When you play in the stacked Western Conference, it’s somewhat understandable to overlook a team of the Houston Rockets’ calibre. However, after an offseason in which they significantly upgraded their personnel, the Rockets have solidified themselves as a top-3 squad in the conference yet again.
Over the course of the 18 games (including 4 back-to-back sets) throughout October/November, it will be seen whether or not the Rockets’ injury fortune has changed in comparison to 2014-2015. Health is going to be an important factor for “Clutch City” entering the campaign, as this is a team that missed the most games due to injury (399) of any playoff team in the league. The only team to top the Rockets were the Timberwolves at 438.
With guys like James Harden, Patrick Beverley, Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas out for dozens of games at a time, the Rockets were abled to make up production due to the luxury of a great bench. This offseason saw that bench bolstered even further, with key role players like Jones, Brewer, Beverley and Terry each bringing something unique to the table. Even the rookies and sophomores, such as Dekker, Harrell, McDaniels and Capela, are ready to contribute at a high level with their specific skill set. The Houston Rockets’ depth will allow them to compete at a high level while feeling no pressure to rush their key players back from injury.
One important cog for the Rockets in the early going on the 2015-2016 campaign will be Dwight Howard. Howard, who missed 41 games last season due to a nagging right knee injury, was a key presence in Houston’s top-6 defense. With Dwight on the floor the Rockets had a net rating of +8.2, compared to just +1.8 when he was off the court. The Rockets obviously have aspirations that go beyond the regular season but for the Rockets to be at their best both defensive and offensively Howard needs to be on the floor.
The prized bargain acquisition for the Rockets this offseason was Ty Lawson from the Denver Nuggets. While it certainly is an upgrade in overall talent by pushing Beverley to a more comfortable bench role, it remains to be seen how Lawson will mesh with Harden at the guard spots. Both players are historically ball-dominant and like to drive the lane and set-up teammates. Lawson also isn’t a great shooter from beyond the arc, having only connected on a career-low 34.1% of his attempts from deep last season. Either one or both of these guards will have to adapt their game if the Rockets want to maximize their guard play.
3 of the first 7 opponents the Houston Rockets will face come against similar Western Conference juggernauts in the form of Golden State (October 30th), Oklahoma City (November 2nd) and Los Angeles Clippers (November 7th). The clashes of star power and highlight plays will be on full display early on.
Courtesy of Rant Sports