Powering through the Rockets’ Forwards

In recent NBA times, defining the power forward and center positions has been about as simple and clear as corporate tax code. Tim Duncan is apparently a power forward, while Mehmet Okur and Andrea Bargnani hoist three’s from the center position and Brad Miller passes out of the high post and looks cool in a headband.

For the Rockets, this ambiguity is not lost as the great fall of the giant man meant the team’s starting center was shorter than its shooting guard. Left to make sense of this mess, Kevin McHale’s starting line-ups next season are likely to be as consistent as Brandon Jennings’ jump-shot.

For the purposes of this lockout-(un)inspired task I’ve set myself upon, I’ve chosen three of the Rockets roster of post men to designate as Power Forwards.

trans Powering through the Rockets ForwardsLuis Scola

Let’s start with all there is to love about Scola’s game, because there really is quite a bit. Crafty doesn’t begin to describe his offensive contributions. While I’m not sure that I’ve ever actually seen him dunk, he scores around the basket with sneaky (scoopy) ease. When open, he has an effective jumper from the elbow and even rebounds a little. He excels at the fast break despite his ploddy sort of gait and had a career high water mark last season in PER at 18.43.

But then there’s the matter of his defense, which last year even seemed to lack the (often still ineffectual) effort he’d shown in previous seasons. Frankly, it was pretty much embarrassing to watch the man play on that half of the court, but if you watched the games, I’m telling you something you already know.

It’s obvious to everyone that if the season started tomorrow with the Rockets’ current roster that Houston’s favorite caveman should be the starting power forward. This is not even a question. He’s earned his place. But what he’s also earned in my estimation is a trade to a contending team, not because of his bad defense or anything negative about his play, but precisely because of the heart and effort he’s given to the team and to the city over the past four years. Scola will turn 32 before the end of this upcoming season and doesn’t deserve to languish away his remaining effective basketball years on a rebuilding franchise.

Patrick Patterson

Patterson started four of the five games Scola missed this past March with a knee injury, and while the first of the four wasn’t especially memorable, he posted double-doubles in the next three, notably putting up 18 and 12 with 4 blocks on 67% shooting in a drubbing of the Celtics at home. I remember at the time halfway hoping that Scola might decide to rest his sore knee for a few more games just so we could see what the kid could do.

A smart defender and efficient scorer, P-Pat didn’t seem intimidated by the NBA level of play. The usual rookie growing pains weren’t at all evident in the Kentucky star’s introduction as he managed a double-double in his first significant minutes in December. The relevant question it seems is how much he will improve on these initial efforts. His game already seems so polished that I genuinely wonder what more he has to offer. The good news for the Rockets is that even if Patterson simply continues his current, consistent production, he’ll be a valuable asset to the team moving forward.

Donatas Montiejunas

Montiejunas is a 7-footer who plays like a shooting guard: dribbles a lot, likes to face up and shoot the three, doesn’t rebound or play defense. He’s apparently very confident, and also apparently really loves eagles. If any of this scares you, it probably should. He certainly has a lot of (particularly offensive) potential, but he also has quite a lot of potential to massively (ok, maybe not so massively; he was taken 20th in the draft) flame out. Hopefully, Kevin McHale has a quality stash of magical big-man dust, because it looks like this kid might need it.

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