How Will Yao Ming Impact the Rockets in 2010-11?

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Houston Chronicle writer Jonathan Feigen rescently reported that Yao Ming will not be playing more than 24 minutes any game during the regular season. 

Some Rockets fans may be shocked by this, but it’s really not that suprising. Considering Yao took the year off to recover and is far from basketball shape at present this move can be interpreted as nothing other than ingenious by the Rockets orginization. Look at the Spurs and Celtics last season. Their aging/injury-recovering superstar’s minutes got limited until the postseason and look how that turned out. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili made Dallas look like a non-factor and Boston pushed a seemingly untoppable Lakers squad to seven games in the finals. 

I don’t care how many minutes Yao plays as long as we make it to the playoffs. Then Adelman and his staff can decide exactly how long to let the dog off the leash. As fans we should not be questioning the necesity of the move but rather who fills 24 minute gap left at the five slot behind the Great Wall. 

Daryl Morey made no secret of the Brad Miller signing as “Yao insurance”, but does Brad have enough gas left in the tank to put in a solid 24+ minutes a game?  Miller is going to flourish back in Adelman’s system. His passing and spacing complement Rick’s offense very well. He knows his role and he knows his threshold. I’m not entirely sure that’s going to be enough. Last season for the Bulls, Brad Miller showed an expected drop off in effectiveness.  He went from 31.5 minutes per game two years ago alongside a solid 11.9 points in Sacramento to a more humbling 23.8 minutes and 8.8 PPG. Brad is going to help fill the hole, but not completely.

Over the summer league Jordan Hill exemplified why you don’t force tall and lanky power fowards to play center. The experiment failed. He was pushed around by anyone significant and while he had flashes of being an effective center, the overall performance was underwealming. Regretably, I think it’s a guarantee that Hill is going to see minutes at center this season. When Jordan Hill plays with better players around him than he did during the summer league and sticks to the low post, he’s obviously a better player. His activity on the glass and raw shot blocking potential he showed in spurts last season cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, Jordan will be severly abused by more physical centers and that is why he’s not going to carry more of the load.

Chuck Hayes has shown he can handle the center spot with some effectiveness.  His lower body is rarely pushed around and his defense is astounding. How I see Chuck Hayes fitting into a championship team is not as a backup who plays when the starters are winded. He’s a situational stopper and a defensive tool. 

He needs to be reserved for when a big man at either the 4 or 5 is abusing the starters inside the paint or in crucial defensive moments (remember that Celtics game last season when Rick put Chuck on Paul Pierce in overtime with seconds on the clock?). Once again, Hayes will likely see plenty of minutes at the 5 on this Rockets team.  In a perfect world, we’d have other options.

That brings us to the latest Rockets rumor floating around. Michael Jordan and his Bobcats rescently waived Erick Dampier’s non-guaranteed contract to get under the luxury tax putting Damp on the free agency as the last decent big man available. Houston has allegedly offered the former Dallas center a $4 million over 2 year contract.

Some readers out there may be hating this move. Don’t. Dampier is an aging former rival who never really looked that great on the court to begin with last season. Also, Erick Dampier joining the Houston Rockets is far from a lock. He has already expressed interest in joining the Heat and other teams lacking a presence in the paint will surely offer similar contracts with more of an opportunity to get minutes. 

Let’s objectively assess the situation before we let our natural rival hatred reject the plausability of this deal. With Yao Ming putting in 24 minutes at the absolute maxiumum, and likely a lot less earlier on in the season, we have around 24 to 34 minutes to fill. Brad Miller, Chuck Hayes, and Jordan hill provide relief but no big man defense. Brad provides offensive fluidity, spacing, and height. Chuck brings intensity, quick hands, and a descent post presence, and no offense. Jordan Hill, though unproven, shows signs of life on the boards and some offense.

In my opinion, Dampier would bring in a legit seven footer with respectable defense and shot blocking. Think of him in a Dikembe Mutumbo type role for us. Admitantly Dampier is not exceptional at any one thing but if he was willing to play for spot minutes he just might be perfect for us, or at least as good as we’re going to get.