Happy Training Camp Day! It has been 138 days since the Rockets lost to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and this is a day the Rockets have been eagerly waiting for since that rough defeat.
There have been few Rockets teams that have been as talented as this one and we are about to embark on what is hopefully going to be one of the most memorable Rockets seasons of all-time. Houston is going to be one of the top teams in the league this year and they will always be a team worth keeping an eye on, but what do you need to know about the Rockets this season?
Additions: Chris Paul, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, P.J. Tucker, Tarik Black, Zhou Qi
Subtractions: Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell
With one of the biggest trades sending future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul to Houston dominating the offseason headlines for Houston, this team looks primed to match their 55-win total from last year and challenge Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Cleveland, and Boston to be the NBA’s bridesmaid.
At this point, the Rockets are still a decent leap away from being better than the Warriors, but this Rockets team is still one of the best we’ve seen in years. Houston’s hype might be louder than it has ever been. The team will look to build on their historic offensive season from last year lead by reigning Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.
MVP runner-up James Harden will pair up with 9x All-Star Chris Paul to form one of the league’s most formidable backcourts. The addition of Paul will look to help improve the team’s defensive identity. The loss of Patrick Beverley sends one of the league’s best defenders out of Houston, but perhaps one of the only defensive upgrades from Beverley is CP3.
Smaller acquisitions like P.J. Tucker, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Tarik Black will create a defensive wing presence off the bench, and pairing these two new Rockets with Nene and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon will create one of the league’s most talented benches. The newbies on the bench will replace Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell.
The Full Roster
Twenty-one people grace the current Rockets roster, but clearly not all can make the squad.
The players projected for the 13-man roster are:
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Three Things to Watch
How the CP3-Harden Experiment Works
When Paul was traded to Houston, many were surprised and intrigued as to how he would coexist with James Harden, last year’s league leader in assists. When Mike D’Antoni came to Houston, his first move was to move Harden to the point guard spot. That move lead to one of the greatest offensive seasons in NBA history. Now, with another potential Hall-of-Fame point guard joining the roster, how much will James get to touch the ball, and will he be able to continue his offensive prowess?
It is doubtful that D’Antoni will strip Harden of all his ball-handling duties. In fact, it has been stated that at least one of Paul or Harden will be on the floor at all times. The fact that the Rockets can have a Top 5 point guard in the NBA on the floor at all times gives Houston an incredible advantage.
Put them both on the floor at the same time? It can be a thing of beauty or it could lead to some struggle on the offensive side of the ball. Harden and Paul will have to bend and adapt and seeing how it will happen is definitely one of the biggest storylines heading into camp.
The Emergence of Clint Capela
In my opinion, Capela is the X-Factor for this team going into the season. In his first year as a full-time starter, Capela thrived and enjoyed career-highs in points and rebounds per game. The Swiss big man made a leap last season and he only turned 23 last May. There is a lot more room for Capela to develop, and this season could lead more into that development.
DeAndre Jordan is a good player, but Chris Paul made him a great player in Los Angeles. There are some comparisons to Jordan and Capela’s games, and if Paul can play a similar role for Capela that he did for Jordan in LA, Clint will enjoy another fantastic season. Capela came into the league as a young prospect, but this is Year 4 for him now. He’s got his footing now and he’s been around the block for a bit.
If Capela can stay healthy and continue to build on his game, the Rockets will be scarier than any team expects. Capela’s improvement in the post could also improve the Rockets’ spacing on offense, and being that rim protector dominating the paint will force teams to score from outside the paint.
Watch out for Capela in training camp and during the season.
Who will be the other backup guard?
The final thirteenth roster spot is very much up in the air, and several players are in the running. The last spot on the team will likely go to a guard, given the only guards that are locks to make the team right now are Paul, Harden, and Gordon.
Both Isaiah Taylor and Bobby Brown will have their chance to claim that final spot.
Brown is a good friend of many on the team, including James Harden, the guy who recruited him to Houston last season. He’s the “professional best friend,” but that’s not his prerogative.
He’s going to come in garbage time and drain threes. That’s his job. And he isn’t the best at it, but there are certainly worse thirteenth men in the league.
However, Brown just turned 33 this week, and is not a part of this team’s future.
Isaiah Taylor, the 23-year old local point guard and Texas Longhorn, could be a part of the team’s future. He averaged 21.1 PPG in Rio Grande Valley last season and shot over 40 percent from beyond the three-point line last season. He also impressed the team during his stint as the team’s starting point guard in the Las Vegas Summer League this July.
Taylor won’t be slated for much playing time behind Paul, Harden, and Gordon, but he has a lot of room to grow and after a year in RGV and could be worth a roster spot.
Daryl Morey and Co. will have to choose between chemistry or youth. Or maybe they keep both. Maybe Onuaku fails to make the final roster and they bring six guards? Maybe Morey signs another veteran? Maybe Morey trades the whole team for future second-round picks? It’s hard to tell what he’s gonna do nowadays.
This training camp will be busy.
This training camp will be enticing.
This training camp will be everything.