Chris Bosh was this close to becoming a Rocket.
Carmelo Anthony was never close.
Dallas stole Chandler Parsons.
And so, the Rockets were left shattered.
After shipping off Jeremy Lin for a trade exception in pursuit of signing Chris Bosh to a big deal and swapping Omer Asik for Trevor Ariza and a first round pick, the Rockets offseason looked like one of disappointment and mediocrity.
But, after some moves in free agency, the perception of the Rockets offseason may have been so skewed by what they didn’t get (Bosh, Anthony) that people don’t see the improvement ( yes, improvement!) over last season.
The Rockets first bring in a guy in Trevor Ariza that will produce as much if not more than Chandler Parsons. Sure, Parsons has youth, but Ariza has the veteran touch that this team will need if they truly want to contend. Now in his second tour with the Rockets, Ariza is coming off a career year with the Wizards. In fact, the only year that Ariza averaged more points than last season with the Wizards is the one year tour he had with the Rockets in the ’09-’10 season.
Ariza brings to the team a mature style of play. He is the kind of player who passes when he needs to, shoots when he needs to, and plays ferocious defense. He is a monster in transition and a great wing running mate for James Harden. Dwight Howard is also sure to love his beautiful corner three, of which he has specialized in at small forward. He also brings championship experience to the team, winning a title in ’08-’09 with Kobe Bryant’s Lakers.
But Ariza is not the only addition to this Rockets roster. General manager Daryl Morey brought in other talent this offseason. He brought in guards Scotty Hopson and Ishmael Smith and re-signed sharpshooter and playoff hero Troy Daniels. Daniels has a lot boding on him this season after getting a two year contract and is bound to impress. Those three along with Isaiah Canaan should do the job behind starters James Harden and Patrick Beverley. And if that wasn’t enough for you, Rockets second round draft pick, shooting guard Nick Johnson out of Arizona, has been killing it this offseason and has looked very impressive. Johnson could prove to be another second round gem for Daryl Morey.
But guard was not the only hole on this roster that Morey went out and plugged this offseason. He also bolstered the forward position with Jeff Adrien, Joey Dorsey, and Alonzo Gee. While both Adrien and Dorsey will likely contribute little and serve more as depth guys, Alonzo Gee should have a special part on this roster as sixth man. Despite a down year last year (he averaged just 4 points a game), Gee is just one year removed from starting all 82 games and averaging over 10 points a game for Cleveland. Gee provides some great insurance behind Trevor Ariza and James Harden on the wing. Gee fits in with Kevin McHale’s system as a winger who can play good defense and create offense. Gee’s wing defense will be a great service to the Rockets, as his 1.3 SPG in 2011-2012 proves he can be a force on defense.
Another player brought over for this season is Kostas Papanikolaou, formerly of Barcelona. Papanikolaou is a talented offensive wing that has a lot of tools in his game. Houston is really hoping that these skills translate to the NBA, since they are paying him over $4 million this season. The Greek star will likely play combo forward for the Rocks’ and could easily play an Omri Casspi like role this season for the Rockets. The Rockets organization have a lot of hope for this international forward, and hopefully it will pan out for GM Daryl Morey and company.
Also at forward are bench players Robert Covington and Josh Powell, as well as Lithuanian star Donatas Motiejunas. The Lithuanian is just itching for a breakout season, but that breakout may not be with the Rockets. Motiejunas’ named surfaced in trade rumors last season and, after some remarks about team chemistry, history may repeat itself.
Finally, anchoring down the center position is of course the always exciting Dwight Howard. Behind him, though, is a guy not named Omer Asik. With Asik in New Orleans, the Rockets replaced him with first round draft choice Clint Capela of Switzerland. The Rockets negotiated with the international big man to where he would join them this season, something the Rockets really needed. The defensive specialist will learn a lot from playing behind D12 and could maybe develop an offensive game some time in the future.
So, now with some knowledge about what the new Rockets team will look like next year, How far do you think they can go?
The team definitely got better this offseason, despite losing 2 starters and a key bench kog. If they got better enough to put up a more impressive postseason is still a mystery, though.
My guess with these new and improved Rockets is no further than a second round exit. While sure they are deep, they cannot compete with the likes of the Mavs, Clippers, Thunder, or Spurs.
Still, that is better than last season, and improvement is what this team needs. Their core is still young enough that they don’t need to rush into “win now” mode. The Rockets have a lot to build off of and a lot of bad playoff history to put behind them this season, so I would expect an impressive outing from Kevin McHale and co.