2009-10 Houston Rockets Season Preview
The Houston Rockets (55- 27) made a lot of deals for role players last season and, overall those deals paid off. The guys they acquired, including Luis Scola, Ron Artest, Von Wafer and Carl Landry all came through. However, big money guys Tracy McGrady and Shane Battier missed chunks of the season. McGrady played haphazardly in just 35 games and Battier missed 22 games. The Rockets were defensively strong, working hard to prevent three-point attempts. Overall, they were conservative on “D” in an attempt to keep free throws down. They finished second only to the Spurs in free throw frequency and they allowed the fourth fewest three-point attempts. Opponents shot just 74.9% from the charity stripe, the lowest mark in the league. On offense they were 10th in three-point accuracy. That was the high point of their offensive attack, which was overall weak.
Upfront, this team is half of what it was when Yao was able to play. Six-foot-eleven Australian forward/center David Anderson was acquired from Atlanta. His play on the boards is soft but Anderson does have a fine shooting touch and an accurate midrange jumper. Power forward Luis Scola (12.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 0.83 SPG) played better than expected last season, hitting 53% of his shots from the field. He’s the best player the Rockets have with Yao and McGrady out. Small forward Shane Battier (7.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.3 APG) has to step it up this season. Can he?
Shooting guard McGrady (15.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 5.0 APG) will be out for at least part of the season as he rehabs from knee surgery. Until then the shooting spot will feature someone. Perhaps Trevor Ariza (8.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.8 APG) or Kyle Lowry (7.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.6 APG) will get the start. Ariza is more accurate from the field. The point spot will be manned by Aaron Brooks (11.2 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 3.0 APG). Brooks, now in his third year, has matured into a solid player.
On the bright side, the Rockets will put a potent wing defense on the floor. Battier is a master defender who, along with the rest of the defense, can stop outside threes and twos with frequency. A major dilemma for this club is the height and bulk of the frontcourt. After they lost Yao in the Lakers series, the lack of size on this team and its detrimental effect was evident.
The Rockets will be without Yao for the entire season as he recovers from a vicious hairline fracture in his foot and the surgery related to it. He was their best player, the franchise. They will be without McGrady, their premium shooter, for at least part of the season. With Yao and McGrady out the Rockets lose a whole lot of offense and defense. If McGrady can come back strong in the first third of the season and if Battier can lead the defense then Houston will at least be competitive on some nights. Look for the Houston Rockets to finish in fourth-place in the division and ninth-place in the Western Conference.