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Now onto the fun stuff!
If you're the typically cynical Houston sports fan, you're already looking at season previews and wondering why everyone hates Houston. After all, the Rockets finished second in the West last season and made it to the conference finals while trotting out 76-year-old (all stats approximate) Jason Terry at point guard to stop Chris Paul and the MVP of the league. Oh, and they were missing their starting power forward too. After the season, the Rockets cut bait with four players that weren't in their rotation in order to add Ty Lawson, shoring up the team's biggest weakness.
Yet, most pundits have Houston finishing towards the bottom of the Big Six of the West. It's a testament to how great the West is that the team that finished with the second-best record the previous season is becoming an afterthought in the race for the conference title.
Still, I would be remiss if I didn't post a season hype video. So here it is. Shoutout to Reddit for bringing it to my attention.
Matchups and bench are tough going into the season because we don't know who's starting and in the rotation for other teams. Please bear with me until there's a bigger sample size.
Tip off is at 7pm CST on Root Sports.
Point Guard: Ty Lawson vs. Emmanuel Mudiay
Let's dig right in. The Lawson trade was made because the Nuggets were tired of Lawson's shit. He clearly had a problem with the front office and coaching staff and wanted out. The Nuggets didn't want a possible DUI conviction hanging over their season and didn't need an unhappy Lawson in their locker room.
Secretly, the Nuggets also wanted Lawson gone because they want Mudiay to take over the reins to the offense and become the franchise player.
Mudiay is this year's Dante Exum in that he played overseas and was surrounded by hype. With the Nuggets, Mudiay is poised to put up big numbers and chase a Rookie of the Year win.
The Rockets will look to make his life miserable by making him chase Ty Lawson on one end and having him deal with the pestering of Patrick Beverley on the other end. During the preseason, Mudiay went up against Chris Paul, Steph Curry, and Russell Westbrook. Those are some pretty good measuring sticks for the young point guard. In the preseason, he averaged 15 points, 5 assists, and 5 turnovers per game. It's going to take him a while to fully adjust to running the show, but he has the physical tools to be a beast.
I'll talk a little bit more about Lawson in the next game preview, but tonight he'll probably have a little bit of extra juice. Look for Harden and co. to find him early and often.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Randy Foye
As I type this, Steph Curry has scored 29 points in the first half of a nationally televised game.
Think Harden is going to be looking to show up for this one?
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Danilo Gallinari
Gallinari missed 23 games last season after sitting out the 2013-2014 campaign due to an ACL injury. He shot an underwhelming 40% from the field last season, but with him finally back to 100% you can expect that number to rise. He still shot 36% from deep and always has the green light.
If the Rockets get the exact same season out of Ariza as they did last year, they'll be ecstatic. That's basically all I have to say about Trevor Ariza.
Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Kenneth Faried
Our first look at the Jones Corollary!
For the uninitiated, the Jones Corollary states that if Terrence Jones' matchups are based more on athleticism than talent. Jones struggles against power forwards that are as athletic or more athletic than he is. If Jones holds the athleticism advantage, he usually has a good game.
There's also a corollary about how T-Jones doesn't play well in the playoffs, but we're not going to get into that.
Faried is guaranteed to have a few monster slams and plays where he outhustles the entire Rockets squad. Prepare for that, and prepare for the collective groan you will hear from Rockets Nation when it happens.
Center: Clint Capela vs. Joffrey Lauvergne
With Jusuf Nurkic recovering from patellar surgery, the Rockets get a slight break here at the center position. Instead of going against the experienced Nurkic, young Clint Capela will go against King Joffrey (bet he hasn't heard that one yet).
Capela has looked great in the preseason and it's incredible to see how far he's come since last preseason when he looked like he couldn't even walk in a straight line. Houston will be depending a lot on the Swiss international this season, especially with the injury history of Dwight Howard and the unknown that is Donatas Motiejunas' back.
Rockets: Corey Brewer, Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, K.J. McDaniels
Nuggets: Wilson Chandler, Jameer Nelson, Darrell Arthur, J.J. Hickson, Nikola Jokic, Mike Miller, Will Barton, Gary Harris
Prediction: Rockets win 106-87
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