The preseason is mainly used to evaluate young talent and determine what you need to improve come the regular season. So the Rockets didn’t play their two big men (Yao and Scola). Does it really matter? Playing the second half of a back-to-back and coming off an offensive explosion the previous night vs. Indiana, it made sense for Yao to sit this one out. After all, this is the preseason and games matter as much as a WNBA game so take this analysis with a grain of salt.
Sunday night the Rockets took on the newly lottery bound Cavaliers. The Cavs held out Mo Williams from the starting lineup, but like last season, that never slowed them down. I don’t care if you have none of your starters playing, if you lose to the Cavs without Lebron, there is usually something to worry about. Starters Brooks and Martin only played a mere 14 minutes, so needless to say this game was a chance for Adelman to truly evaluate his bench.
Starting off with Chase Budinger, one of the major bright spots on this Rocket bench. Something tells me after his dunk Saturday night (here), that he will be flying to LA for the dunk contest come February. Playing close to 30 minutes in last night’s game, Budinger put up a double double (13 pts 10 reb) on close to 50% shooting. Eleven of his points came consecutively to close out the first half (good sign for Rockets fans). For the statistics geeks out there, Budinger possessed the team’s highest plus/minus at +13. Only Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin were the only other Rockets who had a positive ratio at +4.
The Rockets one flaw in this game was their lack of post defense. I know, I know, Yao and Scola weren’t playing so how could you judge their post players. Well, eventually Jordan Hill is going to have some playing time, and if he can’t stop JJ Hickson from scoring, it’s not going to get any easier. Hickson led all players in scoring with 18 points. To those who saw any Cavaliers games last year, you know that Hickson’s only offensive move is dunking the ball. So to allow close to nine open dunks on defense is inexcusable. To the Rockets credit, the Cavaliers were trailing for a majority of the game until the start of the 4th quarter. The Cavaliers opened the fourth with a 21-8 run, but against who? Something tells me we aren’t going to see Patterson, Taylor, Harris, Lee, and Anderson on the floor at the same time when the games actually matter. Like every preseason, The Rockets need to make roster cuts soon and eventually get themselves back down to a 12-man roster. I’m sorry Jermain Taylor, Mike Harris, Antonio Anderson but your performance tonight is not going to cut it come late October. That leaves two more players on the bubble. I know Jermaine Taylor has high upside and all, but shooting 2-9 with three turnovers in 18 minutes isn’t going to grab Adelman’s attention.
Once again, it is tough to evaluate the Rockets without Yao, Scola, Lowry, Battier, and Miller sitting out, but if you plan to maintain your title as one of the deepest teams in the league, you can’t lose to the Cavaliers. Even if it is preseason, the Cavs won’t win 30 games this year. We will see how truly healthy Yao is as the Rockets prepare for their two games in China this week vs. the Proherov Nets. I’m willing to bet that the Chinese fans aren’t going to be so understanding with Yao’s lack of playing time, even if it is the preseason.