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NBA Market Watch: Preview-Houston Rockets
by: Eric Weiss - Sports Aptitude
October 10, 2007
Offseason Overview:

Houston had an early exit from the playoffs last year, but like their Texas counterparts, are probably a better team than their finish would indicate. Everything the Rockets do begins and ends with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, and the team has greatly desired a productive third option for some time.

Last year, the team thought that free agent Bonzi Wells would give the team a reliable 3rd option, but it is this season that the move may finally pay off. Wells was injured much of last season and was in terrible shape to boot. This year Wells looks focused and fit, having lost at least 20 pounds, giving him the quickness he needs as a slashing scorer.

The team also made a couple of savvy moves that are sure to pay dividends at a couple of need positions. The team really went a little crazy in terms of player acquisition, as it has 20 players under contract and will have to make some tough cuts by the start of the season. As of now, it looks like Bob Sura, Justin Reed, Mike Harris, and John Lucas are on the outside looking in. Steve Novak, Carl Landry, and Kirk Snyder should be battling for the final roster spot.

The Rockets signed Steve Francis to a modest contract, which returns the one-time Rockets star to his old stomping grounds. Francis seems to be in great shape and good spirits now that he’s come home, which should help him to contribute in a complementary role for the first time in his career.

The trade for Luis Scola and Mike James also look to be tremendous value pick-ups for the Rockets. Scola should be stepping into the starting power forward spot vacated by Juwan Howard. Scola was a star in Europe, but should be able to turn himself into a super role player right off the bat with his smart decision making and experience.

James was acquired in a prisoner exchange for Juwan Howard after a lack-luster year in Minnesota. James is more of a scoring guard than a point, but he brings solid perimeter shooting and gritty driving ability to the Houston bench, which gives the team some depth in terms of scoring.

Depth Chart:



Strengths:

Star power is a clear strength of the Rockets, as they enjoy a great inside/outside combo with Ming and McGrady. But the team has more than that going for it this season, as they have depth and scoring balance to support their two stars for the first time.
The guard depth is especially good for Houston. The team will certainly trot out a lot of two point guard lineups with Alston, Francis, James, and maybe a little bit of rookie Aaron Brooks. All four players are deserving of playing time, so Rick Adelman is going to have to get creative or the team is going to have to swing a deal to free up some time.

Houston’s veteran leadership and experience are also a major factor for this team. The first and second string all have over five years experience with the exception of Chuck Hayes. It may take a bit of time for the new members of the squad to get up to speed, but the core of the team is intact from the past season, so there shouldn’t be tremendous pressure on the newcomers to do too much too quickly.

The team has been a good defensive club as well the past few seasons, but with a new coach and new players, it remains to be seen if the team still commits themselves to those defensive principles. It is almost a lock that this team will be more offensively productive, as no team coached by Rick Adelman has ever been anything less.

Weaknesses:

The most outstanding weakness of this team is health. Greater depth will help the team survive the nicks and bruises of the regular season, but it still comes down to Tracy McGrady being ready to go.

The presence of Bonzi Wells, Mike James, and Steve Francis will help to bolster the scoring of this team and will allow McGrady to play less minutes and even miss a couple of games if and when he gets a pull or a strain. But McGrady has to be ready to go come playoff time or the Rockets will be packing up early for the year yet again.

The other possible weakness is the personnel itself. Alston, Wells, James, Francis, and even Aaron Brooks (digging backwards in his years at Oregon) are all notorious yappers and part-time complainers when they’re not getting what they “deserve.” Each of these players is also quite used to having the ball in their hands. It’s clear that most of the time these four vets are going to be playing a bit more off-ball than as ball-pounding playmakers, especially when considering McGrady’s ball-handling tendencies as well.

It will be a real credit to Adelman if he can build a high powered system predicated on ball-movement like he had in Sacramento. The balancing act of egos on this team may be the greatest challenge of all, as none of the more combustible players have ever had trouble finding the “me” in “team.”

Outlook:

This should be a big-time year for the Rockets. They are the classic “on paper” team that looks like it can contend with the top-shelf squads in the west. Familiarity and chemistry will be the biggest challenges for Houston throughout this season as they look to establish a rotation while at the same time adjusting to a new coaching staff.

It’s likely that the team will look to move some of their depth at the guard position, but finding a buyer for one of their mercurial guards will be a process of each proving himself capable of being a team player at the offset of the season.

Look for the Rockets to be one of the lower seeds in the West as they will probably struggle early in the season against the more established Western powers that have had less personnel change and have maintained their coaching staffs.

If the team finds its identity and everyone gets along, the team should really come on strong in the second half of the year and could be a tough out in the playoffs…or they could fail to find that identity and remain and mediocre playoff team still searching for the right pieces to fit around their two superstars. Time will tell which direction the team goes in, but the club has certainly made aggressive moves to ensure the former path.
 


Feedback for this article may be sent to eric.weiss@gmail.com .

 

Yao Ming
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 5"
Weight: 296 lbs.
Birthday: 09/12/1980
34 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #1 in 2002 Draft
by the Rockets
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
10.2 Pts, 5.4 Rebs, 0.8 Asts


Tracy McGrady
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 212 lbs.
Birthday: 05/24/1979
35 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Mount Zion
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #9 in 1997 Draft
by the Raptors
Positions:
Current: SG/SF,
NBA: SG/SF,
Possible: SG/SF
Quick Stats:
3.0 Pts, 3.0 Rebs, 4.0 Asts


Bonzi Wells
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 213 lbs.
Birthday: 09/20/1976
38 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Muncie Central
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #11 in 1998 Draft
by the Pistons
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
1.5 Pts, 2.0 Rebs, 0.5 Asts


Bob Sura
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 195 lbs.
Birthday: 03/25/1973
41 Years Old
Teams:
High School: G.A.R. Memorial
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #17 in 1995 Draft
by the Cavaliers
Positions:
Current: G,
NBA: G,
Possible: G
Quick Stats:
10.3 Pts, 5.5 Rebs, 5.2 Asts


Justin Reed
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 7"
Weight: 240 lbs.
Birthday: 01/16/1982
32 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Provine
Previous Team: Mississippi , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #11 in 2004 Draft
by the Celtics
Positions:
Current: SF/PF,
NBA: SF/PF,
Possible: SF/PF
Quick Stats:
12.7 Pts, 7.1 Rebs, 1.9 Asts


Mike Harris
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 240 lbs.
Birthday: 06/16/1983
31 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Hillsboro
Previous Team: Rice , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: SF/PF
Quick Stats:
2.9 Pts, 2.9 Rebs, 0.7 Asts


John Lucas
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 175 lbs.
Birthday: 10/31/1953
60 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Hillside
Previous Team: Oklahoma State , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #1 in 1976 Draft
by the Rockets
Positions:
Current: G,
NBA: G,
Possible: G
Quick Stats:
5.8 Pts, 1.8 Rebs, 4.9 Asts


Steve Novak
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 216 lbs.
Birthday: 06/13/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Brown Deer HS
Previous Team: Marquette , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #2 in 2006 Draft
by the Rockets
Positions:
Current: SF/PF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF/PF
Quick Stats:
3.8 Pts, 0.4 Rebs, 0.0 Asts


Carl Landry
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 248 lbs.
Birthday: 09/19/1983
31 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Vincent
Previous Team: Purdue , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #1 in 2007 Draft
by the Supersonics
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
6.5 Pts, 4.2 Rebs, 0.3 Asts


Kirk Snyder
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 7"
Weight: 228 lbs.
Birthday: 06/05/1983
31 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Upland
Previous Team: Nevada , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #16 in 2004 Draft
by the Jazz
Positions:
Current: SG/SF,
NBA: SG/SF,
Possible: SG/SF
Quick Stats:
5.0 Pts, 3.0 Rebs, 1.0 Asts


Steve Francis
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 195 lbs.
Birthday: 02/21/1978
36 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Montgomery Blair
Previous Team: Maryland , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #2 in 1999 Draft
by the Grizzlies
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
5.5 Pts, 2.3 Rebs, 3.0 Asts


Luis Scola
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 245 lbs.
Birthday: 04/30/1980
34 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Vitoria , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #27 in 2002 Draft
by the Spurs
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
7.0 Pts, 4.0 Rebs, 2.0 Asts


Mike James
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 188 lbs.
Birthday: 06/23/1975
39 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Amityville Memorial
Previous Team: Duquesne , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
1.0 Pts, 0.6 Rebs, 1.5 Asts


Juwan Howard
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 253 lbs.
Birthday: 02/07/1973
41 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Chicago Vocational
Previous Team: Michigan , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #5 in 1994 Draft
by the Bullets
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
3.0 Pts, 1.1 Rebs, 0.9 Asts


Aaron Brooks
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 161 lbs.
Birthday: 01/17/1985
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Franklin
Previous Team: Oregon , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #26 in 2007 Draft
by the Rockets
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible:
Quick Stats:
7.4 Pts, 1.6 Rebs, 2.9 Asts


Rick Adelman
Full Profile
Physicals
Height: 6' 1"
Weight: 175 lbs.
Birthday: 06/16/1946
68 Years Old
Teams:
High School: St. Pius X
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 7, Pick #1 in 1968 Draft
by the Rockets
Positions:
Current: G,
NBA: G,
Possible: G


Chuck Hayes
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 7"
Weight: 232 lbs.
Birthday: 06/12/1983
31 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Modesto Christian
Previous Team: Kentucky , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
2.5 Pts, 3.0 Rebs, 0.3 Asts


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