First I can't WAIT for the season to start. I remember being on this board discussing how awesome Kyle Lowry is and how we all hoped that Martin could give us most of what TMac gave us. It's amazing how much things have changed in such a short time. Anyway, preseason is just about over and I wanted to touch on the state of the team.
What I know:
Houston is extremely offensively versatile:
You could see shades of our beloved back to back champion Rockets during the first preseason game vs the Pelicans. Howard has been remarkably unselfish with the ball while trying to perfect the things he's learned from Hakeem. We were playing a team that couldn't match our size but could run with us for the most part, so you could see how our half court sets will work and it wasn't as pick and roll heavy as it had been last year. There was much more a focus on feeding and playing off the post (which I love). In the Indy games, with Hibbert and Dwight largely cancelling each other out, you saw more of the run and gun approach. We absolutely slaughtered them in transition. This team looks like it can grind it out, play up tempo... beat you in the post, or hoisting 3's. That versatility (and really, it's a meshing of traditional offense and our approach last year) is what I think makes this team really stand out.
Depth on top of depth:
Casspi has simply been a revelation. Most of us weren't 100% sure that he'd even make the team (per Red94 he hadn't looked well in practice leading into the games in Asia) and now he looks to be a key reserve. With a seasoned bench that is AT LEAST 9 deep (Bev/Lin, Garcia, Cisco, Asik... not sure what we're going to do to back up the 4.... more on that later) Houston should be able to stay fresh throughout the season. One of my biggest gripes about how our rotations were handled last year was that we simply played our starters too much. One of the big reasons for that was lack of trust from the coaching staff. Now we don't have a bunch of whipper snappers trying to prove they belong and learn on the fly, so I think McHale will more readily go to his bench and also go deeper into the bench.
Morey is a genius
I know we talk about this a lot, but it should never be forgotten, this man is quite possibly the best GM in the league and we're very fortunate to have him.
What I Think
All the talk about trading for a 4 should completely cease
I know it's fun to speculate about what we could get for Asik but there are 2 big things that I took away from the preseason. 1) We need defense and rebounding off the bench much more than we need ANOTHER shooter 2) the power forward that runs with the 4 will not get any touches. This may change as the year progresses and we start to see how units mesh and play together but the worst games of the preseason for both DMo and Jones have come when they started. One thing that most "big 3" teams have in common is their supporting cast is really weak (unless you have tons of vets taking less or they've just drafted exceptionally well) and when you look at our team, we have a really solid compliment of players (one of our biggest strengths). I think I'd rather be much better than average 1-10 than GREAT 1-3 and well below average 4-10
I like the Bev/Jones starting lineup... But I don't think who starts matters at the point
I think the Bev/Jones starting lineup gives that lineup good balance (defensive point, offensive 2, balanced 3, defensive/hustle point 4, and defensive/post threat 5) across the board and could turn out to have the best +/- of any unit on the team (should be up there for one for the tops in the league) and I like the idea of Lin being a spark off the bench (and his pick and rolls with Asik vs another teams bench players would just be murder). Honestly though, for Lin and Bev, you're going to see a lot of mixing and matching at the point, so the starter designation is almost meaningless. Jones and DMo are in for a bigger fight, because the one that doesn't win the starting spot (unless Asik is the starter, then this goes for the backup) isn't guaranteed any playing time if we decide to go small consistently. I think Jones has the edge, just because of his skill set, but DMo has played pretty well in the preseason (probably slightly better than Jones) so I guess we'll see. Kinda a side note, DMo played well versus Mahimi (sp?) so I wouldn't be shocked to see him play some backup 5 in certain matchups in a pinch.
For what it's worth, I've liked what McHale has done so far
The game plans have been flexible, rotations have been on point for the most part, and defense seems better.
What I hope
At the 4
I hope that we consistently go with a more traditional lineup. I think both Jones and DMo can contribute if they get consistent playing time and are given enough slack to work through some of the rough patches.
I hope the offense continues to mesh styles of play. I think we'll see less Harden Iso as we progress as they get more familiar with each other. Speaking on Harden, he's also one of the better entry passers on the team right now, and in that last Indy game it seems like he went out of his way to keep Dwight involved offensively. I'm thrilled to see that.
I could go on... and I'll probably pick this up again later, but for now work calls and I'd love to hear your input on the topics above. Leave a comment. Peace