I like to write a post-preseason-preview of the season, as opposed to the typical preseason ones issued in the dead basketball time that is the start of the NFL season. I will start off with a short preview for the TL;DR folks who want to skip the roster breakdown which is the meat of the post. I have been a diehard rockets fan since TMAC joined the team (I was 11, and could not get enough of the injury-prone star's exciting game, he could do it all) but was fed a steady diet of watching the Dream shake his way past defenders from a very young age. I haven't been this excited for the start of a season since 2008, which was the last time I was naive enough to believe the TMAC/Yao pairing would bring a title to clutch city, but it isn't just about how good I think the Rockets are.
I think we are looking at what may be a defining season in the NBA. So many teams are loaded with talent in the west and the east, and this insanely loaded Rockets team could very well make the playoffs as the 4 seed and still be completely playing up to their potential. The Thunder are strong as always, although it will be interesting to see how the blowback off of the big prediction from Jalen Rose in the Grantland previews will affect the team (If you haven't watched those previews by the way, get on it, they are fantastic). I think the Grizzlies will be an issue for every western conference team except the Rockets, but we will have issues matching up with teams who do play us small ball. The Warriors are the team I am expecting us to have a classic WCF series with and honestly cannot make a call there, its all about how well Curry's shooting and how much Klay Thompson has improved, not to mention the Rockets but I will be getting into that later. Everyone says Barnes is the x-factor on that team, he is key, but in my book its the young 2 guard in GS. Of course, you have the perennial big dog in San Antonio, I think this is the year their age catches up to them but I have also said that for the last 2 seasons so it's more of a hope then an opinion because you just never can tell until the playoffs start with timmy d. In the East, You have the Heat, Pacers, Bulls and Nets. I think the regular season finishes in that order record-wise, once the playoffs hit I think the Net's take off and make the championship for the first and only year until they re-tool. My dark horse team out there is Charlotte, ive seen a lot of love for the wizards and as usual a lot of hate for the Bobcats (deserved so far, they really have been jokes) but I like the Kemba Walker-Al Jefferson pairing and think that team might have the ability to surprise some people. Anyway, on to our Rockets.
I am predicting the West to finish like so (barring serious injury to any key players):
In Depth preview:
I think we slow our pace down, but still average roughly 105 ppg. The biggest piece will be seeing our rebounding numbers improve, and just as we were setting records last year with our 3 pt shooting, I think we have similar success rebounding this year. Rebounding not only gains a possession, but it forces the other team to lose a possession as my old high school coach used to say,a rebound is a steal for a big man. This will lead to one of the larger point differentials in favor of the rockets at the end of the season, and will be a big reason we do as well as I am predicting we do. I loved seeing Asik and Dwight shutting down the lane on defense against the Grizzlies, obviously not a solution for every team, but a very good option to have when playing post-heavy teams (Im seeing this as being an issue for the Spurs and Pacers as well) I believe Asik will be our starting center, dwight obviously playing power forward and then we quickly take Asik out after the first few minutes to go small with Beverly, Lin, Harden, Parsons Howard OR Beverly Harden Parsons Casspi Howard depending on the other teams length on their wing players. We will still be ultra-efficient, shooting 3s and attacking the basket, just doing it much more effectively with Dwight rolling. Dont forget that while he possessed some very frustrating stone hands, Asik was more then serviceable running that position all of last season and it looks like Dwight wants to find him down low when defenses collapse on him. That being said, I have been very disappointed that either jones or dmo have not played well enough to take the starting PF job away from him. I love Asik and was decrying the Rockets leadership a few months ago when we first started chasing howard (Ill eat crow on this one, fantastic move), but having a 4 that can spread the court out a bit to get some lanes for parsons harden and lin would be tremendous for this offense. DMO looked like he might be a good player off the bench, he is still young and may still play himself into a starting lineup in the next season or two, but if we start him this year expect our defense to seriously suffer. All of that aside, playing Asik is not necessarily a bad thing. Both Howard and Asik are athletic and quick, Howard looks more fluid and is more renowned for his athleticism but anyone who watched Asik last year knows the big fella can move. The key that I bring up here is the rebounding rate. while they will take each other rebounds on some occasions, I dont know how other teams expect to have more then double digit boards in any game (slight exaggeration, you see my point). Thats not even factoring in the point guard who will probably finish with double doubles in points and rebounds (Bev) if he sees starter minutes. Not only will we shut down the lane, but I think Beverly is the perfect point guard to play with the twin towers out there because he plays the best perimeter defense on our whole team. Harden and Howard will score, we dont NEED Lin out there to fill it up, I think Beverly is the right option. That being said, I am probably one of the few people in the camp of, 'Who really cares who we start at the 1? Both guys have huge advantages and neither will lose us games.' I think we should start Bev against better scoring point guards who stand a chance of hurting us and he should get the majority of the minutes while the offense runs through Harden and Howard and when we play teams that have a weaker Point, we start Lin and reap the benefits of the improved offense. I will say this: As has been seriously over-quoted this year, we need not worry about offense with Harden and parsons on the floor. Let's help fix our defense by starting Bev, allow Lin to still be a scoring point guard which is the role he relishes with either the first or second unit depending on the matchups. We are in the pleasant position of having too many good options, instead of worrying about how we can figure out a way to play 6 guys on the floor at once, let's force teams to adjust to us by having different personnel in games. I loved the chemistry I saw from our guys this preseason, If we keep this play up with our starting unit we could very well be hanging another banner in H-town this season.