Fear the beard

Looking back over the last four years of my fantasy play, my management ethos has less to do with how players can be translated into a number and plugged into an equation, and more to do with how players will mesh together. Ironically, the teams I build look a hell of a lot like the Rockets of this current season: guard/wing heavy lineup with lots of players who can shoot, but not much depth in the front court. I usually do well, but this season I decided to head the other direction and build big front courts, with more defined roles, and the two and three, and I’ve already lost 2 of the 3 leagues I’m in, but I digress…

I love everything about this Rockets team, players, history, management, bloggers…makes me happy thinking that Durant and Harden will play together again at some point…all this, and I hope they fail. I hope that Dwight Howard gets exposed, more so than he has, as someone who can’t win on his own; someone who can’t carry a team to a championship.

Sorry for the rant, but he really bugs me; always has. There’s only one superman in NBA history; there’s only so much you should smile before, during, after, post games; a cape? Ok, I’m sorry, I’m rambling, but you need to understand how much it pains me to say that this Rockets teams is well on its way to contending for a championships as far as I’m concerned. They need to not be paying $30mil for Lin and Asik to do so, but you get my picture (easy to attract vets when you have a wicked core).

I’ve only had the chance to watch a pre-season and the Laker loss (hah!), but it took Rahat Huq, from Red94, to educate me on how little I actually know about this team:

Other than a pretty embarrassing loss to the Lakers the other day, this team looks like it is ahead of schedule in terms of coming together. What have been the keys to integrating Dwight into the lineup?
Actually, they’re not ahead of schedule and probably right around where one might expect them to be. There have been serious issues on both ends of the floor and they’ll need to sort those things out.

Omer Asik for Ryan Anderson makes too much sense for both teams not to happen. Why is Morey holding onto Asik after Omer has come out and said he wants a trade in the summer?
I don’t think that’s a deal that makes sense at all particularly because Asik’s value as a rim protector is far more than what Anderson can provide especially considering the team’s offensive production with Chandler Parsons or Omri Casspi playing the ‘4’. Morey is holding onto Asik because there just isn’t a deal out there to be had to warrant giving up the 48 minutes of elite rim protection that keeping Asik (with Howard) provides the team. They’d love to swap him out for an All-Star power forward but at this point, that is looking like a pipe dream. As awkward as the fit has been, I don’t see Asik going anywhere for a while until someone unexpectedly becomes available. Ryan Anderson won’t do.

The mania is over with, but what’s left standing is a pretty decent basketball player; especially if he’s coming off your bench. How good is Jeremy Lin really? Will paying his $15m salary next season limit some options?
He’s been one of the team’s most consistent contributors so far, both at attacking the hoop fearlessly and consistently turning the ball over in critical situations. His salary is actually $8.3million next year (the $15million figure is what New York would have had to account for him on their cap had they matched and what the Rockets will be on the books for in real dollars (as opposed to a cap hit) so it’s not much of a concern. As of right now, Jeremy Lin is the least of Houston’s problems and he’s fit in right in in his new role as super-sub off the bench.

Is this team a championship contender this season, or is it too soon?
It’s probably too soon. They will take at least a year to get acquainted with one another and smooth out some of the problems that plagued them in losses this week. First and foremost, they’ll need to figure out some way to make the Asik-Howard pairing work. Beyond that, they have to shore up their porous perimeter defense. If they defend the way they did last week, they don’t have a chance at getting out of the second round.

Finish this sentence: The Rockets beat the Raptors by _____ points because _____ .
The Rockets beat the Raptors by 10 points because they are just a more talented team and can win it on talent alone. The Raptors won’t be able to punish them and capitalize upon their flaws the way the Clippers and an emotionally-driven Lakers team did.

Yup, I got everything wrong…

Match-ups

Point Guard
When Aaron Brooks is your third string point guard, you have a good situation going. It’s laughable how deep this team is at the wing, but when the plan is to surround Howard with shooters, there comes a time when that kick out from the double team is met with a perfectly executed defensive rotation which will force the player getting the outlet pass to put it in the floor or make a decision; nice to know that you have a Jeremy Lin or Aaron Brooks off the bench you can trust that decision making too. The Raptors are no slouches themselves, but rely a bit too heavily on Lowry keeping it together for my comfort.
Edge: Rockets

Shooting Guard
DeRozan and Ross should be able to get everything they give up to Harden back in the form of alley-oops and slashing dunks. Something to look forward too is etching our boys make Harden work harder on both ends of the floors than he makes them work. Still gets the edge because of his playmaking, but when you play defense as poorly as Harden does, all it’s takes is a quarter of catching fire from the field to make McHale have to adapt; maybe…this is a nicely constructed team.
Edge: Rockets

Small Forward
Parsons can shoot the three, and poses the same risk/reward as Harden does to the Raptors, but at a smaller scale, AND still has to contend with an equally impotent offensive player in Gay who will hopefully be forcing Howard/Asik to make that rotation and do something positive with the ball. Fields can hold it down off the bench, but with the underrated signing of Casspi in the offseason, the Rockets can also mix-and-match off their bench.
Edge: Raptors

Power Forward
This is the key match-up; shockingly. IF Amir can pull Howard (or Asik, depending on rotations) out of the paint with his perimeter touch, he can open up the floor for JV, Gay, DD, and Lowry to attack the rim and force the Rockets to play on their heels things might go the Raptors way. If he can’t, then Howard will put up 22pts 16rebs and make me seethe and say stupid things in Twitter.
Edge: Rockets

Center
There is nothing exciting about Asik other than his rebounding and defense at the rim. JV, on the other hand, needs minutes, touches, play-calls, anything. Give the guy something so he can improve his game over the coarse of a lost season. Please!
Edge: Raptors

The Line

The Rockets are 8 point favorites (202 over/under), with 60% of the degenerates picking the Rockets. 8 points is solid value if you ask me; this could easily become a blowout; bet the farm on the Morey’s.