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Rockets Preseason Grades: Dwight Howard and James Harden should never play

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Preseason matters to some, and to most, it doesn't. Injuries have put a cramp on a chance to gel with Lawson. But, the Rockets already know what they have.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets: B–

Mitigating and dealing with the injuries has been an ongoing issue for the Rockets. Houston had 180 DNPs last year (third in the league) and are starting this year's campaign with the same issues. James Harden, Terrence Jones, Clint Capela and Dwight Howard have all missed time, thus making the normal preseason jelling take longer to take hold. Limiting Howard to only one preseason game has been smart, as you never can tell what a Howard injury report that says "back" really means.

It looks like the same issues that plagued Houston last year are already showing up. Of course it's tough to get a solid read with so many D-Leaguers and third stringers getting time. But, the defense has been porous to say the least.  It's looked like an NBA All Star game half the time, and ending games have been weak at best (though again McHale has let the end of the bench close games). Turnovers will always be an issue with a team that runs like H-Town, but that will be a focus all year.

For the most part, McHale knows what he has and can't be too worried about the lack of game practice the guys are getting. Getting Lawson into the mix seems to be the most important thing. Figuring out who will get time in the rotation comes next, then figuring out the bottom of the roster.

Trevor Ariza: A
Trevor is a warrior and is soaking up lots of minutes due to all of the injuries. He's shooting 57% and 43% from behind the arc. Again, he's a huge upgrade from injured Chandler Parsons. Man, save some of that for the regular season.

Dwight Howard: B
I don't want to see Howard play preseason ever! If he has a back issue, let him rest. He'll be fine, if he's healthy. That's the only thing that matters.

James Harden: B
His shooting has been off. At least he's been able to play some real minutes and knock the rust off his summer ankle injury. He looks fast and will be able to turn it up when the season starts. No worries.

Terrence Jones: B+
This guy is a beast. He's right back where he was, near the top of his athleticism. Injuries are an issue with Jones, but he doesn't know any other way to play. Let's hope he can make a leap in big game play this year. He'll be getting serious minutes until D-Mo returns.

Corey Brewer: B–
Same old speedy Corey. He always plays fast and will again get significant minutes this year. His three-point shot is looking a little clunky, but he's been running the lanes and pushing the pace just like last year. I want to see Brewer, Lawson and Harden on the floor at the same time for some small ball!

Ty Lawson: A–
What a coup, Mr. Morey, this man is the real deal. I hadn't watched his game much before this year and man, he is quick. In many ways he's a Harden clone. His ability to take it to the rack with that first step is going to give him lots of lay ups.  Dude can run, handle the rock, pass it and from what I've seen, he doesn't need to be the man.

Clint Capela: B
Clint seems to have no fear. He can run the court within the Rockets scheme and rolls to the basket like he's been working with Hakeem. He's still getting pushed around on defense and is pretty green, but I like what I see. His free throws are looking better as well. If he keeps this up, he'll be playing lots of minutes this year.

Marcus Thornton: B–
Marcus will be getting more time than K.J. McDaniels, at least at the beginning of the year. And, with three guards being able to play at the point, he may impinge on the time Patrick Beverley sees on the court. He's a deceptively good player.  If he can hit his three's at a higher clip than in the preseason, or get on a streak, he'll get significant time in the rotation.

Patrick Beverley: B–
It looks like Beverley is back up to his form after his injury last year. I'll be interested to see if he can turn up the defensive intensity again when the season starts. Either way, his tenacity is valuable and great fun to watch in the preseason when no one really seems to give a damn. His minutes could go down this year with the addition of Lawson.

Jason Terry: B–
He doesn't need to play preseason either! McHale has mostly given the old man some space and let the kids battle it out for the last spots.

K.J. McDaniels: C
This guy can chase the break on defense like no one else. He runs like mad, blocks shots and fits into the Rockets scheme in every way except for his shooting. He's loath to launch the three, and that will keep him at the end of the bench for most of the year. He's classic trade bait for Morey.

Montrezl Harrell: C
Harrell is a ball of fire. I hope to see him get time because he runs, has some touch and is a baller. His size and strength are the opposite of Dekker. It will be interesting to see who gets more time between them.

Joshua Smith: C
This young man is intriguing. I think he has a shot at playing minutes for the Rockets if injuries remain an issue for the rest of the team. He's slow, but he's huge. He's the opposite of Capela.  If we need someone to soak up minutes, fouls and space in the middle, he could be an answer. I hope to see him in a Rockets uniform.

Sam Dekker: C
Well, at least he's not afraid to launch the three. If he can get that to go down and injuries hit, he may find some minutes. He looks smart and mostly composed for a rookie. Maybe he can be a rookie contract, Chandler Parsons type of player.

Chris Walker, Jeremy Tyler, Denzel Livingston, Arsalan Kazemi and Will Cummings: D
Nothing against these guys, they just need more work, and may get it with the Vipers. Kazemi seems like he has the most potential. Maybe one or two of these guys will see some time on the end of the bench.