- NBA Rank: 8
Conference Rank: 6
- Houston Rockets
When can we say a 54 win team underachieved? If you suspect they showed up hungover to a nationally televised game, that's one sign. If everyone you talk to at Sloan mentions immaturity as their biggest concern, that's another. If their franchise player is going to smoking bars in the middle of a first round series that they proceed to lose in an excruciating fashion, that's three.
On paper, we expected the Rockets to be the best team in the NBA last year. To be fair, we were only six wins off on our projection and they looked the part -- at times. They also , at times, looked like a college freshman at an open-bar frat party. If they can figure out how to get out of their own way, and if some of their roster bets pay off, this team could romp in the coming year.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This preview was written before last night's game between the Lakers and the Rockets.
In Harden, Jones and Howard,at 24, 22 and 28 respectively, the Rockets have a great young foundation on which to pin their future title hopes.
That's without talking about the departed Parsons, Lin and Asik combo. Throw in the fact that they were the one team that was a matchup nightmare for the Spurs, going 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 8 points, and the Ibaka injury for the Thunder, and Houston should be kicking themselves at wasting a golden opportunity at a banner.
|Chandler Parsons ||2783.0||25||.140||8.1|
|Jeremy Lin ||2054.0||25||.081||3.5|
|Omri Casspi ||1283.0||26||.110||2.9|
|Omer Asik ||968.0||28||.190||3.8|
|Aaron Brooks ||716.0||29||-.007||-.1|
|Jordan Hamilton ||349.0||23||.056||.4|
|Ronnie Brewer ||158.0||29||.054||.2|
|Greg Smith ||100.0||23||.097||.2|
Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.
There was some variance last year. Some of the players underperformed. Kevin McHale could never quite figure out what to do with Asik and Howard together, and they let Asik pout on the bench for an extended period. Beverley got hurt. Howard still looked limited from his back injury at times.
That said, in my heart of hearts, I truly believe this team could have won sixty games with some better coaching and leadership. It feels weird to actually type that.
|Trevor Ariza ||3.0||2182.6||30||.170||7.8|
|Jason Terry ||2.0||1312.1||37||.021||.6|
|Jeff Adrien ||4.0||1180.3||29||.160||4.0|
|Nick Johnson ||2.0||361.5||0||.058||.4|
|Joey Dorsey ||4.5||313.6||27||.221||1.4|
|Clint Capela ||4.0||294.0||0||.187||1.1|
|Kostas Papanikolaou ||3.5||258.6||0||.049||.3|
Indicates that the player is new to the team.
It's interesting that I feel this team got better in the offseason but the model projects that it got six wins worse. To be sure, losing Parsons and Lin hurt, but Ariza somewhat offsets that. A deeper look is required.
I love the addition of Ariza to this squad. He's a veteran prescence who's been to multiple Finals, knows Dwight and thrived in Washington in spite of questionable coaching. Jason Terry worries me the same way that Derek Fisher worried me when he was on the Thunder roster. As a veteran mentor, I can see his value. As a player? Not so much. Canaan and Garcia being prominently involved is not good. Clint Capela was my top ranked rookie and Joey Dorsey was top ten in Euroleague (hey Daryl! stop cribbing my notes!), but i suspect their minutes will be limited. It will be interesting to see if either of them breaks into a bigger role later in the season when coaches start going deeper into their benches as nagging injuries pile up.
That 49.5 win number for Vegas seems dead on for this squad. I don't trust McHale and I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't last the season. Given the rumblings I hear about Dwight being 100% healthy for the first time since he left Orlando and Harden actually trying on defense, I actually disagree with the model and think the over is slightly more likely.
At this point though, Houston needs to show it to me consistently on the court.