Well folks, John Hollinger has put together his prediction for the Houston Rockets heading into the season. For those of you looking for the quick and dirty, he predicts them to go 27-55 and wind up 13th in the Western Conference. For those of you who are interested in this (or any, really) writer's reaction to Hollinger's prediction continue forward. I'll take a look at Hollinger's views and add in my own conjecture before concluding whether or not I agree.
First, John goes ahead and calls Jeremy Lin the real deal. He explains that Jeremy will indeed thrive in Houston similar to how he thrived under Pringles in New York. Hollinger praises the fact that Lin does the high value things that teams need (draws fouls, gets assists around the rim, steals, and rebounds). This is very plainly dead on. The preseason has shown that even though Lin has yet to can a three pointer and posted a dreadful field goal percentage, Jeremy is fierce on the defensive end, attacks the rim aggressively, and finds his teammates in the right spots. What is missed from Mr. Hollinger's analysis comes next, however.
John explains that Lin won't have much help. He lauds Asik's ability to anchor the defense but brings up Omer's offensive shortcomings. Granted, in my post about Asik I offered my same misgivings about the seven-foot-Turk's offense but the preseason has given me some different perspective. I didn't expect Jeremy to make the game so effortless for the big fella around the rim (Even with my projected 12 PPG for Omer). I think Hollinger sells short the youngsters and relies on Asik's reputation as a stone-handed big man.
Hollinger calls upon a return to the 2010-2011 Kevin Martin for the offense to produce much of anything. The Rockets are largely different from last year but taking a look at the young players in town shows that maybe John only got a cursory glance at the Rockets. Terrence Jones appears NBA ready now and has impressed everyone in the preseason. Omer has shown a pretty great deal of offensive intensity (Both keeping plays alive and finishing plays at the rim). Chandler Parsons, Houston's Bro-Extraordinaire, has shown a long range shot he didn't have last season and looks like he has built on his promising rookie campaign. Jeremy Lamb has been cold-blooded since Summer League and has the length to be a dirty all around player in Houston. Jeremy has shown he will validate his contract. The only question marks I place on this roster are the power forward and the center position. That will come as a shock to most that our roster comprised of roughly 10 PFs in the active 12-man roster is a weak spot but I feel it is. Motiejunas looks like he'll spend time in RGV as he keeps working to put the NBA Game together. Royce White is a question mark for his contributions and the bus experiment. Patrick Patterson has a long reclamation project in front of him.
The thrust of this comes down to whether or not anyone in our crop of power forwards will emerge as a justifiable starter in the NBA. More so the most critical development Houston needs to see this year is Donatas Motiejunas. Someone will need to log back up center minutes and the seven-foot Lithuanian is a prime candidate once he adjusts to the NBA. The second unit actually looks to be able to play solid basketball as well. Livingston has shown he can still orchestrate an offense and Delfino is the streaky shooter we signed him to be. All this is relevant because Hollinger doesn't expect anyone on this team other than Lin and Martin to post a league average PER. He does predict Asik to post a net positive because of his defense, but does not extend compliments any further. Among the wreckage left of this roster post-Dwightmare I really have a hard time disputing the results with Hollinger. Two exceptions do come to mind but I can't blame John for missing them. Terrence Jones and Chandler Parsons. Parsons has shown to be a veritable swiss-army knife of a player in his first year and early showings suggest he may be able to continue this momentum (And I really want to see that). Jones shows all the tools to at least come across as an average NBA player in the PER department. I don't even want to put that kind of restriction on him as I expect even better from his rookie campaign, honestly.
The other odds and ends to the article are that John expects Martin to be traded because a return to form for Martin offensively would mean the ball is out of Jeremy Lin's hands. I had expected us to be without Kevin generally but didn't consider the basketball ramifications of it. Since he brought up the point, I actually agree with it. The team is oriented towards abusing Jeremy Lin's wonderful pick and roll ability and the less time the ball is in his hands, the worse we are. This was really on display last night against the Hornets when it started to surface that Martin and Lin had poor chemistry and Martin's decision making became suspect when he was handling the ball.
The overall prediction of 27-55 (Barring any significant trade) I think is a fair one for this Rockets team. What do we expect? We gutted our roster, patchworked together what we could to field a team that has something other than power forwards, and we're a young team who is going to take a lot of shots on the chin and learning to win and to lose in the NBA. I think the Rockets do have a good veteran presence in Carlos Delfino that will help to keep perspective on the season. I'm interested in seeing who Kevin Martin is moved for at the deadline (Knowing our luck, a late pick and a couple of young prospects who we don't expect to pan out with non-guaranteed deals). Finishing 13th in the West would be a blessing considering our need for a miserable year and a high pick.
Sound off in the comments as to how you feel about Hollinger's assessment of this roster and its future and my comments. I want to know how you feel about the prosect of a sub-30 win season. For me, if it lands us that centerpiece, I'll gladly eat the losses.