Wednesday, October 30th is almost upon us and it can't get here any faster. It's been over 4 months since we've seen an NBA game which actually matters, t's been over 125 days since the Heat beat the Spurs in the NBA finals, and it's been way too damn long since we've seen Rocket's basketball.
These 4 months without basketball haven't been quiet though, they've been dominated by the story of Dwight Howard leaving LA to come to Houston (Suck it LA). No team has made a bigger jump this offseason than the Rockets and it's all due to the signing of D12. With that said, here are my 12 BIG predictions for this Rocket's season and further into the future:
1. Daryl Morey will make at least 1 trade
Daryl Morey isn't done making moves, hell he probably won't ever be done making moves, so to think he's content with signing Dwight and riding with the team he has now is crazy! Morey is always looking to either improve the roster or to create more cap flexibility and there's plenty of ways he can do so.
The first and most obvious would be to trade Omer Asik for a power forward. Omer is too good of a player on too big of a contract to have on the bench behind Dwight Howard. If the Rockets were to trade him, they could bring in a player who can make more of an impact for a win now mindset. The second option for trades that Morey has is any of the young players on the roster (Jones, Motiejunas, Canaan, Smith, and Covington). We've seen Morey move his 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year players for second round picks in the past (Marcus Morris and Royce White for example) and all the players listed can be moved and moved easily.
Lastly (and yall will hate me for this) is the slight chance Morey decides to move Chandler Parsons. Chandler Parson's contract makes him one of the most valuable players in the NBA since he'll be paid less than a million dollars this year and next. Teams who are looking to offload superstars (Kevin Love and Lamarcus Aldridge possibly) will listen to a deal for Chandler, some young players, and picks. With all the assets at Morey's hand, don't put it past him to make a trade sooner rather than later.
2. Jeremy Lin will start every regular season game and shine
Out of every player on the Rockets, I'm most excited to see Jeremy Lin. We're over a year removed from Linsanity and I think it's time to re-evaluate our expectations of our point guard. He's a 3rd year player with a strong chance of being an above average point guard. Last year began slow for him due to injuries, but as the season went on Lin started to embrace and thrive in his role. He was shooting higher percentages, defending better, and was attacking the lane with confidence.
With the addition of Dwight Howard in the pick-and-roll, Lin will see even more space in the paint. Jeremy was one of the best pick-and-roll point guards with somewhat offensively challenged bigs in Omer Asik and Tyson Chandler, so you can only imagine what the possibilities are with Dwight. It's time for Lin to take the load of being the ignition and 3rd option on offense, and I'm thinking he'll play well to the tune of 16ppg/7.5apg/2rpg.
Author's Note: Looks like I'm starting the season off 0-1 with this one. Jonathan Feigen reported that Beverley will enter the season starting.
Editor's Note: Allen submitted this piece a few days ago. This prediction looks a little worse now.
3. Omri Casspi will be the most effective power forward on the roster
This preseason probably saved Omri's career as an NBA player. The Rockets were the the only team willing to give him a chance and there was a lot of speculation right before the preseason started he was going to be gone in the first round of cuts. Well, he wasn't cut and went on to torch teams on the nightly (he has scored 20, 17, 13, 6, and 10 in 5 preseason games). Plus, during the preseason when Dwight shared the court with 4 shooters the Rockets scored 124.4 points per 100 possessions and only allowed 90.3. Those are astronomical numbers.
Not only did he score, he rebounded as well! He averaged slightly over 6 rebounds a game in the preseason, a skill needed to start at the power forward position. His well-rounded balance of shooting, defense, and rebounding paired with his role in the offense should allow for him to have a breakout season. Don't be surprised if he ends up starting in the playoffs (and when he does you heard it here first).
4. Donatas Motiejunas will not be a Rocket after this season
I don't know how it will happen, but it will. All those stories you've heard about Donatas bulking up and becoming a new player, forget about them. Donatas has shown very little signs of improvement this preseason. He's still getting bullied by bigger players, he still can't rebound, and he still fouls like a maniac. I don't see it getting any better anytime soon. Expect for him to be cut or traded for scraps after or during this season.
5. Dwight Howard will win Defensive Player of the Year
Dwight is 2 years removed from his last defensive player of the year season in 2011, which marked his third season in a row winning the award. This year he goes back to being the best defensive player in the league. Analysts loved to rip Dwight for his defense last year despite his injuries, but in actuality he wasn't that bad!
Statistically speaking, Dwight allowed a lower Points Per Possession last year than in his 2010-2011 defensive player of the year season. He has also improved greatly against post players, only allowing .58 points per possession, good for 8th in the league last year. With a fully healthy season hopefully in front of him, the Defensive Player of the Year award is Dwight's to lose.
6. The Rocket's will end the season top 4 in offensive efficiency
This is as much of a lock as I can think of. Last year the Rockets ranked 6th behind Miami, Oklahoma City, New York, LAC, and Denver. With Denver being the shipwreck that it is (more on this later) and Oklahoma City dealing with the loss of Martin and the injury to Westbrook, it seems to be a sure thing that the Rockets move into the top 4. The addition of Dwight and giving everyone another year of experience in the NBA doesn't hurt either. Trust me, this offense is going to be a machine.
7. The Rocket's will in the season top 10 in defensive efficiency
Last year the Rockets finished exactly in the middle of the league in defensive efficiency, ranking 16th. This was a surprising find, as I expected it to be a lot lower, it seemed like some teams scored on us with relative ease every possession, but this year, that's not happening. McHale can have either Dwight Howard (the best defensive player in basketball) or Omer Asik manning the paint at all times during the game.
Morey brought back Beverley and Garcia who were huge defensively in the playoffs last year and since Lin, Harden, and Parsons won't have to carry as much of the offensive load they can focus more on their individual defense. Combining a top 4 offense with a top 10 defense will make for the Rockets to be scary team over the next 3+ years.
8. Daryl Morey WON'T win Executive of the Year
I wrote about last year's vote here and how the voters annually disrespect Daryl Morey in the voting. Things aren't changing anytime soon, as long as other executives vote on who will win, Morey won't. Some GMs hate giving stats based front offices any credit and it'll probably stay that way for awhile.
Last year he clearly deserved it over Masai Ujiri (who ended up jumping ship along with half the front office). This year isn't any different, so you can expect someone like Gary Sacks or Larry Bird to lead the voting with Daryl Morey finishing third or fourth. We all know who should win it though.
Conspiracy Theory: Half the general managers in the league won't vote for Daryl because they're butthurt about him swindling them at some point in the past.
9. James Harden will not match his 26/6/5 numbers of last season
BD34 had it spot on last year, but it's a new year with new faces and new roles on offense. James Harden was relied on to be the primary scorer every quarter of every game, and that's no longer true. Howard should take a large portion off the offensive scoring load from Harden which will allow him to act more as a facilitator for the offense.
His assist numbers and shooting percentages should improve from last year, but his overall scoring and rebounding should go down. I feel obliged to give my prediction, so I'm going to go with 24/7.5/3. For the prediction to be correct, the numbers must be within .5 of James Harden's final regular season stats (I felt this was a necessary inclusion).
10. Kevin Durant will NOT join the Rockets
Sorry Jalen Rose, I don't agree. By the time Kevin is a free agent we should already have our team, so waiting years and not adding any substantial players for the slight chance Durant comes to Houston seems like a risk Morey shouldn't take. Here's the full length preview from Grantland incase you were wondering where this prediction came from.
11. The Rockets will lose in the second round of the playoffs
Through this whole piece I've been really high on the Rockets, but this is where that ends. I know the majority of projections put the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals and that's very fair and likely. I don't think Houston will make it that far though. There are 6 frontrunners in the West (Golden State, Houston, LAC, OKC, San Antonio, and Memphis). Assuming those 6 teams end up with the top 6 seeds in the west, for the Rockets to get to the Western Conference Finals or further they would certainly have to have the second or first seed.
Having to play one round against any of those teams is rough, but if the Rockets finish from 3rd-6th in the West, they will face up to three rounds against those teams before the NBA Finals. Adding to that, I think it will take more than a year for the Rockets to build chemistry and adjust to the new personnel. I see the Rockets losing in the second round to a team like San Antonio or LAC and that's not a bad thing. This is the first year of at least three of great Rockets basketball, let's be excited.
12. It's going to be a great Rocket's season here at The Dream Shake
All of us here at The Dream Shake are very excited and energized for this season. It's been a long time waiting for us to have a great team and we finally got one. We're entering this season with high hopes for not only the team, but for this blog as well. Keep your eyes peeled for the great insight from our writers over this season, I know I will. Thank you for reading and I look forward to spending the next 250+ days of NBA basketball with y'all.
More from The Dream Shake:
- Houston Rockets to start Patrick Beverley over Jeremy Lin on opening night
- Why Patrick Beverley should start over Jeremy Lin at point guard for the Rockets
- TDS Mailbag: Marcus Camby, the veteran's minimum, and the salary cap
- TDS Writer Scouting Report Version 1.5
- Houston Rockets finalize roster, cut Reggie Williams