As long as my prediction about Erick Dampier doesn't come true, the majority of Rockets fans can be elated that it would appear Ishmael Smith has made the team. Another fan favorite, Mike Harris, wasn't so fortunate. He joined Alexander Johnson, Antonio Anderson and Jerel McNeal in the unemployment line yesterday evening.
It's really unfortunate for the former Rice Owl Mike Harris, who was all-world in the D-League last year. He is good enough to play in the NBA and I hope he gets his chance somewhere. But with the Rockets stacked at Power Forward, it was pretty well known that Harris was just a camp body. And Ishmael Smith was seemingly the guy from the get go that Houston wanted as the 15th man.
But, with that out of the way, let's take a look at the final 15 man roster for your 2010-2011 Houston Rockets after the jump.
Center (3): Yao Ming, Brad Miller & Jordan Hill
Let's start in the middle with the return of Yao Ming and the new kid on the block, Brad Miller. Everyone will be holding their breath all year any time Yao Ming falls down or even lands awkwardly. This surgery was no joke and thankfully Yao has the discipline to do what it takes to come back from it. Let's just keep praying to the basketball gods that we finally get a break (no pun intended) and the procedure that worked so well for Zydrunis Ilgauskas does the same wonder for Yao.
Brad Miller showed in his Rocket debut this past Saturday that there shouldn't be a long adjustment period for him into this offense. The guy is such a brilliant passer and he showed that by leading the team in assists that game. He knows this offense to a T and he will fit in like a glove here. I'm not worried about him at all. I said it on my show one time and I'll say it again, I think this will end up being a huge addition to this team.
Jordan Hill, who is still listed as a Power Forward, is listed here as a Center because that's what he played all through Summer League, camp and the preseason. It's pretty much going to be a spot clean up job for him this year unless Yao or Miller get into foul trouble or spend time on the injured list. I am still in the camp that believes Hill is a future starter in this league (likely elsewhere, as I don't see him ever supplanting Scola) at Power Forward. But this will be good for his development.
Power Forward (4): Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, Jared Jeffries & Patrick Patterson
Luis Scola, dare I say it, just might be the most underrated Power Forward in the NBA. When everyone was freaking out about the contract he got (5 years, $47m), most Rockets fans weren't. We know his value and when you saw guys like Carlos Boozer getting way more (5 years, $80M) you knew the Rockets got a steal. I mean, seriously, is Carlos Boozer worth $9m more per season than Luis? I don't think so. The guy showed in the World Championships that he can carry the offensive load if needed. He got robbed and should have beat out Kevin Durant for MVP honors there and even got Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to admit that he still loses sleep over the Scola trade. I expect Luis to be a larger part of the offense for Houston this year.
Chuck Hayes is going to give you what he can. Which is everything and then some. While we all know he isn't going to do anything but make you laugh or shake your head when he shoots the ball, his defense and hard-nosed play during every second he sees on the floor is invaluable. What else can be said about the Chuck Wagon that hasn't already been said?
Jared Jeffries is in the final year of a ridiculously bad contract that has devalued him as a player in many fans eyes. Jared Jeffries is arguably the worst player on this team, but what does that say about this teams depth? I still think he is simply a contract to be moved at this years deadline, but he can contribute well if needed. His defense and ability to draw charges is superb.
Patrick Patterson will likely have the role Carl Landry did during his rookie year. Which is to keep your mouth shut, pay attention and just wait for your opportunity. Landry was thought to just be a throw away player just filling out Houston's roster as a rookie. But when he got his opportunity, he took advantage of it and became a consistent rotation player the rest of the season. Patterson is a smart enough kid to know to follow this guideline. Especially if Jeffries gets moved at the deadline like I predicted.
Small Forward (2): Shane Battier & Chase Budinger
Lots of people are already calling for Chase Budinger to get the nod over Shane here. But I still believe personally that people in Houston greatly undervalue what Battier brings to this team. While his defense may be overrated nationally, it is severely underrated here in town. Yes, Shane also has an expiring deal and many are packaging him in their dream trade scenarios. Which is certainly a possibility. But I'd like to see Shane stick around. He looked to have lost a step last season, but he is still one of my favorite athletes in all of sports. In the least, there is a lot he can teach a young player like Chase Budinger.
Speaking of Chase, I have to wonder if he drops off a bit this year. Truthfully, none of us expected him to have the impact he did last year. He is a lightning bolt off the bench and helps with Houston's legendary scoring droughts. Which is one of the reasons I would rather he remain part of "The Bench Brigade." The other being that I don't believe his defense is good enough to play starters minutes. But perhaps he worked on that this summer.
Shooting Guard (3): Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee & Jermaine Taylor
Like Xiane said, Kevin Martin may be one of the more underrated players in the league. I can't think of another consistent 20+ point per game guy that gets less credit. Playing on a rebuilding Sacramento team and his injury history has likely played into that. But this guy is going to have a huge year playing with Yao. He is going to get more open looks than he has in his entire career. He won't make the All-Star team because of where he plays and the average fan doesn't even know who he is, but he will have All-Star numbers this season.
Courtney Lee has already shown me enough to declare the Ariza trade a victory for Houston. His defense is underrated and can guard a guy like Kobe Bryant if needed (Shane usually guards Kobe). He did it in the Finals a couple of years ago. I fully expect to see Lee get some time at the three if needed. He is a bit small for that position, but if the match ups are right he should be able to do so well. Also, if Kevin Martin has his annual injury, Lee can play a larger role if needed just like he did in Orlando when injury forced him into the starting lineup. I like this kid a lot, so I may be guilty of overrating him. But I expect good things out of him, as do many others here.
Jermaine Taylor is likely headed to Rio Grande Valley again. But I expect him to remain with the team more so than last year. Coach Adelman is said to love him and he will see some time on the floor. Even if it is just during a blow out. His game is still too one dimensional (attack, attack, attack!) to be a rotation guy, but I could see him getting his number called if the matchups permit or Lee or Martin are struggling.
Point Guard (3) Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry & Ishmael Smith
Aaron Brooks had what many would describe as an All-Star type season last year (come on...he was better than Jason Kidd last year. Even Dallas fans admitted it.) as he was given the green light to shoot as much as he wanted. His value has never been higher as he is in the last year of his rookie contract. Which makes me scared to think he may get the Carl Landry treatment this year and be part of a blockbuster trade. I hope not, because I can remember the post Kenny Smith/Sam Cassell years where Houston just couldn't seem to find a decent point guard. But with two pretty good ones now, Aaron may fall victim to the numbers. But I don't expect him to have declining numbers because of it. Sure, he will get less shots than last year with Yao returning and Scola being said to become a larger part of the offense. But, like Martin, he will see a ton of open shots from the perimeter this year making teams pay for double teaming Yao. Let's just see if he will still be doing that here after February passes.
Kyle Lowry, who is paid more than the starting point, made it clear that he wanted the opportunity to start in this league. Well, staying healthy would go a long way to pushing for it. No one questions Kyle's heart or play on the court. He is an asset that proved his value last season when he injured himself and the teams production suffered greatly for it. The thing is that with Lowry's "reckless abandon" style of play, he sets himself up for injury rather easily. Which is why the final player on this roster was quite imperative.
Ishamel Smith, who can best be summed up as "Lowry Insurance," deserved a chance. Well, it appears that he is going to get it. Which was the right call, because we don't want another episode like last year where we have to make Aaron play 46 minutes a game because your third option at the point is Will Conroy. I wrote already about what Ish can bring to this team and I am glad he is getting an opportunity. Even though I think he will spend some time at Rio Grande Valley with Jermaine Taylor early in the season.
So, there we have it Rockets fans, this is a ridiculously deep team. A team that is a 55+ win team if healthy already, in my opinion. And a loaded team that has a ton of assets to make them instant contenders with the right move. It's looking to be a pretty exciting season down in Texas, as the three teams there are all pretty close together in terms of talent and team expectations. Should make for a compelling division race this year.
You guys have any opinions on the roster? Is there a position you'd like to see upgraded? If so, which position and who do you want (please, no more Carmelo talk)? Light it up in the comments below.