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Houston Rockets Season Preview And NBA Predictions

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The Rockets return only one starter from last season, how will all the new players fit together?

Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

I won't lie, this is a difficult article to write. The Rockets roster has seen a lot of turnover during the off-season and their best player didn't arrive in Houston and join the team until Sunday. At the moment, second year player Chandler Parsons leads the team in starts with the Rockets with only 57; Patrick Patterson is second with seven starts. This team is extremely young, the average age of their current roster is 23.5 and they only have one player on the roster that's 27 or older (Carlos Delfino). Be patient with this team, they're a work in progress, and you should expect a lot of ups and downs with the amount of inexperience on the roster.

James Harden and Jeremy Lin:

One interesting dynamic to watch is how Jeremy Lin and the newly acquired James Harden interact and play off of each other this season. Lin's game as a point guard is obviously to dominate the ball, attack the basket, and distribute the ball to spot up shooters if the defense collapses. At this point, Lin is a poor spot up jump shooter which could be an issue. Last season Lin shot just 40% on jump shots compared to 52.5% on every other type of shot. If that number doesn't improve (shot 28% from the field during the preseason), I don't think Lin and Harden will be a good fit. Harden handled the ball a lot last season and when they ran half court sets, he often ran the plays like a point guard. One of these two players will have to change their game and play off the ball more. The Rockets obviously don't run the same offense as the Thunder, but Harden still seems more comfortable with the ball in his hand, playing the role of the play maker or creating his own shot, than playing off the ball as a spot up shooter.

Front Court:

Another big question surrounding the roster this season, can Omer Asik who has only played 30-plus minutes three times in 148 career games, step up and play 30 plus minutes every night as the Rockets starting center? The Rockets are speculating on Asik at this point who averaged just 13.2 minutes per game in two seasons with the Chicago Bulls. His per 36 minutes numbers look good, he would have averaged 13 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game last season given starters minutes. Asik doesn't have any offensive game to speak of and will likely only score on put backs after rebounds and when a guard penetrates and dishes off for an easy dunk, but if he averages 10+ rebounds and 2+ blocks per game, the Rockets won't care how much he scores.

The other expected starter in the front court is third year player and former lottery pick Patrick Patterson. I believe this is a 'make or break' year for Patterson who needs to show the level of play the Rockets expected from him. Patterson showed promise in his first year with a reliable jump shot on the baseline in particular from 10-15 feet, but his shooting percentage dropped considerably in his second year from 55 to 44 percent. In the per 36 minutes stat, which I think is a good way to judge reserve players, his numbers dropped off in points per game (13.6 to 11.9), rebounds per game (8.3 to 6.9), and blocks per game (1.5 to 0.9). Year two is normally a season when young players take a step forward in their development, but Patterson seemed to lose confidence in his jump shot and his numbers fell off. Patterson will get his chance this season as an every game starter, he'll need to prove himself early on to avoid losing playing time to Marcus Morris and/or Donatas Motiejunas.

Rookie Wildcards:

Even the veterans on this years team are young, but the Rockets also have three rookies on the roster and another player in Marcus Morris who might as well be a rookie considering he only played in 17 games and averaged just 7.4 minutes played during those games. When making a prediction on how well the team will play, most will focus on how they think Jeremy Lin and James Harden will fare, but the play of the rookies and Morris could boost or drop the Rockets record quite a bit.

The two players I'm most excited about are Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas not only because I think they'll play well, but they provide the Rockets with position flexibility to try to create mismatches on offense. Even at seven feet tall, Motiejunas plays the game more of a small forward or power forward like Dirk Nowitzki and Andrea Bargnani and looks to beat his defender with his jump shot more than his post game. Terrence Jones I think has the upside of a Lamar Odom and is probably a better fit as a small forward, but will play some power forward as well. He's got the body of a small forward, but I don't think his outside jump shot is reliable enough to play there full time. Having Motiejunas and Terrence Jones will allow the Rockets to go small with Motiejunas at center and Jones at power forward, or go big with Jones at the three, Motiejunas at the four, and Patterson at the five.

Predicted Record: 35-47, 10th Place in the Western Conference

Southwest Division

1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Memphis Grizzlies
3. Dallas Mavericks
4. Houston Rockets
5. New Orleans Hornets

NBA Predictions:

Western Conference

1. LA Lakers
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. LA Clippers
5. Memphis Grizzlies
6. Denver Nuggets
7. Utah Jazz
8. Minnesota Timberwolves

Eastern Conference

1. Miami Heat
2. Indiana Pacers
3. Brooklyn Nets
4. Boston Celtics
5. New York Knicks
6. Chicago Bulls
7. Philadelphia 76ers
8. Milwaukee Bucks

MVP: Kevin Durant (Thunder)

Rookie Of The Year: Anthony Davis (Hornets)

NBA Finals: Lakers over Heat (4-2)

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.