Thursday, October 18, 2007

Our Houston Rockets Preview

'06-'07 Record: 52-30
3rd in Southwest Division
4th in Western Conference

Projected Record: 58-24
2nd in Southwest Division
3rd in Western Conference

2007-08 Houston Rockets NBA Season Preview
You know what, I'm not quite ready to give them 60 wins, no matter Duke says some guy at ESPN said. And I'm not ready to give this team more than the most wins in franchise history. The wounds from that exit that shall not be named don't sting anymore, but they're sore and nagging like after knee surgery. Still, there's plenty of reason to be optimistic. The team dressed in black and gray off I-10 that shall not be named has gotten so complacent with their rings, they're giving away Euroleague MVPs. We accept. Steve Francis is back. So is Mike James. Bonzi Wells is in shape. The Rockets have a deep, endless bench and they have plenty of firepower to go around. But...

(G) Mike James, Steve Francis, Aaron Brooks
Yes, we asked for another point guard--and Duke's been begging to get Steve Francis back since the day he was traded--but isn't this a little overboard? While Adelman's system doesn't need a pure point per se (alliteration), combo guards will due, do we really need four (if you don't count JL3) undersized score-firstguards on the roster (Head, James, Francis and Brooks)? We imagine Adelman will quickly thin the herd and stick with two go-to guys at the point that might spend time on the court together in smaller line-ups like Mike Bibby/Bobby Jackson. We also imagine it might be a complete surprise who it is. And with that, how's reduced playing time for the other going to affect team chemistry. We won't be surprised if Morey moves a couple of these guys.
(F/C) Luis Scola, Jackie Butler
You almost couldn't ask for a better NBA rookie to add to this roster. Maybe Greg Oden for some twin towers action, but he ain't exactly playin' this season is he? Scola comes in with savvy and a proven track record, though admittedly, not at the NBA level. Still, the gap between NBA and the highest international ball is noticeably small now. Butler is still a project but has great tools and could become a solid backup for Scola and Yao with a little guidance from Deke.

Juwan Howard, Vassy Spoons, Jeff Van Gundy
Howard is not a starter in this league anymore--even though he did an admirable job picking his game up during Yao's absence--but he is a veteran leader on and off the court, someone everyone loves to play with and a solid choice off the bench. Unfortunately, he's out and Mike James was what received in return. Might seem odd with all the guards, but this deal was made before Francis on the table and the selection of Aaron Brooks... it's hard to imagine Adelman won't find a combination that works with this much talent in the backcourt, but it's a shame to lose Howard for that experiment. Spoons was fun to project, but not too fun to watch. He'll never get another shot if he goes back to Greece. It's too bad. I'll miss all the Greek fans. Van Gundy, I was a fan even if 99% of Houston was not. He did his thing, it's a new era. Good luck to JVG at TNT, we're fans.

PROJECTED STARTERS (with stat projections)
These are projected starters based on who will start for the majority of the games, not just who starts early in the season, plus the projected rotation the Rockets will use going into the playoffs.

(C) Yao Ming: who else? [25.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.1 bpg]
(F) Luis Scola: starter by 20 gms. [9.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.3 apg]
(F) Shane Battier: always solid. [6.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg]
(G) Tracy McGrady: ...come on. [21.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 6.2 apg]
(G) Steve Francis: reg. starter by 30 gms. [11.8 ppg, 3.2 apg]
(F) Bonzi Wells: will be biggest contributer off bench [10.1 ppg].
(G) Mike James: fills in for either 1 or 2 spot. [8.6 ppg]
(G) Luther Head: also get some time at 2 spot. [5.3 ppg]
(C) Chuck Hayes: still the energy guy, will still get burn.
(F) Jackie Butler: may get bulk of minutes at backup F/C.
(G) Aaron Brooks: mostly garbage time unless there's an injury.

ESPN says the Rockets are the most upgraded of any NBA team (not Boston?) and it should show right away. Most losses early on will come from slight chemistry issues and mastering the Princeton offense. The most significant upside for this deep roster is that it has enough firepower to weather some minor downtime from either Yao or T-Mac, but the hope, obviously, is that their injury troubles are over.

Yes, our predictions on the site say Championship, but that's because we have to say that, but if I were someone else, someone objective, I'd say the Rockets tie their franchise record in wins this year and finally get out of the first round. How far they get after that almost doesn't matter, because they will surely either face Dallas, San Antonio or Phoenix in the second round and an ability to hold ground or beat of these three will do much to dictate expectations for the next season.

A Championship is a little fanciful with so many established powers in the West, and by no means, is it the only idea of a successful season... but we wouldn't mind.


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Go Houston Rockets