Rockets Midseason Report

Franchise. - Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

A look at the Rockets at the halfway point in the season complete with stats, commentary, and a prediction at the end.

We're a little over the midway point in the season and the Houston Rockets sit at 22-21. The record is good enough for 8th place in the Western Conference and comes off the heels of the Rockets snapping a 7 game losing streak. The Rockets are currently third in the Southwest division three and a half games ahead of Dallas and four and a half games behind Memphis. The schedule Houston has faced to this point has been pretty brutal and for a team that wasn't complete until October 27, 2012 any fan should be able to tell you that hovering around .500 at this point is impressive. Let's go ahead and look at where the team stands today and what to watch for in the second half of the season.

Point Guards: Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverly, Toney Douglas

Points

Assists

Rebounds

Turnovers

Jeremy Lin

12

6

3.8

3

Patrick Beverly

6

1.8

2

1.4

Toney Douglas

8.4

2

1.8

1.3

The point guard role has been one of question in Houston. With James Harden's need to have the ball in his hands and his distribution the point guard is best left as a spot up shooter or scorer. Jeremy Lin was brought in as an excellent pick and roll player but that element of his game has been spotty at best this season. Anomaly games like San Antonio show a glimpse of how Jeremy can be on certain nights if he's your team's only option but that is unfortunately weighed against how invisible he has been throughout the season. There was a period where the Rockets were riding high in which Harden and Lin showcased how deadly the Rockets are when their backcourt is firing together. Thankfully over the course of the season, Jeremy cut down on his turnover numbers, something this writer had harped on earlier in the year. A stat not featured in the box above is Jeremy's two steals per game. I'm glad he's active on defense but I wish he would spend a little less time gambling lanes and more time fighting over screens.

Patrick Beverly has been quite the sparkplug as has Toney Douglas. It's not abundantly apparent what is happening at the back up point in Houston right now as Toney was playing well enough to warrant his playing time. The Rockets have managed to do a good job at finding a reserve point guard rotation that provides a great deal of hope, defense, and energy. Early in the season Toney Douglas reminded us all of why he was a joke in the league but as the season went on Douglas became a relatively pivotal part of the bench unit and Patrick Beverly has interjected himself in the conversation for time with his play of late as well.

The All-Star Break should present an opportunity for the point guards to get some energy back under their legs. I'm not convinced Jeremy's knee is at full strength and several interviews continue to allude to that fact. Our biggest bench concern revolved around who would spell Jeremy at the beginning of the season and thankfully that issue has been addressed. I don't expect Jeremy to revitalize Linsanity but I do fully expect his contributions to gel with Harden like we saw a few weeks ago. Patrick and Toney have created the bench version of the Kyle Lowry versus Aaron Brooks debate and that's a good debate to have when it comes to your bench point guard (Far more so than if it's between a bench guard and a starter). I actually look for the point guard position to be one of strength for this team down the stretch.

Shooting Guards: James Harden, James Anderson, Carlos Delfino

Points

Assists

Rebounds

Turnovers

James Harden

25.9

5.4

4.5

3.8

James Anderson

2.3

.7

1

.5

Carlos Delfino

10.5

2.3

3.3

1.4

The shooting guard spot is where we house our franchise cornerstone, James Harden. Harden was added to the roster on the evening of the NBA Season and forced Kevin McHale to overhaul the entire system. Thankfully, he was worth it as we have watched him storm out of the gate. Harden is streaky in a way but he's also fully aware of what he's doing. He knows this is his team (And for 80 million dollars over 5 years, there's no contest on that thought) and he exercises that responsibility. Is it frustrating on certain nights when he doesn't have his shot falling but he keeps working on putting points up? Absolutely. Is it something that will pay dividends long term? Without a doubt. I projected Harden to average 26/5/5 by the end of the year (Or about that) and he's on pace. The frustrating part of James Harden's game is the 3.8 turnovers a game but when that's offset by about 26 points and 5 assists, it's more palatable when the offense centers around him. Hopefully he cuts down on some risky passes but you take the good with the bad when you're preparing a guy to be the marquee player for a team.

The reserves on this list are basically a default and will cause some redundancy. Anderson was signed and has appeared in only two games out of the last five (For 2 minutes against the Clippers and 1 minute against the Pacers). Realistically the back up spot for James Harden goes to Toney Douglas or Carlos Delfino and Delfino plays the 3 as well. The rotation behind James Harden is in dire need of addressing in the offseason or at the trade deadline because Harden is logging 38.5 minutes per game and there is no realistic expectation that sort of pace is ok in any way.

Going forward Harden will most likely be Houston's first All-Star in the last few years and without the help of a rabid fan base that would have selected him for no reason whatsoever. His legs will be just as shot in the second half, however, if no sensible option emerges to spell him minutes. I don't want to see Harden get run into the ground but I wouldn't expect much else if the Rockets are in the playoff hunt as March comes to a close. Hopefully the trade deadline brings a back up shooting guard into the picture.

Small Forward: Chandler Parsons, Carlos Delfino

Points

Assists

Rebounds

Turnovers

Chandler Parsons

14.4

2.5

6

2

Carlos Delfino

10.5

2.3

3.3

1.4

Chandler Parsons has proven me wrong. It's that plain and simple. Parsons entered his second year and done a fantastic job of improving on his rookie season. He's one of the best value players in the NBA for production to pay purposes. He plays tough defense, rebounds well, scores with ease, and all of this is when he's tasked every night with defending the opposing team's best player. If ever there was a poster boy for trying to get the NBA to require four years of college before draft eligibility it's Chandler Parsons. He also shows a ridiculous amount of chemistry with the rest of the team and harmonizes things in a way that is visible on the court. I think before he hits the open market the Rockets should seriously consider looking at extending him. He provides too much of what you need to win a title and he's only 24. If you're looking at that sort of bargain you don't allow someone to take him away from you or to offer one of those poison pill contracts you dumped on New York or Chicago.

Carlos has been great spelling Chandler this season and his streaky shooting has bailed the Rockets out of a good deal of games this season. Carlos is our longest tenured NBA veteran and I think his production on the court and synergy with the rest of the roster says a lot about how welcoming and almost rejuvenating the locker room is. Delfino was brought in for defense and shooting and since the Rockets aren't much interested in defense he has ample opportunities for shooting.

I don't feel as though the Rockets need to make any significant moves at the small forward and I'm not noticing a particularly exhausted showing at the three, either. In any deal for a big name player Chandler Parsons is going to be the first name out of the other end of the receiver and unless there is a small forward around the age of 27 or so significantly better than Parsons, I think that call gets hung up quick.

Power Forwards: Marcus Morris, Patrick Patterson

Points

Blocks

Rebounds

Turnovers

Marcus Morris

8.8

.3

4.0

.9

Patrick Patterson

10.8

.6

4.6

1

I have a picture of an iguana farting in a bathtub for things like this. The power forward spot in Houston is a mess. Patrick Patterson isn't a fan of rebounding, nor is Marcus Morris. The difference here is effort. Morris is too small to rebound effectively and Patrick is too apathetic to do it. Both are floor spacers in their spare time and borderline defensive liabilities... Not borderline, absolute. About the only decent thing we can garner from the power forward situation this season is that Marcus Morris may not be a complete dumpster fire like we expected.

The Rockets desperately need to address the power forward position whether it be by interjecting Donatas Motiejunas or, my favorite, Terrence Jones into the lineup. Jones has the size and power to play the four at the NBA level with a decent mid range jumper and an instinct to attack the hoop. I'm not 100% comfortable that he has an NBA PF body, but at this point in time anything is better than nothing.

Center: Omer Asik, Cole Aldrich, Greg Smith

Points

Rebounds

Blocks

Turnovers

Omer Asik

10.3

11

1.1

2.3

Cole Aldrich

1.8

2

.3

.7

Greg Smith

5.8

4.4

.6

.4

The center position is one that Houston has pretty well taken care of on the front lines and pretty laughable after that. Omer Asik has come in and done exactly what was expected of him and even excelled, in this writer's opinion. Asik posts some of the best rebounding numbers in the NBA (Despite a recent drop off) and to the tune of an additional 10 points a game that we can all be thankful for it's nice production. A lot of readers called it that Asik would average a double double by virtue of the minutes he would play and the team around him and the readers were right. The Rockets got a bargain out of the big fella but let's hope he can correct his inconsistent play of late.

Behind Asik things get hazy As Xiane will tell you, Greg Smith needs to be the third option on offense because he's that good. He rebounds at a clip comparable to Patrick Patterson at the center position and blocks just about as many shots. A major part of this is just how his minutes come about but he's a man in the middle and I'd like to see him get more time. Cole Aldrich is a caricature of what a center is. More so than Hasheem Thabeet could have dreamed of. Cole is an expiring deal and I'm sure he tries so hard but I've never seen a man who cannot comprehend how to screen or that defense is not an option for a center, it's a requisite.

Long term I think Asik is still working on his conditioning considering he averaged 18 minutes a game in the playoffs for Chicago last year and that was his most until this season when that number more than doubled to 37 minutes per game. The Rockets need a back up center that's a bit more reliable but they could also be perfectly content to let Greg Smith continue development.

Verdict:

The Rockets are playing exactly like you'd expect a young squad. Inconsistent. There is defensive effort on some nights and there are a lot of defensive lapses on others. The Rockets are at or near 20 turnovers per game on a consistent basis and that needs to get cut down. When the Rockets rip off quarters without a turnover or limiting them to two we see a major turnaround in how this team operates. Right now the squad has a lot of question marks about where this roster is headed. Max cap room is available after the summer, we lose our draft pick if we make the playoffs this year, there is a trade deadline coming, and it's readily apparent that this is a pick and roll basketball team that needs more pick and roll play. Coach McHale has had a big task in front of him to learn on the fly and the team had the interim work of Kelvin Sampson while McHale tended to personal issues back in Minnesota.

It's important to keep everything in perspective when evaluating this team and that's something that gets lost in the passion of a season. The Rockets lost seven in a row and the fans we weary. This is a gassed team, a young team, and one that is giving James Harden the chance to be a franchise guy. Anyone who paid attention to the Rockets after the Ariza signing understands how painful it can be to let a guy acclimate. The real yield for this team is in next season. An offseason of work, training camps, a fix to the power forward position (Fingers crossed), and maybe even some time spent learning how to Lin, should all bode very well for this team. Having said that I'm putting my neck out there, hold me to it:

The Rockets sneak into the playoffs at with the 7th place in the Western Conference and sign Josh Smith or Paul Milsap to a 3 year deal in the offseason.

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