With nearly three months left until the start of the NBA season, there has never been this much hype. Maybe it is because of the Miami Heat, or maybe we just want to see how each teams will improve. Most notably, what will the Houston Rockets do come next season? With that in mind, here are my things to look for in the preseason:
1. Yao Ming- This one is obvious. Everybody wants to see if Yao can return to form and lead the Rockets deep into the playoffs. As Morey best put it, “With Yao unhealthy, they took the Lakers to seven games.” Imagine what they could do with a healthy Yao? Rockets fans aren’t the only ones concerned about Yao’s health… the entire NBA is interested. All last season, the Rockets didn’t have one scheduled game on National television. Insert a healthy Yao, and you have a primetime opening matchup vs. the Lakers. It just goes to show you that Yao’s impact isn’t only on the court. In fact, the NBA just announced the Rockets will play two preseason games in China vs. the New Jersey Nets. It is safe to say that with this matchup, they don’t want the Rockets losing in China (even if it is preseason.) Morey and the Rockets training staff firmly believe that Yao will play in the preseason (even if the minutes are severely limited.) With a plethora of above average talent surrounding Yao, everybody is wondering how good can they be? And if Yao’s health doesn’t improve, the window may be closing quickly.
2. Young Talent- Another thing to keep an eye on is the Rockets large depth of younger, more inexperienced players. Just like any other preseason, it is a time for the young to shine and for the vets to relax. This list of young depth includes Budinger, Hill, Taylor, and the rookie Patterson. With a projected starting lineup of Brooks, Martin, Ariza, Scola, Yao, there isn’t much room for prospects. In the summer league, only Budinger and Patterson seemed to raise their stock. Adelman has made it clear that rookie or not, you will be get plenty of minutes if he feels you help the Rockets win.
3. Defense- As any coach will tell you, playing defense is a must if you plan on going deep into the playoffs. Adding Yao to the deep frontcourt is always a plus, but he will have to make his presence felt on the defensive end. This is why Brad Miller was signed. Miller may not be known as a defensive all-star but he can rebound and block shots. Plus, he is a viable backup option given Yao’s history of injury. Morey said it himself, if they can get back to a top 10 defensive team, they are looking it at possibly a three or four seed in the west. It is a shame the Tyson Chandler deal didn’t go through, but the Rockets seem just fine with their addition of Miller. Adelman, having coach Miller extensively on the Kings, believes that Miller can be a solid contributor and help the younger players as well.
4. Second Option- Last but not least, you must look for a second option to take the pressure off of Yao. Last I checked you need a consistent second option to make a deep run into the NBA postseason. Aaron Brooks did a heck of a job last year, earning himself most improved player honors. Kevin Martin has averaged 20 points per game for the past four seasons, plus Ariza could be a great player in the making. My pick for this second option is Kevin Martin. Arguably one of the most underrated players in the NBA, Martin has averaged 20+ PPG in four of his first six seasons in the NBA. That is impressive. Half a season under Adelman, I am curious to see what Martin can do with a full season under his belt. If it wasn’t for the guard-heavy West, I would go as far as to say he could be an All-Star.
Well, there are four key things to look out for come NBA preseason. With football days from kick-off, those two months may get here faster than expected.