When Dwight Howard opted out of his contract it was always going to be difficult to replace his defensive presence in the middle. Did the Houston Rockets even try to?
How do you replace a defensive presence like Dwight Howard? Well, if you’re the Houston Rockets, you pick up 14-year veteran Nene Hilario for just under $3 million for one season. Howard for Hilario, hilarious! Hilario could not keep up in the East when the Washington Wizards needed him to step up last season. How do you think that he will do in the West?
Once again, the Rockets are short on centers, with Clint Capela and Hilario being the only two men on the roster who can play the position. The problem is that Hilario spent 27 games injured last season and I can’t see that number decreasing this season. So what are the Rockets doing? Is it possible that Houston have seen the writing on the wall and is going to tank for the season?
Apart from the Nene signing, the Rockets also signed Ryan Anderson at the expense of Donatas Motiejunas. Anderson is a good shooter, he has scored 13.1 points per game over his career but his defense is worse than awful.
Add to that the fact that James Harden defends at a level similar to Enes Kanter and the foundations of Houston basketball start to look a little shaky.
Clint Capela is a reasonable interior defender but is in no way ready to regularly take on guys like Stephen Adams let alone DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins or Brook Lopez.
I can see the starting five being Capela, Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Harden and Patrick Beverley. The only real defender among them is Beverley. This does not bode well for a team who was 25th last season for points allowed and that was with Dwight Howard.
Their defensive rating was also in the bottom third of the league, coming in at 21st, once again with the interior presence of Howard.
I can see Houston dropping even further with their defensive rating and points allowed meaning that their 41-41 record from last year will be out of reach.
Will Daryl Morey start pulling a Sam Hinkie? Will Houston try to do a mini-process? James Harden is locked into a massive contract for the next three years with the fourth as a player option. “In Harden we trust” seems to be the front office motto. There is even a 15 percent trade kicker in the contract, so Harden appears set to stay.
I expect that we will see the true Houston Rockets for a month, maybe two next season. Then I would expect the Rockets to play some of their youngsters and see who plays best with Harden. Their main objective will be to try and secure the best position available to them in the draft.
They also have a plethora of forwards who are 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9 who can play small forward. I would like to see Sam Presti ringing Morey and suggesting Mitch McGary/Joffrey Lauvergne for Corey Brewer, getting some size back into their roster.
With their current roster, I cannot see a happy 2016-17 season for Houston Rockets fans. I can see a rebuild happening before their eyes and a losing season. If I were Kevin McHale, I would be smiling right now.