because you worked your way up to theCorvette don't mean you should abandon the quest for the Ferrari

  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago This is why a trade is idiocy, we have too much talent to evaluate and use.
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I totally agree JG. I have not been this excited about a season since DREAM was on the team.......Don't get me wrong I liked YAO and McGrady, but always felt in the back of my mind something would happen (injury) to keep us from getting to the promise land. however it's something special about this collection of talent. I can feel it .......it's like the force :lol:

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    NorEastern, if you like I can help you solve your posting problems. I'm no expert, but I have found ways to post just about anything I want to on here one way or another. Sometimes it is a little more tedious than I like, but it's doable. Let me know what's stopping you and we can find a solution. We all like charts and graphs... :)

    Back to the Rockets, I am dying to find out who surprises us once the season starts. I can just feel it...somebody is going to break out. I think it will be either Beverley or Greg Smith. I know most of us, myself included, think D-Mo or T-Jones will claim the PF spot, but as Eby's Daily mentioned--Smith and Asik were able to be successful on the court together last year. Smith is actually very similar to Dwight physically (minus the insane vertical leap) and I think it was Beverley who recently mentioned in an interview that Smith is in incredible shape. Imagine if he rolls out bigger, leaner, and meaner and having put more work into his post game (or maybe even a 15 ft. jump shot :o ).

    It's not official yet, but the Rockets are the deepest team in the league top to bottom. I know it has been put forth that McHale only likes to run 8 deep on the roster, but I think that was circumstantial and we will see at least a 10 player rotation more often than not.

    Lin, Bev, Harden, Parsons, Howard, Garcia, Asik, Smith, Jones, and Motie are all going to see the court. It's just a matter of how much and in which line-ups (and we still have Casspi and Williams to work with). One way in which this benefits us is that we can play more aggressive defense. We will have 50+ fouls to give and still be able to put quality players on the floor. The Rockets have a luxury most teams don't. They would be wise to take advantage of that.

  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago

    Here I am attempting to post charts again. We will see if this works. I am futzing around with various graphing packages.

    So this is just a test. Hope I have not inconvienced anyone. It failed.

    I appreciate your attempts to include us, here in your brilliant statistical insight. I've read your write-ups on TDS. IDK what it would take to get the mods here to allow you more posting power, but I hope they grant it to you. If your charts are working on TDS, I would suggest posting an external link. Maybe enough out-bound clicks will get their attention.

  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago At least you're persistant.
  • NorEastern says 1 YEAR ago

    Here I am attempting to post charts again. We will see if this works. I am futzing around with various graphing packages.

    So this is just a test. Hope I have not inconvienced anyone. It failed.

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago

    I'd point out that the Kings offense last year wasn't actually the main issue, it was pretty good for a team that was essentially playing pickup basketball, the problem was that they defended like pickup basketball too .



    The point wasn't the "Issues of the Sacramento Kings." Of all the good discussion here that is a mind boggling thing to vear off topic about. Anyhow, I second that rockets best fan, johnnygold's post is a quality post.
  • RollingWave says 1 YEAR ago

    I'd point out that the Kings offense last year wasn't actually the main issue, it was pretty good for a team that was essentially playing pickup basketball, the problem was that they defended like pickup basketball too .

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    As in all sports, systems only work when the talent to support them is in place. Small-ball works when you have Lebron, Wade, Bosh, and Ray Allen/Shane Battier. It is less successful with The Sacramento King's roster.

    In football, we can all remember the "unstoppable" Rams teams from around 1999-2001. Mike Martz orchestrated that offensive machine that included Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, a killer offensive line, and a bevy of receivers with great hands. Strangely, Martz hasn't done anything noteworthy since those guys left--primarily Warner and Faulk. Good systems still require the players to execute them. Bill Belichek looks like a genius as long as Tom Brady is his quarterback...people forget how hard he bombed in Cleveland and NY.

    For the Rockets to be successful, McHale and staff need to identify our bread and butter and shove it in opponents' faces over and over and over. We all know the pick n roll will be at the top of that list, but offensive diversity will be crucial as the season goes on and we head into the playoffs. I think one of our greatest assets will be drawing fouls (both Harden and Howard excel at this) and exploiting our opponents' lack of depth since most teams overload their frontline and leave very little left on the bench. I'd like to see Houston open games in attack mode and try to garner quick fouls that force opposing bigs to sit early and often and then it's time for the dunk parade.

    Once teams commit to packing the paint it will be time to light 'em up from the perimeter--something I expect us to do fairly well (at least top 10) from a % standpoint. After a little bit of that opponents will become incredibly susceptible to dribble penetration (similar to play action passes in football) off of an up fake. These will lead to many Dwight dunks and alley-oops.

    Ultimately, this season comes down to how well we can defend as a team once the playoffs roll around. I think we can all agree the offense won't be a problem. Team defense will be the deciding factor in how far we go in the post-season. Athletically, I think we can hang with any team in the league. What concerns me are the teams with veteran savvy, and smart, disciplined coaching/schematics. Those teams are San Antonio, Indiana, Chicago, Miami, and maybe Brooklyn. OKC, Memphis, and LAC will all present challenges, but I think we can take them all in a playoff series.

    I am totally on board with this. good post JG. I agree talent wise we match up to anyone.....it's just a matter of finding a defensive flow

  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago

    Defensively, we could be interesting. Besides howard and asik for 48 minutes of impenetrable rim protection. We can have lin around upper half of top 10 defensive PGs, and the biggest IF is harden can close to average so he doesn't hurt us. Parsons should improve more to become a reliable perimeter defender. Depending who is starting PF, we will either have demo which is a liability, Jones which I cannot say due to lack of enough evidence, but he could form a potent shot blocking duo with howard. Smith with his size and athleticism could form a a good defender or small rim protector if he were to tap into it.

    2nd Unit

    This is where it gets entertaining. With a dominate offensive starting unit, the second unit is defensive. With Beverly running point which I believe becoming a smarter and stronger basketball player will become one of our best perimeter defenders. Garcia has proven to us what he can do, then we have Brewer if he makes a comeback season will become our best perimeter defender along with whoever is PF and of course Big O.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    As in all sports, systems only work when the talent to support them is in place. Small-ball works when you have Lebron, Wade, Bosh, and Ray Allen/Shane Battier. It is less successful with The Sacramento King's roster.

    In football, we can all remember the "unstoppable" Rams teams from around 1999-2001. Mike Martz orchestrated that offensive machine that included Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, a killer offensive line, and a bevy of receivers with great hands. Strangely, Martz hasn't done anything noteworthy since those guys left--primarily Warner and Faulk. Good systems still require the players to execute them. Bill Belichek looks like a genius as long as Tom Brady is his quarterback...people forget how hard he bombed in Cleveland and NY.

    For the Rockets to be successful, McHale and staff need to identify our bread and butter and shove it in opponents' faces over and over and over. We all know the pick n roll will be at the top of that list, but offensive diversity will be crucial as the season goes on and we head into the playoffs. I think one of our greatest assets will be drawing fouls (both Harden and Howard excel at this) and exploiting our opponents' lack of depth since most teams overload their frontline and leave very little left on the bench. I'd like to see Houston open games in attack mode and try to garner quick fouls that force opposing bigs to sit early and often and then it's time for the dunk parade.

    Once teams commit to packing the paint it will be time to light 'em up from the perimeter--something I expect us to do fairly well (at least top 10) from a % standpoint. After a little bit of that opponents will become incredibly susceptible to dribble penetration (similar to play action passes in football) off of an up fake. These will lead to many Dwight dunks and alley-oops.

    Ultimately, this season comes down to how well we can defend as a team once the playoffs roll around. I think we can all agree the offense won't be a problem. Team defense will be the deciding factor in how far we go in the post-season. Athletically, I think we can hang with any team in the league. What concerns me are the teams with veteran savvy, and smart, disciplined coaching/schematics. Those teams are San Antonio, Indiana, Chicago, Miami, and maybe Brooklyn. OKC, Memphis, and LAC will all present challenges, but I think we can take them all in a playoff series.

  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago The game will costantley evolve with trends and fads coming and going. It usually starts with a winning team where other teams model themselves after until someone discovers a way to beat them. However the 3pt shot will only get more popular.
  • RollingWave says 1 YEAR ago

    I think it is mildly amusing how the balance turns, in the NBA in the last few years the movement is to go away from traditional post players and end up with a very mobile team of (efficient) gunners.... the Heat is the most extreme example of this... yet the apparent counter is .......... dominant traditional post players... ...... hmmmmmmm seems like we come 360 doesn't it.

  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago I would still choose the pacers though and there are too many questions about the bulls.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago The Nets have top 10 guys at every position. No weakness 1-5 and if D-Wills ankles are healthy he's a superstar. Plus Brook is always improving. If they stay healthy and manage their minutes I like them to challenge the Heat.
  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago

    Garnett reverses the hand of time back a decade and destroys Ray Allen.

  • RollingWave says 1 YEAR ago

    The Nets are an intriguing team, the Heat probably match up poorly against them given their issues with dealing with bigs , though the key is can this group play like a team and how much do their oldies have left in the tank? I think regular season wise they won't be THAT great due to all the pieces need fitting and oldies need resting, but playoff wise they could be rather scary.

    The Heat remain the most talented team around, but it sure looks like a lot of their rivals are building themself to specifically counter them.

  • NorEastern says 1 YEAR ago

    Nice breakdown OP. The rest of the division doesn't scare me at all (I believe that the Knicks will be worse this season, from the sole addition of Bargnani), but I don't know whether to laugh at the Nets or to wonder if they will upset the Heat. They could post a 48 win season, but seem much more likely to be 60 wins team. They could be just scary.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago No Olynyk?
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    we play 10 games against this division........my projected record against them 8-2

  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: How Do the Rockets Beat the Atlantic Division?
    By: Forrest Walker

    The Houston Rockets are, new, improved, and full of potential. They have enough talent to go toe to toe with any team in the league. All that’s left is making a game plan and executing it once the season starts. There’s no way to know what will happen in a few short weeks, but for now we can try to imagine it. Let’s postulate on what the Houston Rockets need to to in order to beat each team in the Atlantic Division.

    New York Knicks:

    Last year’s Atlantic division champs are one of the strangest matchups for the Houston Rockets. The Rockets and Knicks both broke the regular season record for three pointers made in a season, with New York coming out ahead in that category when all was said and done. Both teams feature a bevy of marksmen on the perimeter, defensive big men inside, and a bench full of veteran minimum players.

    A look at last year’s matchup has the Rockets easily rolling over the Knicks in both games, with the first contest being a complete blowout. Given Carmelo Anthony didn’t play in the second game, and Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t play in either, there’s room for debate on what could happen with both teams at full strength. The Rockets have certainly improved more since then, however, with young players maturing and Dwight Howard signing on. The Knicks lost promising big man Chris Copeland to Indiana, veteran point guard Jason Kidd to retirement and traded Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a player of dubious utility in Andrea Bargnani. Marcus Camby eventually ended up on the Rockets, but would be unlikely to play more than garbage time minutes.

    To beat the Knicks, the Rockets need to do two things. First, they need to run pick and roll sets over and over again. The Knicks have shown themselves to be vulnerable to teams which attack the basket off the pick, and that’s where the Rockets killed them last season. With as many high quality options as Houston has in that department, it’s very likely this happens. Secondly, the Rockets have to guard the perimeter. The Knicks make their living by hoisting threes, and hands in faces at the line will be well worth the cost. The Knicks as a team tend to shy away from drives to the basket, relying on their vicious shooting to get the job done. With Dwight Howard and Ömer Aşık inside, Houston has some room to stick to shooters outside. This might leave Carmelo Anthony open for piles of midrange jumpers, but of all the available poisons, that seems to be the easiest to stomach.

    Brooklyn Nets:

    After a tumultuous off season, the Brooklyn Nets now look like the team to beat in the Atlantic Division. Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans, and Kris Joseph were shipped to Boston in exchange for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and DJ White. In terms of basketball talent and skill, the Nets easily won out, though the Celtics had their own reasons for making the trade. The Nets also signed free agent Andrei Kirilenko to a shockingly cheap $3m/year deal, and hired freshly retired Jason Kidd as their head coach. Nobody knows how good this team will be yet, and with good reason. A starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez is at worst the second most intimidating in the east, and with a fairly stacked bench, a challenge for a top seed seems plausible.

    The good news is that the Rockets beat the other New York team both games as well. Both matchups against Brooklyn were convincing victories for Houston, with the Rockets simply out executing the Nets. Deron Williams seemed to have something to prove against Jeremy Lin, and in both games Williams hoisted a relatively large number of shots. Brook Lopez was a threat, especially in the second game, and containing him was proving difficult. The addition of Dwight Howard should provide some degree of protection against Brook Lopez, but his offensive game is efficient and largely unstoppable. Seeing the two arguably best offensive and defensive centers in the NBA should be a sight to behold

    The Nets faced some issues last season which may be resolved this season, leading to an even tougher out for other teams. Head coach Avery Johnson was let go midway through last season, resulting in P.J. Carlesimo taking the reins. The team certainly didn’t perform any worse under his leadership, but it didn’t seem to help team chemistry or cohesion. The Nets, while a solid offensive team, lacked much of an identity and were overall a good if not great squad. Replacing rotation slots with Garnett, Pierce and Kirilenko should only add to their offensive firepower while keeping the defense even at worst. The biggest question mark is Jason Kidd, who has exactly zero professional coaching experience, but who has been surrounded by exceptional assistants.

    The best option for the Rockets to beat the Nets should be to attack in their signature style. Lopez might be an offensive powerhouse, but his defense is average at best. Kevin Garnett is a brilliant defender and will be able to cover many of those weaknesses, but this is one situation where post play from Dwight Howard may be just what the doctor ordered. If defense is forced to collapse on him, Houston’s army of gunners should be able to take advantage of perimeter opportunities.The Nets still haven’t established a clear style, and that leaves the door open for Houston to try to impose their own.

    Toronto Raptors:

    The Toronto Raptors are a curious team. They lured acclaimed Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri back to a place he used to call home, effectively kicking Bryan Colangelo to the curb. Ujiri

    s first order of business was to trade the seemingly untradeable Andrea Bargnani for some draft picks and inoffensive contracts, to the delight of Toronto. With recent acquisition Rudy Gay still more or less leading the team, nobody outside of the front office is quite sure what the Raptors plan on doing. They don’t seem good enough to make a meaningful playoff run, but aren’t quite bad enough to hit the top of the lottery either.

    The biggest threat from Toronto is likely to be Kyle Lowry. While rumors continue to swirl around his locker room demeanor, he had a bone to pick with Houston last year and seems liable to have that same bone this time around. He’s a solid shooter, a bulldog on defense, and an aggressive ball handler. That being the case, it’s probably best to try to tempt him into bad shots or playing off the ball. Rudy Gay is a fearless shooter, but not a very efficient one. DeMar DeRozan is similarly willing to hoist the ball at any time, but shoots poorly from deep. Jonas Valanciunas has shown promise for the Raptors, but in only his second year, attacking him early is sure to be a top option. This is the first team in the division that the Rockets should expect to be able to defeat, but have enough weapons to surprise a number of teams.

    Boston Celtics:

    The Boston Celtics are now, surely, finally blowing it all up. The “big three” era core of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo had existed well past its expiration date, and the departure of Ray Allen to the Miami Heat seemed an almost certain wake up call. The Celtics pushed forward, however, succumbing to injury (Rondo) age (Garnett) and frustration (head coach Doc Rivers) before season’s end. Now the Celtics are comprised of young prospects, a few cheap veterans, and as many draft picks as they can muster.

    Kris Humphries isn’t worth his $12m contract this year, but he also doesn’t deserve to lose all his minutes, as he did for stretches last year. Gerald Wallace still has gas in the tank and could be a great starter on another team. Rajon Rondo, when he returns, will resume his place as one of the best point guards in the league. Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger are all still projects. Courtney Lee may be on the way out once a value deal can be found, and Jordan Crawford will continue to collect paychecks. Brad Stevens, a young college coach with no NBA experience, should have all he can handle trying to figure the team out. Luckily for them, time is on their side.

    As a team apparently gunning for a top lottery spot, the Celtics look to be a beatable opponent for many if not most teams. Gerald Wallace, Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green may be able to put together some good plays on both ends of the ball, and Avery Bradley may take off this season, but the rest of the roster is bench quality or worse. The biggest concern for the Rockets this season against the Celtics will be to avoid complacency. Young, less tempered teams often let their guard down against supposedly lesser foes and find that veterans have a way of sneaking in those cracks. Avoiding foul trouble and a being surprised by a gritty team should be the main preparations against a temporarily weak Celtics team.

    Philadelphis 76ers:

    If the Boston Celtics are rebuilding, the Philadelphia 76ers are levelling the house and paving the earth. No team has been as open with their attempts to tank, and no team has a better shot at Andrew Wiggins. New general manager Sam Hinkie was headhunted straight out of the Rockets’ front office, and GM Daryl Morey seems to have taught him well. The Sixers traded Jrue Holiday, likely their best player (who ever suited up during the season), getting back Nerlens Noel from the New Orleans Pelicans. With one injured big man coming in, they let Andrew Bynum hobble his way out in free agency, and were glad to do it. Now, the only players left who could strike fear into other teams are Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner, either of whom might be traded for a suitably tasty deal full of future prospects.

    There’s not much to say about how to beat the Sixers. If you show up and aren’t trying to tank, your squad should win. The Sixers will get a win here and there, as the players aren’t trying to lose. But Hinkie has done an excellent job of putting together a roster that would be hard-pressed to beat the second worst team in the league. There’s a very real chance the Sixers might notch single digit wins this season, and it would behoove the Rockets to avoid providing any of them. As long as Houston can avoid falling into a trap game, there should be no worry against this team.

  • John P says 1 YEAR ago

    The core to this team is Harden, Howard, Parsons and maybe, just maybe, Asik. that may seem crazy, as everyone thinks (including myself) that Asik and Howard probably can't or shouldn't be on the same team and optimize their talents.

    But if we can find a way to work the two of them together, sharing the court some times, some times giving Howard longer breaks during the regular season to save him for playoffs, then I think Asik becomes a key to the core as well.

    So with that core in mind, my guess is that the first half of the season is just focusing on that core and everything else revolves around those pieces: running Harden/Howard pick and rolls, or subbing in Parsons for Harden or Asik for Howard, and trying other sets.

    I don't think anyone belives that other moves are not going to happen later this season, before or at the trade deadline, but most likely the coaching will focus on that core and seeing how we can win with that focus.

    Therefore all other players: Lin, Beverley, the 4s, Garcia, etc....will all plug in here or there to see what works playing off of that core.

    As far as potential rivals, all of these could easily give us a run for our money:
    Clippers (Jordan my be a hinderance but with a great coach and better outside shooting they will be a force), Chicago (with Rose back), OKC, Miami, Indiana, maybe Brooklyn (if the pieces can all play together), SAS, Golden State. I would put Memphis as a dark horse but they are basically the same team as last year so absent a new wing shooting dynamo being added to their awesome D, I just don't see them being that good.

    So with that list, there is absolutely no lock on the WCF, unless we are near the top of the regularly season record.

    But regardless, if the team can remotely jell together with decent coaching, they will be one of the hottest, most fun teams in the NBA to watch.

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    You nailed it on our last year plays. :)

    I remember games where Smith started, Lin brought up the ball and dump in Smith instead of Harden. And then Smith do post up with a good success.

    So they run the play that suit well for Howard. Like you said, our two superstars need touches and they must buy in for team success.

  • RollingWave says 1 YEAR ago

    They had a playbook but it was a fairly simple one, essentially it's

    plan A: run down the court faster than the other team for a transition bucket

    if that fails

    plan B: try to start a dribble motion offense set from either Harden or Lin and just react from there

    if that looks bad

    plan C: try some sort of pick and roll

    if that fails

    plan D: HARDEN STEP BACK SIDE STEP 3 BABY!!!!

    I hope they have a better plan D this year at least. but essentially all 4 plan involve heavily on the decision making of Harden and/or Lin (well except plan D, )

    It is a good question though what the Rockets game plan is, they really SHOULD just continue last year's plan and evolve it further, but it is possible that Howard changes their plans a bit. one really should not underestimate the importance of continuity of a system and team in the NBA. I think McHale and crew certainly knows that extremely well, the problem is will Dwight buy in, well if he doesn't buy in we're screwed anyway.

  • BrentYen says 1 YEAR ago

    I intend on writing a comprehensive post on this subject tonight. I believe I can comfortably lay out a statistical analysis of what the Rockets will bring next season. I will be pulling enhanced pieces from articles I have already written along with an analysis of the defense. Expect lots of diagrams and charts and individual topics.

    Very looking forward to it! Thanks in advance!

  • NorEastern says 1 YEAR ago I intend on writing a comprehensive post on this subject tonight. I believe I can comfortably lay out a statistical analysis of what the Rockets will bring next season. I will be pulling enhanced pieces from articles I have already written along with an analysis of the defense. Expect lots of diagrams and charts and individual topics.
  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago Pacers are more a playoff team than a regular season team and the rockets need a chance to gel before ripping this team apart with trades. Also Kwai had a great playoffs but wasn't too spectacular in the regular season so don't guarantee Allstar status yet.
  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago Duncan and Parker aren't quite Howard or harden but kwahi makes up for some of that along with pop. I like Goerge but hibbert and west aren't quite #2 options and george isn't a great #1 yet
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago On paper SAS does not have the talent but Pop bridges that gap. Lets hope that Mchale doesn't do the opposite.
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    DON'T WORRY.......BE HAPPY :)

    On paper Miami okc Chicago and San Antonio are the only teams that can match our top line talent, its just if mchale can get the pieces to fit and they avoid major injuries. Will be the most intriguing season since McGrady and Yao were around.

    I would add Indiana to that group, but you're right.....only a few teams have the stockpile of talent necessary to compete with us and of those teams we are in the best position to improve. I predict there will be a parade nextJune in downtown Houston

  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago It didnt look like they had a playbook.
  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    Does anyone know Rockets has a playbook this year. Coach Sampson said they had none last year.

  • BrentYen says 1 YEAR ago

    I really hope it will not be the case on the offensive end...

    I don think both DH12 and Harden will want to hurt teams W/L record.

    However, I think they will competing for the alpha dog status of the team tho.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    Multiple PnR sets, with some pick and pop with Parsons as the pop man. Keep everybody moving quickly and look for good high percentage shots.

    What will happen = Howard posts up a lot. Harden ISO's a lot. We go down in offensive numbers. We increase defensively. We finish with close to the same record as last year.

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    I want to hear what system Rockets should use to optimize the talents we currently have.

  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago On paper Miami okc Chicago and San Antonio are the only teams that can match our top line talent, its just if mchale can get the pieces to fit and they avoid major injuries. Will be the most intriguing season since McGrady and Yao were around.
  • BrentYen says 1 YEAR ago

    Well, that been said, I think we are the only team that will need to change the most for the next season. Too many unknowns here compare to other western playoff teams.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    I look forward to it. I know that for me, anything less than a CLOSE loss in the WCF is a failure. They have enough talent to win it all and we'll see if they can put it all together.