Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tumultuous offseason led to his team being one of the most highly scrutinized organizations in the NBA. Morey was front and center aggressively chasing Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, but wasn’t able to close the deal on either player.
Sticking specifically to this year’s roster Houston added forwards Trevor Ariza, Jeff Adrien and Joey Dorsey through free agency. 6-foot-10 big man Clint Capela was drafted with the 25th pick in the 2014 draft. On the guard front, Ish Smith was signed and Nick Johnson was selected with the 42nd pick in the second round.
The three main contributors lost were Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.
The biggest difference on the Rockets roster will be in the margins not in the core. Despite the criticism they face, some of it fair and other parts of it not, center Dwight Howard and shooting guard James Harden are still around to anchor the roster.
Howard is arguably the best two-way center in the game and Harden is in the mix for the best offensive guard. As long as these two perform in the areas they are expected to the Rockets will win a significant amount of games.
It’s not like the role player roster was left barren either. There’s an argument to make the starting five of Patrick Beverly, Harden, Ariza, Terrence Jones and Howard complements each other better than the group last year with Parsons in Ariza’s place.
Harden’s biggest flaw as a player is on the defensive end. He’s now flanked by Beverly and Ariza, two versatile defenders able to take on a variety of matchups. Head coach Kevin McHale no longer has to worry about hiding Harden and Parsons, he just has to hide one of them. Ariza also shot slightly better on catch and shoot threes than Parsons last season according to the SportVU numbers produced by NBA.com (43.5% to 41.4%).
Lin became a weird fit on the Rockets once the team acquired Harden. In both seasons the man responsible for “Linsanity” numbers were better when Harden was on the bench and he was able to take onthe majority of the ball handling duties. The problem with this is Harden typically plays in the high 30s on a nightly basis. The Rockets need to generate enough success with one of Ish Smith, Isaiah Canaan or maybe even Johnson in these non Harden minutes as the lead ball handler to keep the team steady.
Asik is the loss that could potentially hurt the most, but his production wasn’t the same as years past in his diminished role. The majority of the time he only made sense to play when Howard was on the bench, but this was an important role because of his ability to simulate as the defensive anchor. Houston was still able to win those 54 games with Asik only playing in 48 contests and they were 22-8 when he didn’t play. They actually had a higher winning percentage without Asik than with.
It isn’t fair to assume Dorsey can fill in Asik’s role immediately. He has characteristics that fit the bill for a defensive center. Dorsey isn’t as tall, but he’s mobile with good feet and a monster on the glass. It’s important to temper expectations with a player who has never played more than 522 minutes in an NBA season.
This is where you trust what Morey has done historically. Whether it be drafting well in the middle of the first round with selections such as Jones, Marcus Morris and Patrick Paterson — snagging Parsons in the second round along with finding Beverly overseas — Houston’s GM has the historical evidence to trust he will once again identify undervalued talent.
The names featured throughout aren’t well-known names, but there was a time Asik was Joakim Noah’s backup, Lin’s validity as an NBA talent was questioned and 37 players were selected before Parsons.
The benefit of having players like Harden and Howard is it allows others on the roster to play within themselves and not have to expand into uncomfortable circumstances.
Houston didn’t hit the home run they wanted during offseason and this has brought on a negative perception. In reality, not much has changed with the Rockets roster outside of moving in and out complimentary pieces. With some development from within and low budget free agent signings panning out there’s no reason the Rockets can’t improve upon the base they laid down last season.