2014-15 Houston Rockets Season Preview
2013 record: 54-28, second in southwest division
Playoffs: 4th seed lost to Portland (4-2)
Acquisitions: G-F Trevor Ariza (Washington), G Ish Smith (Phoenix), F Jeff Adrien (Milwaukee) , C Joey Dorsey( Overseas) , F Francisco Garcia (re-signed), G Troy Daniels (re-signed) , G Jason Terry (Sacramento)
Departures: F Chandler Parsons (Dallas), G/F Jordan Hamilton (Toronto), C Omer Asik (New Orleans), G Jeremy Lin (L.A. Lakers), F Omri Casspi (Sacramento)
Rookies: G Nick Johnson, F/C Clint Capela, F Tarik Black
Projected Starters: G Patrick Beverly, G James Harden, F Trevor Ariza, F Terrance Jones, C Dwight Howard
After the heart breaking first round exit, the Rockets offseason plan was to get a third star player alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard, they intended to pursue top targets Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, but first they declined Chandler Parsons’ option and made him a restricted free agent with the intention of matching an suitable offer he received from rival teams. The Rockets first option was Carmelo Anthony and he opted to stay in New York, next turned their attention to Chris Bosh, who flirted with the opportunity to come Houston and form a dynamic frontcourt with Dwight Howard but, ended up re-signing a max contract to stay Miami. During that span the Dallas Mavericks signed Chandler Parsons to a 3-yr, $46 million offer sheet and the team declined to match. To fill in the starting small forward void left by Parsons’ departure the Rockets turned to a familiar face that Rockets fans remember by signing Trevor Ariza. Essentially, the team swapped a 25-year old young rising forward in Chandler Parsons for a much savvy 29 year old veteran in Trevor Ariza. With the main intangibles of Ariza is a better shooter from three hitting 40.7 percent over Parsons’ 37.0 percent from three. Not to mention Ariza being the upgrade as a perimeter defender the Rockets desperately needed .With Ariza’s first go around season with Houston, he averaged a career high 14.9 PPG, and shot 33.4 percent from three. The last two years with Washington, the 29 year Ariza averaged 14.4 points and hitting 40.7 percent of his 3-point shots. He brings veteran leadership, perimeter defense and playoff experience, in which he’s already, won a ring with the Lakers back in 2009.
The team also turned their attention to bolster the bench and depth by signing two former Rockets coming back for their second stint in guard Ish Smith and forward Jeff Adrien. Smith 25, in 70 games with Phoenix averaged 3.7 PPG and 2.7 AST. He is expected to provide depth at point guard position along with second year guard Isaiah Cannon, who had a good summer league outing. With addition of Adrien, he will also provide depth at the power forward position behind the young and rsing power forwards Terrance Jones and Donatas Motiejunas. With the gaping hole at center with Omer Asik being traded to New Orleans, the team signed yet another former familiar face in Joey Dorsey. Dosey, 30 spent the last four seasons overseas where he was the Greek League Best Defender in 2012 and won a Euroleague title in the same year with Olympiacos. Also expect to see Motiejunas with some split time as backup center. Late into the offseason the Rockets added more fire power to the bench in Jason Terry, which he was known as a “Rocket Killer” during his tenure as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Like Ariza, Terry 36, won a championship in 2011 with Dallas and can provide very productive bench scoring and a mentor to fellow three pointer shooter Troy Daniels.
The questions that Rockets fans wonder if James Harden can commit to playing defense to match his lethal offense? With having a tough nose point guard in Patrick Beverly to a wing stopper in Trevor Ariza and a shot blocker in Dwight Howard, expect Houston to be much better defensively this season following being ranked 23rd in team defense last year giving up 103.1 OPP PTS, the offense will not be any issue when the Rockets were ranked 2nd in the NBA averaging 107.7 PPG. As for Dwight Howard, coming off his first season with the Rockets was very healthy, active and productive averaging 18.3 PPG, 12.2 REB and 2.4 BLK. Howard 28, came off a great playoff series and will carry that momentum into the season while he keeps working with coach Kevin McHale and Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon. The emergence and development of third year forward Terrence Jones who, put up 12.1 PPG, 6.9 REB and 1.3 BLK he thrived very well playing alongside Howard.
Looking for the Clutch City revival since it has been nearly been 19 year drought since Houston has raised the Larry O’Brien Trophy; good times may be coming back to the Bayou City. With the new additions to fortify the bench ,look for the Houston Rockets to be a more experienced team and the emphasis of team defense and finishing strong as the main staple of this team. Importantly this team will have grit and play with urgency to reach the goal of winning a championship it starts with James Harden and Dwight Howard.