October 25, 2012
NBA Enemy Lines
Houston Rockets
2011-12 Record: 34-32
Point guard Jeremy Lin, 24, is part of a very young team in Houston. (Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

They rolled the dice trying to land a superstar in the offseason, and it didn't work. All they have now are a bunch of second-line players and no scoring in the frontcourt.

The Rockets are really pushing the ball in the preseason. It's like watching a Mike D'Antoni team. But that style makes sense for Kevin McHale when you have as many young players as he does.

It's beyond me why they paid Jeremy Lin so much [three years, $25.1 million]. Goran Dragic [who left to sign a four-year, $30 million deal with the Suns] is better. I look at Lin as somewhere between the guy Houston cut a year ago and the star who came out of New York, where it was lightning in a bottle. He has good size, and when he gets in the lane, he is good at finding the open man and is not a bad finisher. But he didn't show me he was very good at running a team. When quick guards pressure him, he struggles to bring it up the court. He will have a lot of turnovers, but he'll also put up numbers because there will be a lot of shots for Lin and Kevin Martin.

[Chris Mannix: What to expect from the Rockets this season]

The offense is going to be Lin and Martin firing it up. You have to run Martin off screens. You have to run him off the baseline and get him open. He is a catch-and-shoot player and is also good at drawing fouls -- though that part of his game fell off last season -- but he is just as capable of going 0-for-20 as he is 7-for-8. You can't put him in the post, so he is limited. He was banged up last year, and nagging injuries can always affect shooters. I don't think they are really high on him. I think they will move him [in the last year of his contract].

Omer Asik has two very good NBA skills: He rebounds, and he guards the goal. But he can't score at all. He never looks comfortable on offense with his back to the basket, and he has no mid-range jumper. But he will get you 10 or 12 rebounds and protect the paint. He was important to Chicago's defense as a reserve who paired well with Taj Gibson.

They have four rookies who are first-round picks -- Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones, Royce White and Donatas Motiejunas. Lamb is OK. He's all or nothing with his scoring -- he is about getting shots up. He will be fine coming off the bench giving you spot minutes, with a good performance every four or five games when he is making shots. But there are enough people who could be in front of him, like Carlos Delfino and their second-round pick last year, Chandler Parsons, who could take his minutes. He's a gambler defensively and is still light. He has a long way to go.

Jones has been a surprise in the preseason. He has been active, always around the glass. He's not extremely quick, but if they are going to play up and down and space the floor, he has a chance to be effective.

You see White's talent and physical gifts, but there is something still left to click. I saw him the other night and all he did was foul, but other times you see the ability to do a lot of different things -- handle it, pass it, rebound, get into the paint. He has to play the 4 because I don't think he can guard a true 3-man.

Motiejunas has a good face-up game. He can shoot it. He's smart and can pass it, and as a left-hander he gets you off balance a bit.

[Rob Mahoney: Southwest Division preview]

Parsons has good size and he is a good all-around player for a second-round pick. He's a pretty good shooter. But he is not quick. It's going to be tough when they face a good small forward, and there are a lot of them.

Delfino was a solid pickup. If he is healthy, he will be on the floor a lot because he can make shots, he is tough as nails, good defensively and a decent rebounder. He will be an important piece to keep them competitive.

Toney Douglas has no confidence in his shot. I don't know what happened to him in New York, but he doesn't look like he can play at this level consistently anymore.

No way they sniff the playoffs. You have to blow this team up in six months.


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