Team Preview #6: Houston Rockets
by Eric Wong AKA Roto EvilAugust 6th, 2008
LAST SEASONHouston won 55 games, but they lost in the 1st Round of the Playoffs for the 4th time in 5 years (they didn't make it in '05-06). McGrady & Co. put up an admirable fight againt Utah without Yao, but they still lost in 6 games. After Boston, they were probably the best defensive team in the league.
OFFSEASON MOVESKey Additions: Ron Artest, Brent Barry, Joey Dorsey
Key Losses: Bobby Jackson, Carl Landry?, Dikembe Mutombo?
A strong defensive team just got stronger with the addition of Ron Artest. You can click here to read what I've already said about the addition, but I think it immediately turns Houston into a legit contender. They had to give up a talented prospect (Donte Greene) to get him, but since T-Mac & Yao are already in their primes, it makes sense to go for the glory NOW. The signing of veteran guard Brent Barry was much less heralded, but still very important, as he'll replace B-Jax as the 1st guard off the bench. Carl Landry wants more money after an impressive rookie season, but the Rockets might let him go since they drafted Joey Dorsey out of Memphis. At 6-7, 265 pounds, Dorsey is an imposing physical specimen and a monster rebounder. The Rockets would like to have Mutombo back for one more year, but he wants more than the veteran's minimum. I think they should pay the old man and mic him up for every game, because the result would be countless hours of hilarity.
ROTATION / PLAYING TIMEThe man the middle, Yao Ming, led Houston with a 37.2 mpg average in '07-08. He's also missed at least 25 games in each of the past 3 seasons and will be competing in the Olympics despite his foot not being 100%. My point being, if the Rockets play him any more than 36 mpg, they're asking for trouble. In case of injury, the Rockets will break the glass and bring in Mutombo (assuming he re-signs). Chuck Hayes & Dorsey are rather short power forwards, but both are strong enough to guard centers if need be.
At the forward spots, Shane Battier played 36.3 minutes and Luis Scola played 24.7 minutes in '07-08, but I'm expecting those numbers to fall to 34 and 22, respectively. To start the season at least, I'm projecting Artest to come off the bench and play 14 minutes at SF and 20 minutes at PF. I also expect McGrady's minutes (37.3 last year) to fall in the 34-36 range, as Brent Barry is a solid backup. At point guard, Rafer Alston should see close to the 34.1 minutes that he got last season, while the small & speedy Aaron Brooks will serve as his backup. During the regular season, the Rockets will likely tinker with several different player combinations, so don't be surprised if you see Barry & T-Mac in the backcourt together, or Battier, Artest & Scola up front.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Yao MingIn this recent Yahoo mock draft, Yao fell to the middle of the 3rd Round, #30 overall. He's always one of the best "per game" guys in fantasy hoops, but missing 25+ games for 3 years in a row makes you fall hard (see: Baron Davis last year). He is now officially a "MAJOR Injury Risk," perhaps more so than Marcus Camby used to be. But when you gamble on high-risk players like that, you can also reap huge rewards (like Baron & Camby owners did last year).
Yao also has some room for improvement, especially in the FG% department. His 50.7% FG in '07-08 was his lowest mark since his rookie year, and with the additions of Barry (to extend the defense) and Artest (to take some pressure off), I'm expecting that number to climb up to 52.5% in '08-09. With Artest also playing tenacious D at power forward now, Ming could possibly rack up more weak side blocks and improve on last year's career-high of 2.02 per game. If Yao falls to you in the 3rd Round, do NOT sleep on this talented Chinaman (not the preferred nomenclature).
BE CAREFUL OF: Rafer AlstonOver the past 3 years, Houston has lacked a reliable 3rd scorer and Yao & T-Mac have missed a combined 148 games, so Rafer Alston has had plenty of chances to score points. In '07-08, he even averaged a career-high 12.5 FG attempts per game, but that's sure to fall with Artest's 16.9 FGA and 20.5 ppg now in the mix. Since both T-Mac & Artest like to have the ball in their hands, it will be hard for Rafer to improve on his modest 5.3 dimes per game.
But there are more reasons to be careful of "Skip to My Lou." Over the past 5 years, he's shot over 40% from the field just ONCE (last year's 39.4% was actually a huge improvement over the 37.5% and 37.9% he shot in the two years prior). If that wasn't bad enough, this field goal-killer also likes to kick you in the nuts by hurting your FT% as well (over 74% just ONCE in his career). He'll likely be a Top 80 pick in some leagues, but I suggest waiting till the 8th or 9th round.
ROUND BY ROUND TARGETS(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)
Yao Ming: Mid 2nd - 3rd