Playoffs: Did not qualify
Draft picks: Jeremy Lamb, Royce White, Terrence Jones
Signings/trades: Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, Toney Douglas, Shaun Livingston, Jon Brockman, JaJuan Johnson, Carlos Delfino, Scott Machado, Demetri McCarney, Kyle Fogg
Samuel Dalembert, Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Marcus Camby, Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger, Goran Dragic, Courtney Fortson
Projected starting lineup
C - Omer Asik
PF - Patrick Patterson
SF - Chandler Parsons
SG - Kevin Martin
PG - Jeremy Lin
What to expect
Well, first of all, I'm sure you noticed there were eight million names under "offseason additions." Okay, 13 to be exact, essentially the equivalent of an NBA roster. I really don't think I need to tell you that not all of those players will be on the opening day roster for the Houston Rockets, but in case I do, they won't.
Now, as for the Rockets' outlook for this season.
No, they did not land Dwight Howard like they had hoped, but there is absolutely talent here, perhaps even enough talent to legitimately compete for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
I especially love what Houston did in the draft. It selected two players with star potential in Lamb and White and made a safe choice in taking Jones with its third first-round pick.
Lamb has been compared by some to Reggie Miller (or at least Richard Hamilton), and White was considered by many to be the most unique player in the draft given his ability to play point forward. He reminds me a bit of Anthony Mason, just with a much higher ceiling. As far as Jones goes, he is a bruising small forward who can also play the four. Expect him to have a very successful NBA career as a solid role player.
The good news for Rockets fans is that the talent doesn't merely stop at those three rookies. It extends to youngsters like Patterson and Parsons (one of the league's most surprising players in 2012) and, of course, the newly acquired Lin.
You were all probably waiting for me to bring up Lin, the player who will all but likely be the main attraction in Houston this coming season. Was his 2012 campaign with the New York Knicks a fluke, or is it something that he can build on?
One thing is for sure about the Rockets: they will be a fast-paced unit. Just about everyone on the roster can get out and run, and that will serve as a big litmus test for Lin. It will be interesting to see if he can handle the reigns of a team where he is actually one of the elder statesmen.
Another player to keep an eye on is Martin. His name was thrown around in trade rumors this summer, and it will be certainly be intriguing to see whether or not Houston decides to deal him around the deadline should it find itself out of playoff contention.
This is the last year of Martin's contract, so the Rockets have two options if they don't plan on re-signing him. Either they let him play out the season with the team and just wait for his contract to come off the books, or they deal him and get something for him.
To wrap all of this up, Houston will be fun to watch this year, plain and simple. Regardless of whether or not the Rockets win a lot of games, it should be entertaining to examine this group of kids and see how well they gel together during their first season.
Expect a scrappy bunch that will be a royal pain in the rear end to the upper-echelon teams.
Key player: Asik
You thought I was going to say Lin, didn't you?
Yes, the whole Linsanity story is nice, but Asik is going to be the key for the Rockets this season. He needs to prove to everyone that GM Daryl Morey didn't overpay when he signed him to that three-year, $25.1 million deal in July.
Having never even played 15 minutes a game in either of his two years in the NBA, Asik has earned the reputation of being a staunch defender in the paint. He is also known for being a good rebounder, as he averaged 13 boards per 36 minutes in 2012.
Those things being said, Asik needs to validate himself as a starter. Yes, he may have averaged a nice chunk of rebounds if he played 36 minutes a game, but the fact is that he didn't play 36 minutes a game. He played less than half that, and no one really knows if bigger minutes will translate into those actual numbers.
Although I'm not really sure you can classify a mid-first-round draft pick as a "sleeper," I just had to include a special section for White somewhere in here.
Let me say this: Royce White has the potential to be the best player to come out of the 2012 draft class. Better than Anthony Davis. Better than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He is that talented.
White still has some things to work on. First of all, he is a poor jump shooter. The good news is that he does not actually have bad technique when shooting the basketball, so that leads me to believe that he can become at least adequate in that area. Second of all, his awareness on the defensive end of the floor needs some work.
Finally (and this is not something that White can merely "work on"), it is well-known that White struggles with anxiety, and how much that will impact his play on the professional level remains to be seen.
As for what is good about White? Pretty much everything else.
He is a 6'8", 265 lb. monster who can handle and pass the ball like a point guard, making him an incredibly difficult cover. His floor vision is absolutely unheard of for a player his size. Think of a 6'8" Rajon Rondo. That is how phenomenal White's court awareness is. White is also a very good rebounder, not only possessing good size for hitting the glass, but great technique as well.
In terms of scoring the basketball, White definitely has some moves in the post. He can certainly stand to polish his skills down there, but he unquestionably has a good feel for what to do in the paint. If White can combine a reliable post game with his ability to pass the ball out of the low box, he can develop into one of the most unguardable players in the NBA. I'm serious.
Watch out for this kid. He is raw, but his ceiling is limitless.
Playoffs: Will not qualify
As I stated earlier, Houston is going to be one of those annoying teams that even the best of ballclubs will hate playing. Chances are the Rockets will not make the playoffs, but they do have the talent to at least hang around in the hunt for the eight seed for a good chunk of the year. I'll even go as far to say that it would not shock me to see this team in the postseason.
If Houston were in the Eastern Conference, I'd say they'd have a much more realistic shot at earning a top eight seed, but the West is just deeper. Teams like the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves are on the rise and will all likely improve significantly this season, making it that much more difficult for the Rockets to qualify for the playoffs.
Still, Morey and Co. know that Houston is not going to be a contender this year. This is a rebuilding year for the Rockets, a year where the front office can evaluate its talent and see what players will likely make up the core for the future. With guys like White, Lamb, Jones and Lin, I don't think Houston will have too much of an issue finding that core.
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