Houston Rockets Season Preview

25 10 2008

My NBA South West Division preview continues with the Houston Rockets:

Houston Rockets

2007-08 Standings 55 – 27, 5th Western Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 53 – 29, 3rd South West Division, 5th Western Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Yao Ming, Luis Scola, Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady, Rafer Alston

Sixth Man:  Shane Battier

Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady are the superstars on which the Houston Rockets are resting their hopes. Let's hope they stay healthy this season.

Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady are the superstars on which the Houston Rockets are resting their hopes. Hopefully they'll stay healthy this season.

The South West Division is so tough and competitive that the Houston Rockets, my third ranked team, are the favourites in many people’s eyes to win the NBA this season. They possess a dominating centre in Yao Ming, a superstar backcourt player in Tracy McGrady and a lockdown defender in Ron Artest. They also possess a deep and varied supporting cast – Shane Battier, Steve Francis and Carl Landry would start for many other teams in the league, and a skilled and veteran coach.

So why don’t I rate them more? In a word: injuries. This team has suffered terrible injuries in the past few years to their two key players, Yao and McGrady. Last season the Houston Rockets rattled off a 22 game winning streak yet after 12 wins Yao went down with a season ending injury, effectively ending their championship hopes. This is a pattern that has repeated for the past few seasons as Yao has averaged 53 games each season during that stretch. McGrady has also suffered from numerous injuries in his time in Houston and has averaged 61 games a season over the same stretch. Odds are that one or both of the two stars will miss a lot of games this season.

As long as the Rockets stay fit they are title contenders. Even more so now that they have added the mercurial Ron Artest to their lineup. Artest is the most controversial figure in the NBA, as known for his antics as he is for his stellar defensive play. But hey it worked for Dennis Rodman and the Chicago Bulls. The Rockets will be hoping that that is Artest’s attitude as well.

The Rockets have enviable depth at most positions. Backing up Artest is Shane Battier, a superb defender in his own right who provides a cool head off the bench. Behind Tracy McGrady is former All Star Steve Francis and Brent Barry while the power forward position is loaded with starter Luis Scola backed up by one of the most efficient forwards in the league in Carl Landry. When Yao sits one of the two will slide across to centre and the Rockets will go small.

The most dicey position on the court for the Rockets is the point. Rafer Alston is the starter but he blows hot and cold. It wouldn’t surprise to see Brent Barry play some time there as the season goes on.

The Rockets have the stated aim of competing for the championship this season. Certainly if everyone is healthy no team would fancy facing the Rockets in the playoffs. With Ron Artest they have a fearsome defender who can lock down the opponents best player as well as providing valuable offence when needed.

Coach:

Rick Adelman is a vastly experienced coach entering his 18th season in the league. He has over 800 wins and he will appreciate this is his chance to win his first championship.

Bench:

The Houston Rockets have one of the deeper benches in the league. In Shane Battier they have a legitimate contender for Sixth Man of the Year but they also possess other weapons in Brent Barry and Steve Francis. The Rockets depth carried them to a 22 game winning streak last season, lets see if they can carry them to a championship.

Star Player:

Yao Ming is the biggest (literally) player in the game. The pride of China, he has been an All Star every year he has been in the league. He would settle for missing out on the All Star game for his first title this year.

Team MVP:

How Ron Artest adjusts to his new team and role will be vital for how the Houston Rockets progress this season. Artest can dominate the game in different ways – let’s hope they’re all on the court this season.

Final Prognosis:

For me there are too many question marks surrounding the Rockets. If everyone is healthy for the whole year I firmly believe they will win the Western Conference. More likely one or more of their key guys will be injured and they’ll make the playoffs mid table. I still expect them to get out of the first round though.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.

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