The Houston Rockets (42-40) had a tough year last season as they finished ninth in the West and third in the Southwest Division. This year with a strong cast of supporting players and a healthy Yao Ming, the Rockets will be back in the playoff mix again.
Yao anchors the Houston frontcourt; his absence was a major problem in 2009-2010 as he missed all of last season. This is his eighth NBA season, but he has only been healthy the first three. For the last four seasons running from 2004 through 2009, he averaged 59 games. That doesn’t include last season, which he sat out. Yao is a 53% shooter from the floor and an 83% free throw shooter. Over the years, he’s averaged almost 2 blocks, 9.3 rebounds and 19.1 points per game. There’s no doubt that Yao is an essential part of this team. He has not played in 17 months and is expected to start out slowly.
Brad Miller (.430 FG%, .280 3PT%, .827 FT%, 4.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 8.8 PPG) is a decent backup center but he’s not a starter. The seven-foot Miller has been in the NBA for a dozen years. The much-travelled center played last season for Chicago.
Power forward Luis Scola (.514 FG%, .200 3PT%, .779 FT%, 8.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, 16.2 PPG) starts his fourth NBA season all of which he has played with the Rockets. Scola is a solid inside player.
Nine-year vet Shane Battier (.398 FG%, .362 3PT%, .726 FT%, 4.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 8.0 PPG) anchors the small forward spot. He has battled injuries the last two seasons and needs to stay healthy. Along with offering a solid shot, Battier is a decent defender.
In the backcourt, Aaron Brooks (.432 FG%, .398 3PT%, .822 FT%, 2.6 RPG, 5.3 APG, 19.6 PPG) is a sound point man. He’s got a fine shot from the perimeter and is perhaps the best player on the team.
Shooting guard Kevin Martin (.417 FG%, .333 3PT%, .876 FT%, 3.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 20.6 PPG) is an excellent point producer who is also an accomplished defender. Third-year player Courtney Lee (.436 FG%, .338 3PT%, .869 FT%, 3.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 12.5 PPG), who last season played for the Nets, should offer quality minutes off the bench.
The team struggled on offense with an Offensive Efficiency mark of 104.6 (18th). However, they did have a Pace Factor of 96.6 (6th), which meant they were one of the better teams at getting the ball in the air. They were the best team in the league at drawing offensive fouls.
The best performer was Luis Scola who had a PER of 17.22. The addition of Martin to the backcourt gives the team a true quality shooter. There are four players on this team who can throw points in from downtown. With Yao and Scola in the frontcourt, the three others will be freed up to bomb from the three-point arc.
The team’s Defensive Efficiency was at 105.5, which was 17th in the NBA. The Rockets were short and unable to jump and block shots. The team was 27th in shot blocking and 23rdin opponent two-point field goal percentage. The frontcourt is bigger this year and that may help. But what would really rectify the club’s defensive deficiency would be more athleticism upfront. The good news on “D” is that the backcourt includes various players with quick hands who can steal the ball.
Head coach Rick Adelman (906-573) has been coaching in the NBA for 19 years with the past three being with the Rockets. Of the 19 years, he’s been to the playoffs sixteen. He’s spent his entire head coaching career guiding Western Conference teams, including Portland, Golden State and Sacramento.
This is an excellent inside-out team that has a host of players who are solid jump shooters. If they don’t have a shot inside, they can kick it out to three guys for an open shot. Ball movement will be essential for this team as they lack speed. Yao will allow the Rockets to soar once again. How high will they go? This club will be in the postseason as they finish third in the Southwest and 6th or 7th in the Western Conference. It’s doubtful they’ll get out of round two of the playoffs without Ming, but if Yao can play a fair amount of minutes it wouldn’t shock us to see the Rockets knock out the 2 or 3 seed in round one.
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