On Thursday night, the Warriors come to Houston to match up against the Rockets in the Toyota Center. As much as some loathe Daryl Morey's inclination to build depth, the face off between two depleted teams demonstrates the importance of carry capable back ups.
Both the Rockets and Warriors have lost their starting back courts in recent weeks. For the Rockets, Kyle Lowry is extremely sick and Kevin Martin strained his shoulder, while the Warriors traded away Monta Ellis and lost Steph Curry to a sprained ankle.
Now, filling in for the Rockets are Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee, two bench players that are almost matching the previous starter's respective production. For the Warriors, they get to enjoy Nate Robinson attempting to play point guard alongside a player in Klay Thompson who still seems better suited for a bench role. Needless to say, it's been a struggle.
On a night when the Warriors were to honor the always classy Chris Mullin by retiring his jersey, the fans took the opportunity to boo their owner mercilessly for the years of mediocrity that they've been subjected to.
The shower of boos was understandable for a team stuck in the mud, but they picked an odd time to do so. Losing Monta Ellis may hurt the team offensively, but ditching his contract and inefficiency for a tremendous defensive center in Andrew Bogut (once he gets healthy) was a worthwhile move. The team made a major upgrade for the future, and the fans still pelted their owner with boos. On top of that, to do that on a night dedicated to a beloved player like Chris Mullin was classless and inconsiderate to Mullin, whose night was apparently "ruined."
Here's the video:
Now that I'm done with my rant, let's get on to the rest of the preview. Match ups, injuries, and a prediction are after the jump!
PG: Goran Dragic vs. Nate Robinson
With Monta Ellis traded and Stephen Curry down with yet another ankle injury, Nate Robinson has seized the starting point guard spot. Robinson is fun to watch, but he is simply not a good point guard, and certainly no match for Goran Dragic.
I mentioned this last night and I'll mention it again—I can't see a scenario where both Dragic and Lowry are in Rockets' jerseys through next season. Perhaps the Rockets will retain Dragic only to trade him mid-season, but it's difficult to fit two players who are clearly starting caliber on one squad in this salary cap era.
SG: Courtney Lee vs. Klay Thompson
As was widely predicted this off-season, Klay Thompson has thrived in the Warriors system this year, putting himself near the top of his class. His shot is excellent, and his game seems to be developing nicely on other fronts.
Unfortunately for Thompson, Courtney Lee has been playing out of his mind lately. Even if Martin comes back against the Warriors, I can't see McHale pulling Lee from the starting lineup immediately. Look for Lee to play big minutes once again.
Another thing: Lowry and Dragic likely won't be sharing locker rooms next year, but it seems still undetermined which one will be gone. I can assure you that Martin and Lee will not last the season next year together, but it's pretty clear that Martin is the one on his way out.
Rocketsville has been inundated with adoration for Chandler Parsons over the past 36 hours. The tremendous defensive performance against Kobe and subsequent praise from the Black Mamba has given Parsons tremendous notoriety with the national media. His shot is starting to fall, and Parsons is looking more like a fixture in the starting lineup rather than a placeholder at this point. Simply a brilliant pick by Morey.
Ever since he joined the Warriors, Dorell Wright has thrived in the fast-paced, open floor system. He gets a ton of open shots and tends to make them. He may have regressed since last year, but he's still a very useful piece at the "3".
PF: Luis Scola vs. David Lee
Another prominent member of the New York Knicks' "lame duck" 09-10 team (along with Nate Robinson), David Lee found his way to Golden State by way of a sign-and-trade during the summer of 2010. His rebounding figures are not as ridiculous as they were in New York, but he has continued to score on the pick-and-roll, rebound fearlessly, and defend with no idea of what he's doing.
Despite Luis Scola's resurgence, which has seen him average nearly 18 points and 8 rebounds in the last ten games, Lee is still an upgrade over every Rockets fan's favorite Argentinian.
Going into the draft, many Rockets fans were calling for Morey and his front office to draft Jeremy Tyler, mostly because he was tall and can play center. We'd seen it before with Hassan Whiteside, Solomon Alabi, and Hasheem Thabeet; Rockets fans love any and all tall, athletic, and typically bad centers. This blind lust for big men is likely a symptom of Yao's unfortunate departure, but it doesn't make it any more reasonable.
The book on Jeremy Tyler is similar to that of other project centers that have come through the NBA in recent years. He's big, athletic, and shows a moderate amount of coordination (that differentiates him from Thabeet etc.), but is extremely immature and lacks court awareness. Had the Warriors' front court not imploded (I'm looking at you, Andris), perhaps he would not have been thrust into the starting role, but to his credit he has played above expectations.
Still, I'll take the vet Dalembert over him any day.
The Rockets have been limited by injuries, but the Warriors make their bench look like the 1996 Bulls. The Warriors had hoped to sign J.J. Hickson when he cleared waivers, but it appears as though the Blazers claimed him.
Rockets: Kevin Martin (shoulder) questionable, Kyle Lowry (bacterial infection) out
Warriors: Andrew Bogut (ankle) out, Andris Biedrins (groin) questionable (assuming out though)
Prediction: Rockets take this one, 109-97
Be sure to get in on TCWHRO's contest by leaving your prediction in the comment sections. The details for the game are here.