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Houston Rockets

Division: SouthwestGM: Daryl MoreyHead Coach: Kevin McHale
2012-13: 45-37 (8th in West)vs. division 6-10
Points106.0 (2nd)
Rebounds43.4 (7th)
Assists23.2 (6th)
FG %.461 (9th)

With Howard in fold, Rockets ready to contend

CHOOSE YOUR TEAM

Eastern Conference Atlanta Hawks Boston Celtics Brooklyn Nets Charlotte Bobcats Chicago Bulls Cleveland Cavaliers Detroit Pistons Indiana Pacers Miami Heat Milwaukee Bucks New York Knicks Orlando Magic Philadelphia 76ers Toronto Raptors washington wizards


Western Conference Dallas Mavericks Denver Nuggets Golden State Warriors Houston Rockets LA Clippers LA Lakers Memphis Grizzlies Minnesota Timberwolves New Orleans Pelicans Oklahoma City Thunder Phoenix Suns Portland Trail Blazers Shaqramento Kings San Antonio Spurs Utah Jazz

The Houston Rockets landed the biggest prize in the offseason: a seven-time All-Star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year and Superman in training, Dwight Howard.

The most attractive free agent this summer, Howard signed with the Rockets, spurning his incumbent Los Angeles Lakers and the upstart Golden State Warriors.

"This is very special. Words really can't explain how I feel about being here," Howard said. "It is a fresh start, a clean slate. I am looking forward to doing it in Houston with these beautiful fans behind me. I think it is going to be great. I am looking forward to embracing this city and giving them everything I got."

Howard's one season in Hollywood was not glamorous. The Lakers played well below expectations, squeaked into the playoffs and disbanded, due in large part, to Howard's departure.

Through the disappointment of the 2012-13 campaign, Howard's numbers dipped, but were still extraordinary. He averaged 17.1 ppg (down almost 3.0 ppg from the previous season), but led the NBA in rebounding with 12.4 per game and finished fifth in the league in blocked shots at 2.45 a contest.

The numbers and the underachieving weren't the truly alarming facets of Howard's season with the Lakers. It was that Howard continued to appear like a malcontent and a problem. He clashed with Kobe Bryant about his role in the offense and within the team.

But Howard gets a fresh start with one of last season's most surprising teams. Just before the regular season, the Rockets acquired James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder for peanuts. He turned into an All-Star, one of the top- five best scorers in the league and one of its top players.

Houston made the postseason with relative ease and even took a few games from the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.

Who's In/Who's Out

Additions: Dwight Howard, Omri Casspi, Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby, Reggie Williams, Isaiah Canaan, Robert Covington, B.J. Young, Jordan Henriquez

Losses: Thomas Robinson, Royce White, Carlos Delfino, James Anderson, Tim Ohlbrecht, Daequan Cook

Analysis: Canaan was considered by many to be a mid-first round talent but he slipped down to the Rockets in Round 2. He is a very good athlete that shoots the ball well and as a senior looks ready to play in the NBA now. While not a true point guard he could provide some scoring punch for Houston's second unit. (-TSN.ca)

Round 2 34th overall Isaiah Canaan PG Murray State

The Good

The Rockets were the NBA's second-highest scoring team and one of the most storied three-point shooting teams in history. They'll be good offensively again.

Southwest Picks


Spurs (54-28)

The Best in the West?


Rockets (53-29)

Rocketing Up the Standings


Grizzlies (49-33)

Fighting For A High Seed


Mavericks (39-43)

Poor Dirk


Pelicans (36-46)

Up and Coming

Defensively, Houston finished 28th in a 30-team league in opponents' scoring.

Howard can change that stat and quickly.

Defensively, he'll improve this group immeasurably considering he is probably the league's best rim protector. The up-tempo style the Rockets play doesn't seem to suit Howard's game, but he can run the floor for cheap baskets and when they slow down, Howard can kick to open shooters, which makes Houston incredibly difficult to defend.

Harden is alsospectacular. He averaged 25.9 ppg, 5.8 apg and 4.9 rpg, all career highs. (His minutes also were a career-best 38.3 per game.) Harden is not just a great scorer and shooter (37 percent from 3-point range), but a great facilitator. Those assist numbers are high for an off-guard.

Harden and Howard may be the best inside-outside punch in the enitre NBA.

Holdovers Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin round out a very good starting five.

The Not So Good

Howard is notoriously moddy and is gaining a big reputation as a coach killer.

Just ask Stan Van Gundy and Mike D'Antoni.

Hopefully he stays happy and doesn't become a thorn in Kevin McHale's side because an unhappy Howard could seriously derail the momentum this team gathered last year.

The bench depth is also a bit of an issue.

Rockets Depth Chart

Power Forward

Omer Asik
Donatas Motiejunas
Terrence Jones

Centre

Dwight Howard
Marcus Camby
Greg Smith

Small Forward

Chandler Parsons
Omri Casspi
Robert Covington

Shooting Guard

James Harden
Ronnie Brewer
Francisco Garcia
Reggie Williams

Point Guard

Jeremy Lin
Patrick Beverley
Aaron Brooks
Isaiah Canaan

What To Expect

This team is certainly playoff bound, but are they contenders?

With no natural power forward and some question marks on the bench, probably not.

The Rockets are relying on Howard to change their defense and he's capable, but, despite the nickname, he's not Superman. The on-the-ball defense needs to improve drastically.

Expect Houston to still be in the top five offensively. They are loaded on offense. Don't expect much of a decline from Harden and Parsons' numbers could grow.

The NBA is a superstar-driven league and with Harden and Howard, the Rockets have two. They are closer than ever and give General Manager Daryl Morey credit for turning a dreadful roster into a top-10 in the league.

The Rockets could host a first-round playoff series, but they're just not quite at the championship door.




Big Tour

A Historic Event

It was Canada's night at the NBA Draft as four players from north of the border were selected.


1. Andrew Wiggins - Cavaliers

8. Nik Stauskas - Kings

18. Tyler Ennis - Suns

45. Dwight Powell - Hornets


2014 NBA Draft Tracker

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