Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2010-2011 Houston Rockets

It's almost to the point with me that I have to be reminded that Yao Ming is still alive. He's been I guess we'll see. This season is pretty much make-or-break for his career and he has the power completely in his hands (or foot) to shift the Rockets from a young and talented squad in the middle of the pack to a championship contender. And they honestly should be. This team is put together in ridiculously nice fashion.

2010-2011 Houston Rockets

Point Guard: Aaron Brooks/Kyle Lowry
Shooting Guard: Kevin Martin/Courtney Lee
Small Forward: Shane Battier/Chase Budinger/Jared Jeffries
Power Forward: Luis Scola/Chuck Hayes/Patrick Patterson
Center: Yao Ming/Brad Miller

I'm in love with their backcourt. I can admit to thinking Aaron Brooks was a fluke two seasons ago when he almost singlehandedly pushed the Lakers to 7 games in the conference semis, but I'll admit that he's a legit starting NBA lead guard. He's blindingly quick and serious long range threat who made the jump enough to be the league's Most Improved Player. And with team, he's relieved of all pressure due to the fact that he's partnered with Kevin Martin who can score 25 a night while he's texting and drinking coffee in his car from the expressway on the way to the game. They also have the perfect glue guy at the small forward in Shane Battier who's probably the only player in the league who'd be completely content if he never took a shot the whole season. Add to that talent pool Kyle Lowry, an insanely powerful finisher as the back-up point who can produce points out of nothing, and Western Kentucky's own Courtney Lee (even though he's been rumored to be a trade pawn) and you've got yourself a complete set of perimeter guys with a crazy mix of speed, scoring ability, and defensive instincts.

Coming off a FIBA All-Tournament run and with the ink on his second U.S. contract still fresh, I expect this to be the year that Luis Scola cements his NBA status. Sure he's started all 164 games for Houston the last two years and was even an All-NBA Rookie in '08, but how he performs this year alongside Yao will mean more than all of that. Hopefully he'll be able to nudge himself into double-double territory. His confidence has to be sky high right now after killing Andy Varejao and the rest of the Brazilians for 37 points as Argentina's focal point without Manu Ginobili playing for the national squad this summer. With actual expectations on his shoulders this season, he has show and prove. The 16/9/2 stat line was nice last season, but that was on a team that didn't make the playoffs and had no other post threat. This is the real test.

But bringing it all back around, barring a crazy trade for Carmelo or another player of his level, this entire season depends on how much Yao Ming can stay on the floor. It's so easy to forget, but Yao is one of maybe five players in the game that opponents literally have to switch up their entire game plans for. He's not the most nimble or even the most intimidating guy on the floor, but he's a game changer who has the opportunity to score every single time down the floor, making his teammates all that more effective. So ... that leaves me with the conundrum of whether or not I make my prediction assuming Yao is back in full force or destined to fracture another limb and be permanently debilitated. I'm gonna go with the healthy assumption just for the fact that he can afford to take a bunch of minutes off on a nightly basis with the amazing bench mob of Brad Miller, Chuck Hayes, and Patrick Patterson there to spell him. And with that assumption, I have the Rockets skyrocketing from out of the playoffs to challenging the Lakers as the number 2 seed in the West. Their lack of quality playoff advancement bites them in the but though as they lose to the Oklahoma City Durants in the second round. And that's where I stand. Now we'll see if Yao is gonna be able to stand in that same spot without the aid of crutches and a boot.

Regular Season: 58-24
Playoffs: Eliminated in Western Conference Semi-Finals

... and do the John Wall.

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