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2010-11 NBA Preview: Houston Rockets

After finishing  with a 42-40 regular season record in 2009-2010, what’s next for the Houston Rockets? More to the point, what’s in store for its players as far the wonderful world of Fantasy Basketball is concerned? The long answers will only be truly unraveled by the hard, no B.S. results of the 2010 season. The short answers can captured in the classification of this franchise as being one that is in a rebuilding phase.  A phase that is still currently ongoing, but has begun as early as last season (possibly even earlier) and landmarked by a myriad of entrances and exits.

Enter: Yao Ming and Brad Miller; Exit: Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes’ fantasy value

Carl Landrygot shipped off to Sacramento during the “Kevin Martin Trade” or “The T-Mac Contract Dump,” depending on how you want to look at it.  Landry was a brief revelation of talent, fleeting like a shooting star in the Texan night sky. The kind you omen you wish upon to grant you a respite from seeing T-Mac in a Rockets uniform, but let’s not get into that right now. We’ll get to that soon enough. On some level, it was sad to see Landry go. He was their best inside-scoring at that point.

This season, things are now different in the Rockets’ front court. The team now has two centers who they did not get to play alongside with last season; Yao Ming, who is returning from injury; and Brad Miller, who they just recently signed this off season.

At this stage, we’re not 100% sure that Yao will be 100% healthy when training camp begins. He’s missed an entire NBA season (2009-2010). The last time he did manage to play was in 2008-2009, where he averaged 19.7 PPG; 9.9 RPG; and 2.0 BPG. While it would be nice to see him to return to those averages, wishful might just end up being the more apt adjective use in that statement.  Even Yao himself has reservations about his ability to return to his peak form.

Even IF you conservatively project a 90% healthy Ming to deliver a 15/7/1.5 line for the season, his rare – well at least for most big men - ability to successfully make most of his freethrow attempts (86.6 FT% in 2008),  raises his projected fantasy value a notch or two.

Believe me, I’ve been wrestling with a decent speculative outlook on Yao’s potential  for the season (both good and bad), seemingly as long as Hulk Hogan’s been laying down leg drops. The possibility that he will get injured once again forever looms over his every fantasy projection. Add to that the likelihood that Rick Adelman will probably limit his playing time as Yao gets re-acclimated to NBA play, and that his foot issue may even prevent him from playing in all of the 82 regular season games; just makes things gloomier and gloomier.

His confidence is so shaken to the point that retirement at age 30, is not a far fetched possibility in the event that  he can no longer perform at the highest levels of competitive professional basketball.

At the end of the day, a VERY conservative approach is best used when addressing his return. I just cannot see the point in putting to risk any draft pick within the first half of a fantasy draft on Yao. There are simply too many question marks left in his status at this point. To a certain degree, caution must have been the word of the day when Houston’s execs decided to sign Brad Miller.

Brad Miller’s fantasy position is pretty cut and dry, really. If Yao plays, simply toss Miller off to the wayside (in 12-team leagues) along with Chuck Hayes. Remember Chuck? He was the undersized starting center for the Rockets who we all cheered for to get into early foul trouble so that Carl Landry could get in the game. That’s the guy.

On the other hand, if Yao gets hurt, Brad will be the primary beneficiary of that turn of events and should immediately picked off the wires. Miller has had a history with Adelman back when they he was coached by the latter in Sacramento. Miller’s passing ability and knack for being able to sink medium range jumpers on the wing, make him a good candidate to do well in the Rockets’ system. He’s like an old-school jukebox. It’s nice to see be put to use, especially since it can still play; but then you all secretly want to get over the novelty and nostalgia of the moment, and play whatever is jamming on your Ipod.

Enter: Trevor Ariza; Exit: Shane Battier

Let’s take a look back and see how Ariza transitioned, fantasy-wise, when he signed with the Rockets.

When he played for the Lakers in 2008-2009 (82 Games) he averaged 8.9 PPG; 4.3 RPG; 1.8 APG; 0.7 3PPG; 1.7 SPG; 0.3 BPG; 1.1 TO; 46.0 FG%; 71.0 FT%.

Last season with the Rockets (72 Games) Trevor averaged 14.9 PPG; 5.6 RPG; 3.8 APG; 1.9 3PPG; 1.8 SPG; 0.6 BPG; 2.2 TO; 39.4 FG%; 64.9 FT%.

FG%: – 6.6%

FT%: -6.1%

PPG: +6.0

RPG: +1.3

APG: +2.0

3PPG: +1.2

SPG: +0.1



As you can see, Ariza improved on the counting categories while was absolutely horrible when it came to the shooting percentages. Yeah, it was like he was shooting the ball with a hand over his eyes. Frankly, we can chalk up those changes to him having to step-up and take a big share of the scoring duties. Now that the Rockets are expecting Yao Ming to be ready for training camp and now can rely on Kevin Martin to absorb a good chunk of the aforementioned responsibilities, perhaps we can see Ariza do more of what we’re truly hoping he will deliver – two steals, one and half treys, some boards a night, hopefully accompanied by a low amount of turnovers. In short I’m kind of high on Ariza this coming season. Not bullishly high, but at least slightly optimistic for a better performance than last season’s 67th on GMTR’s player rater.

No, Shane Battier did not leave the Rockets. It’s just that with the younger Ariza now taking up the role of being the aggressive defender on the wings and with Kevin Martin locking down most of the minutes at shooting guard, it’s difficult to expect this once roto cult favorite to be able to redo his 109th ranking from last season. Expect a bit of a decline in his production this year. He’ll be 33 when the season begins.

Enter: Kevin Martin; Exit: Tracy McGrady

This was a good move for the Rockets last year. They went off and traded away their star, injury prone shooting guard (T-Mac) and his expiring contract; and got a younger, slightly less athletic, almost equally injury prone replacement (Kevin Martin). In 2008-09 Martin managed to log 51 games for the Kings. Last season, squeaked in a disappointing 46 games (22 in SAC, 24 in HOU). As good as Kev-Mart is at putting up roughly 20 points a night and boosting your fantasy team’s overall FT%, his history for getting hurt – he’s missed 20 games or more in the last three seasons – makes him a huge liability in fantasy basketball.

He’s a solid per-game performer; kind of like Danny Granger, but like Granger Martin’s “habit” for missing a good number of games every season merits a considerable draft-rank downgrade. Simply to offset their currently inherent injury risk.

Here’s a quick rough estimate at what the team’s depth chart should look like:

PG: Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry

SG: Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Chase Budinger, Jermaine Taylor

SF: Trevor Ariza, Shane Battier, Chase Budinger, Jared Jeffries

PF: Luis Scola, Jordan Hill, Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson, David Andersen

C: Yao Ming, Brad Miller

As you can see, Yao’s shot blocking abilities will be very much appreciated as it would round out this very diverse starting lineup nicely.

Young Blood

The Rockets drafted Patrick Patterson, or Pat-Pat as Nels likes to refer to him, 14th overall in this season’s draft. He’s a 6′9″ power forward who did well for himself in the recently concluded summer league. It’s easy to skip him in a 12-man draft as of now. Luis Scola will get the bulk of the mins at the power forward position, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Pat-Pat rises above Hayes, Hill and Andersen in the PF pecking order as the season moves along…

Solid Starters

Aaron Brooks‘ improvement last season was a pleasant surprise. Well it was  more pleasant than it was a surprise, actually. He stepped up and led his team. This was evident on how well his stats spiked across the board. He should remain a solid choice for a secondary PG in this year’s fantasy draft as he can really light things up from downtown (2.6 treys per game). He was a minor sleeper last season as people could really peg, to a tee, how great he would actually be. The gloves are off though this season as he’s likely on almost everyone’s radar. I’d say that I’m still optimistic that he’s still in line for some more improvements as he cements his future all-star status.

Luis Scola signed an a fresh deal with Rockets this off-season. As I mentioned earlier, he should have a stranglehold on most of the PF minutes. He should once again prove to be a reliable three-dimensional fantasy asset; boosting your team’s PTS, FG%, and REB categories. He’s a poor man’s Carlos Boozer or Zach Randolph. One thing that’s particularly good to note about Scola is that he hasn’t missed a single game in the  three seasons; which by the way, encompasses his entire professional NBA career. And you all know how we at GMTR, well me especially, love the “Games Played” pseudo-stat.

So, among the players to draft… Here’s your official GMTR Guidance (for a 12 team league):

Aaron Brooks – 4th

Kevin Martin – 4th

Trevor Ariza - 5th

Luis Scola – 6th-7th

Yao Ming – Acceptable reach somewhere in the late 6th; good value somewhere 7th-8th; steal 10th round onwards

Shane Battier – 11th-12th

While you’re warming up for the fantasy draft and chillin’ out this summer, here’s something to heat things up:

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