After years of stockpiling young talent and prospects, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has finally found his superstars. In 2012, they acquired shooting guard James Harden in a celebrated sign-and-trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In 2013, they attracted superstar center Dwight Howard and nabbed him in free agency after a tumultuous season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Indiana Pacers' Roy Hibbert is fouled by Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard in the second quarter of their NBA pre-season basketball game in Taipei Arena
With both superstars in tow for the 2013-2014 NBA season, are the Rockets true and legit contenders now?
2013-2014 Houston Rockets Projected Depth Chart
PG – Patrick Beverly/Jeremy Lin/Aaron Brooks
SG – James Harden/Ronnie Brewer
SF – Chandler Parsons/Omri Caspi/Francisco Garcia
PF – Greg Smith/Terrence Jones/Donatas Montiejunas
C- Dwight Howard/Omer Asik
3 Problems in Houston
1. Redundancy – As the 2013-2014 NBA season moves along, the Houston Rockets must fix their rotation to establish their rhythm and identity. It is a no-brainer that D12 (17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 2.4 BPG) is the starting center for the squad, but they have another more-than-serviceable starting-quality material in Asik (10.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG and 1.1 BPG). How will head coach Kevin McHale manage the minutes of these two capable big men? Should they experiment with a twin tower combo?
In the same breath, how will McHale handle the similar issue at point guard? They have two quality court generals—Beverly and Lin. Who’ll get the nod at the starting spot and who’s the better fit coming off the bench? The spitfire guard Beverley is the more active on defense and had averages of 5.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG and 2.9 APG in 17 minutes in his first year with the Rockets, while the taller but inconsistent Lin had 13.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG and 3.0 APG in his third-year in the league.
2. Harden Usage – The Beard exploded in 2012 with averages of 25.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 5.8 APG and 1.8 SPG as he blossomed into one of the superstars in the league. Harden’s usage was at 28.95 in the 2012-2013 season, ranking 9th overall in the league. How will the arrival of Howard affect that and will he deliver the same efficient stats as last year?
3. Leadership – The most likely comparison for these Rockets squad is the Orlando Magic team that went all the way to the finals in 2009. A souped-up version of that Howard, plus 3-point shooters, if you may: Harden is a motivated and younger Vince Carter; Lin/Beverly is a taller Jameer Nelson; Parsons is a Rashard Lewis without the extravagant contract; Asik is Marcin Gortat. One glaring weakness of that Magic squad was that there was no on or off the court leader. Can Howard take on that cape? Will Harden be more of the vocal leader?
Fearless Forecast: 51-31 win-loss record. Howard and Harden will establish an unstoppable combo early but will falter in the tail end of the regular season as they settle for a 3rd and 4th seed in the Western Conference. In the first round, they’ll be upset by the Golden State Warriors. Asik will be traded by midseason, netting them Ryan Anderson from the New Orleans Pelicans.
Other 2013-2014 NBA Teams Previews:
Phoenix Suns | Cleveland Cavaliers | Washington Wizards | Charlotte Bobcats | Philadelphia 76ers | Orlando Magic | Dallas Mavericks | Los Angeles Lakers | Chicago Bulls | Brooklyn Nets | Houston Rockets
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