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Who’s the Power Forward? 2013 Edition

The Rockets have their roster. The Rockets have their two all-star-caliber players. The Rockets have a starting-quality backup center and a roster that should support the starters very nicely. It seems like all those questions have been asked in the off-season, and all that’s left is to see if the team works as well on the court as on paper. Except there’s one problem. The same problem as last year. The constant, strange question that Houston can’t seem to shake. Who’s the main power forward for the team?

It’s possible that the Rockets start Ömer Aşık next to Dwight Howard. The Howard/Aşık situation has been discussed infinitely, and only time will show us the answer. Whether they start together or not, Ömer Aşık isn’t a power forward, and he isn’t going to log long minutes at that position. Barring an 11th hour trade, one of Houston’s current players is going to be the go-to 4 next to Dwight Howard and Ömer Aşık.

The rest of the starters have been easily nailed down. Jeremy Lin at the point, James Harden at shooting guard, Chandler Parsons on the wing at the three, Dwight Howard down low. But even if Ömer Aşık is given a starting nod to acknowledge his ability if nothing else, Houston needs a primary Power Forward, just like they did last year. And the seemingly eternal logjam in that rotation has somehow only gotten worse, even after moving three of the players involved in the last year.

In fact, The whole rotation of the past couple seasons, Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, and Marcus Morris, have been moved. Thomas Robinson, a product of the Patterson and Morris trade, has been moved in the off-season. As the crowd thins, the question looms even larger. There are still a lot of big men and not a lot of minutes for them, and they look similar in skill. This question has to be answered, and soon, if head coach Kevin McHale want to scratch the Western Conference Finals.

So let’s assume that Ömer Aşık won’t be starting. He probably won’t be. And even if does, he won’t be playing most of his minutes at power forward. We’re looking for the starting 4, and Aşık isn’t in the running. Who is in the running? Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejūnas, Greg Smith and Robert Covington. Additionally, Chandler Parsons, Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi may log some minutes as the second tallest player on the floor. That’s a discussion for another day, however, as smallball options don’t so much put a wing player in as a big so much as they replace a big position with a wing. This is about 4s and only 4s.

Terrence Jones has been earning himself respect at early practice, and looked like the most likely candidate. His defense has reportedly been gelling with the new roster, and his offense was already functional in Houston’s system. He can hit some threes, though not at a good rate. That’s a skill he can improve, so that’s not a large concern. He’s eager and adept at putbacks and other garbage cleanup around the rim, which is likely going to be his only other role on offense. With Dwight seeking post touches, Houston doesn’t strongly need a second option down low.

His defense, then, remains the question mark. If it’s indeed as improved as reports indicate, he’s a shoo-in for that starting spot. Reports, however, have reason to be doubted. Playing against his teammates in controlled scrimmages is easier than dealing with Zach Randolph in a playoff run. Players and staff in the Rockets organization also have little reason to relate any negatives to the press, so there are many unknown unknowns. Be that as it may, Jones looked the most NBA-ready of the rookies last season, and that hopefully can translate to a solid sophomore year. He recently got in trouble with the law in Portland, reportedly for assault against a homeless man. These troubles may put a damper on his season, but Houston seldom has public relations issues. Don’t buy stock in people talking about it come December.

The most veteran presence in the group is Greg Smith, who’s so old he’s already played two seasons in the NBA. Along with Chandler Parsons, he’s the only player left from the lockout-shortened season in 2012. He’s always been very effective on offense, sneaking into cracks and exploiting pick and rolls to find a lane to the basket. His offense is one dimensional, but effective. He’s got amazing hands for a big man, easily catching hot passes inside. He’s profited from James Harden and Jeremy Lin, and got himself a bit of a following last season.

The downside of Smith is that he overlaps with Howard and Aşık. He may have better hands and a better finish than Aşık, but their offense comes in similar situations. Smith doesn’t have a jumper to spread the floor, and he doesn’t have world-class defense.

Smith is liable to get greatly reduced minutes, owing to this. Any time he’s on the floor with Howard or Aşık are minutes they could be on the floor together with little offensive loss. Smith’s defense is leagues worse than either, and Howard and Aşık both command more respect and deserve more minutes. Greg Smith may become a luxury more than a weapon moving forward, unless the roster is shaken up significantly.

Donatas Motiejūnas, then, stands to profit. In all likelihood, the starting spot is Jones’ to lose, but Motiejūnas’ to win. Motiejunas has a bit of a three point shot as well, making him an option next to either center on offense. His shooting is similarly questionable to Jones’, but similarly fixable. Where Motiejūnas shows promise is in the post, where he was Houston’s only real option until this July. Strangely, this strength might play him out of a starting position.

With Dwight Howard seeking to make points in the post, having a second post player is slightly redundant. More importantly, it’s very useful  to make sure there’s always a post threat on the floor. Motiejūnas isn’t highly skilled yet, but he’ll make progress. Being able to run similar plays between starters and bench means having similar skill sets on the floor. The bench group, then, needs at least a credible post threat for Beverley or Brooks to pass the ball into. Ömer Aşık is not that threat, though he’s tried. Donatas Motiejūnas can do that job, and be the backup big next to Ömer Aşık.

Where does this leave Robert Covington? Glued to the bench, most likely. In fact, he may not even make the final roster, once the Rockets have to pare down to fifteen players. In last year’s situation of looking for potential, he may have had a chance. This season is the beginning of a “win now” period, and Covington is a flyer with a wing and a prayer. He may just show amazing flashes, but at best he’d confuse the rotation even more.

So there might be some sense of order in the power forward rotation this year after all. Betting on Jones playing next to Howard and Motiejunas next to Ömer Aşık off the bench may be reasonable. Of course Greg Smith might just outplay either or both of them as a wild card. Or the twin towers might prove so good on offense that Howard effectively becomes the starting four. So I guess what I’m saying is that like every year, nobody has any idea what the Rockets will do with their forwards.

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Total comments: 20
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    There was a stretch in Steve Francis' rookie year when Matt Bullard and Carlos Rogers were the starting 4 and 5.

    ...

    no doubt those were some dark days :lol:

  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago Lamar odom is beyond washed up.
  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    Beverley uses his quickness to make himself a great defender and we can all agree Garcia did a pretty good job on durant so I would call it defensive minded.

    Bev also used his aggressiveness which produced mixed result. He ain't a great defender. Just good.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I didnt realise his spot-up 3% was so good, otherwise i definately would have referenced that. I only suggested mid-range, because it means that teams at least have to respect his ability to shoot it, i wasnt suggesting he should actually shoot from mid that much. I think his versatility on D is more important than his actual ability, if you know what i mean. The fact that he can guard 3s 4s and some 5s is more of a selling point, than his actual prowess in defending any of those individual positions. It should just help us avoid mis-matches, and also help create them.

    I have to agree i don't see him coming to houston at all, i was just suggesting it might be an interesting idea.

    I wouldn't touch odom......bad locker room presence and his game has declined badly. he is no longer the force he use to be. he would only be competing for time with players who are better than him so most likely he will spend all season on the pine

  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago

    I love Beverley's energy on the defensive end, but he's an average defender, not great.

    Garcia did a pretty good job but Durant but got alot of help, and Durant still averaged 32.5 pts 7.8 rebs 6 ast so it's not a strong case you're making. The idea that these 2 guys will negate D-Mo's defensive short comings just makes no sense to me, sorry.

    Garcia was defending Durant after westbrook went down and every thunder game plan became give the ball to Durant. So for the most elite scorer who is scoring for his entire team and you held him to 33 points. Not bad and if you look at Durant's efficiency, it went way down because he was missing a lot of shots.

    For an article on the 2nd unit

    http://houstonbias.blogspot.com/2013/07/rockets-second-team-key.html?showComment=1375578388807

  • areteejay789 says 1 YEAR ago

    I didnt realise his spot-up 3% was so good, otherwise i definately would have referenced that. I only suggested mid-range, because it means that teams at least have to respect his ability to shoot it, i wasnt suggesting he should actually shoot from mid that much. I think his versatility on D is more important than his actual ability, if you know what i mean. The fact that he can guard 3s 4s and some 5s is more of a selling point, than his actual prowess in defending any of those individual positions. It should just help us avoid mis-matches, and also help create them.

    I have to agree i don't see him coming to houston at all, i was just suggesting it might be an interesting idea.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Even though the roster is full, i think Lamar Odom would fit in with the team really well... Hes a decent mid-range shooter, can handle the ball if needed, and a fair rebounder. He can take charge of all of the stretch 4s we play against, (unlike omer or dwight). Hes basically a veteran, less athletic, better ball handling Terrence Jones. I know we have a load of big men right now, but i think Odom would be an interesting addition to the team... He would also mean we could package a younger big-man with Jeremy Lin and trade for a better fitting PG...

    Funny how you mention his mid-range shooting (which is not a good selling point imo) and basically everything possible other than his defense (his best selling point). I guess Odom doesn't have much of a reputation for being a very good defender, but he is, and even though he has lost athleticism he's at his best defensively now because he's a smarter defender than he used to be.

    In addition to his defense, another great selling point is his ability to knock down open 3's, he knocked down 37.7% of his spot-up 3's last season so don't let his regular 3pt percentage stop you from selling him as a 3pt shooter. On the Rockets, he will get alot more wide open shots. It's just a shame I don't see him coming to Houston anytime soon.

  • areteejay789 says 1 YEAR ago

    Even though the roster is full, i think Lamar Odom would fit in with the team really well... Hes a decent mid-range shooter, can handle the ball if needed, and a fair rebounder. He can take charge of all of the stretch 4s we play against, (unlike omer or dwight). Hes basically a veteran, less athletic, better ball handling Terrence Jones. I know we have a load of big men right now, but i think Odom would be an interesting addition to the team... He would also mean we could package a younger big-man with Jeremy Lin and trade for a better fitting PG...

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Beverley uses his quickness to make himself a great defender and we can all agree Garcia did a pretty good job on durant so I would call it defensive minded.

    I love Beverley's energy on the defensive end, but he's an average defender, not great.

    Garcia did a pretty good job but Durant but got alot of help, and Durant still averaged 32.5 pts 7.8 rebs 6 ast so it's not a strong case you're making. The idea that these 2 guys will negate D-Mo's defensive short comings just makes no sense to me, sorry.

  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago

    There was a stretch in Steve Francis' rookie year when Matt Bullard and Carlos Rogers were the starting 4 and 5.

    ...

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I agree if we keep Asik, but we'll see how long that lasts. As for Beverley and Garcia, they are either average or slightly above average defensively so I wouldn't throw the "defensive minded" label on them.

    I would. they have both proved to be a disruptive force (IMO). I sure with greater sample size this coming year they will prove their value

  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago


    Beverley uses his quickness to make himself a great defender and we can all agree Garcia did a pretty good job on durant so I would call it defensive minded.


    Garcia and Beverly are not by any means of evaluation anymore than slight + defenders if asik is there the overall defense would most likely be good enough for stretches but is not the bulls or anything
  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago


    I agree if we keep Asik, but we'll see how long that lasts. As for Beverley and Garcia, they are either average or slightly above average defensively so I wouldn't throw the "defensive minded" label on them.

    Beverley uses his quickness to make himself a great defender and we can all agree Garcia did a pretty good job on durant so I would call it defensive minded.
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I agree if we keep Asik, but we'll see how long that lasts. As for Beverley and Garcia, they are either average or slightly above average defensively so I wouldn't throw the "defensive minded" label on them.

  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago

    I think Terrence Jones is the better player, but D-Mo might be the better fit to start because Dwight will absorb D-Mo's defensive deficiencies and rebounding deficiencies like he did with Ryan Anderson. On the other hand, Jones is more suited to come off the bench to help Dwight's back-up (Asik for now, but I think Morey will get an offer he can't refuse sooner or later) fill Dwight's enormous shoes.

    Honestly demo should be more effective on the 2nd unit due to the fact that Beverley, asik, and Garcia are all defensive minded players. That being said he can work to his strengths as a scorer and #1 option off the bench while if he was a starter he would become redundant with all the scorers in the starting lineup. Jones would better balance out the defense on the starting lineup since our guards decide not to play D sometimes.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    Wow. I can remember the YEARS where we couldn't find a big to save our life. Especially a center. Now we have 2 allstar centers and a slew of legit power forwards. This is a great problem to have.

    Does anyone recall the Kenny Thomas days?

    Tell Kelvin Cato we want our money back.

    Chuck and Scola?

    Deke was really or last true big man.

    It's an exciting time to be a Houston Rockets fan.

    for those of us who endured the bad times......this is exciting. totally agree with your view......this is what being a fan is all about

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I think Terrence Jones is the better player, but D-Mo might be the better fit to start because Dwight will absorb D-Mo's defensive deficiencies and rebounding deficiencies like he did with Ryan Anderson. On the other hand, Jones is more suited to come off the bench to help Dwight's back-up (Asik for now, but I think Morey will get an offer he can't refuse sooner or later) fill Dwight's enormous shoes.

  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago

    Wow. I can remember the YEARS where we couldn't find a big to save our life. Especially a center. Now we have 2 allstar centers and a slew of legit power forwards. This is a great problem to have.

    Does anyone recall the Kenny Thomas days?

    Tell Kelvin Cato we want our money back.

    Chuck and Scola?

    Deke was really or last true big man.

    It's an exciting time to be a Houston Rockets fan.

    Ya we are one of the largest teams in the game compared to the clippers who only have a couple guys over 6 "9"

  • bboley24 says 1 YEAR ago

    Wow. I can remember the YEARS where we couldn't find a big to save our life. Especially a center. Now we have 2 allstar centers and a slew of legit power forwards. This is a great problem to have.

    Does anyone recall the Kenny Thomas days?

    Tell Kelvin Cato we want our money back.

    Chuck and Scola?

    Deke was really or last true big man.

    It's an exciting time to be a Houston Rockets fan.

  • Buckko says 1 YEAR ago

    I would say Jones is starting because he can hit the 3, rebound, plays good D, and a Jack of Trades figure. While Demo has a much better shooting stroke and a good post game could be our leading scorer off the bench in a defense dominate 2nd unit with Beverley,Asik, and Garcia. Smith might be stuck in 3rd string purgatory for PF and C.

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