The Houston Rockets had many flaws despite being a top-4 seed in the Western Conference.
The number one thing the Rockets must improve on is defense. GM Daryl Morey addressed this need through the draft by adding 6’10 power forward Clint Capela and 6’3 Arizona combo guard Nick Johnson. Capela has a high upside defensively and even compares his game to that of Serge Ibaka. If he becomes anything close to Oklahoma City’s shot blocker, Houston will have one of the best defensive frontcourts in the league.
Second rounder, Nick Johnson, had an impressive Summer League and looks to be a spark off the bench on both sides of the ball. I expect him to see good minutes on the court next season, as he’ll be quite useful against elite western guards.
Nonetheless the greatest acquisition the Rockets made this offseason was Trevor Ariza. I truly believe the Rockets will end up better this year with Ariza at small forward instead of Chandler Parsons simply because this team desperately needs a devoted perimeter defender aside from Patrick Beverley.
Ariza takes pride in his defense and knows his role at this stage of his career. Parsons was a solid defender in his first two years in the league but seemed to lead astray when Howard arrived and began focusing on improving his offensive game.
The Rockets were a top-3 team in scoring last year with Harden and Howard carrying most of the weight and I’m sure Parsons won’t be missed, especially if Ariza keeps shooting 40% from 3 like he did last year.
One of the most overlooked holes on the Rockets team is the coaching. Kevin McHale has done a so-so job with the team since he has arrived, however he has shown little-to-no improvement on getting the players to execute solid team defense. In the playoffs, there were segments where the Rockets looked totally confused and unprepared for what the Blazers were throwing at them. Portland kept posting Lamarcus Aldridge until we could do something about it and we didn’t find the answer until Game 3.
McHale’s poor coaching was also exposed on the offensive end during the playoffs. There were times when the offense was completely stagnant as we kept feeding Howard over and over. He had success down low but that takes other players out of their rhythm. Morey needs to find a great assistant to replace Sampson or perhaps begin searching for a new head coach after this upcoming season.
As much as I love Patrick Beverley, the Rockets must continue their search for an elite point guard. One reason Houston must cover this gap is because a point guard is every top Western team’s foundation. The Spurs have Tony Parker, the Thunder have Russell Westbrook and the Clippers have Chris Paul. You also have guys like Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry who are not far behind.
The Rockets need a high IQ floor general like Rajon Rondo or Goran Dragic who can attack other guards on the offensive end and put their backs against the ropes. Beverley doesn’t have that ability and in result, it allows other point guards who are poor defenders (like Lillard) to take breaks on defense and not get exposed.
While Rondo and Dragic aren’t as skilled as Beverley on defense, they are solid enough to get the job done and are feisty competitors. If Houston were to trade for either or pick one up in free agency, this team is headed for the Western Conference Finals at the very least.