Okay fellow hoops-heads, it’s time to prepare your wives, girlfriends, children, jobs and mental stability for what the coming months could hold. Basketball is back.
Wednesday night marks the beginning of preseason play for the Houston Rockets as they take on Kevin Durant and the defending Western Conference champs the Oklahoma City Thunder. It has been a tumultuous off-season and this will be our first opportunity to see how the new-look Rockets come together against actual competition.
Here’s a breakdown of some things to watch for as the Rockets take on OKC:
Jeremy Lin + X
As Houston’s new starting point-guard, offensive production is going to depend largely upon Lin’s ability to create open shots. Well, duh, but it goes a bit beyond that.
Kevin Martin certainly looked his age last year as his scoring average went down by six points and his free throw attempts per game went from 8.5 to 4.5. This could be a sign of decreasing athletic ability, as is to be expected when nearing the end of one’s career. At 29, it’s too early to tell if this was an just an off-year for Martin or the beginning of the end.
Regardless, having the ability for him to spot up at his deadliest position on the floor, behind the 3-point line, is going to come from Lin’s ability to draw defenders inside.
If Lin can manage to fine-tune his attack at the basket and his ability to kick it to the outside without turning the ball over at the same obscene rate from last year (5 t.o./36 min.) then him and Martin could indeed make a deadly back court.
Facing up against talented guards like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha (an elite defender that everyone forgets about) and even OKC’s backup point guard Eric Maynor will test the ability of the Rockets’ starting 1, 2 punch.
The Rockets have a lot of rookies. I’m talking mad rookies, y’all. Like, 5-of-‘em-on-one-bench, mad rookies. Wednesday night is going to be fans’ first chance to see how those rookie talents mesh into a game with proven NBA talent.
The lineup that has me most excited is Jeremy Lamb playing the 2-guard, Royce White at the 3-spot and Donatas Motiejunas at the 4. This is a very long lineup with an exceptionally high basketball-i.q. that can knock down open shots. Factor in the passing prowess of Lamb and White, with the fact that D-Mo is a 7-footer that can stretch defenders all the way past the 3-point line and this could make for great production on offense.
Point guard Scott Machado and power forward/center Terrence Jones will probably also see plenty of playing time so the game should be worth watching just to see how everyone looks running the floor. It’s almost guaranteed that not all five rookies will have breakout seasons and Wednesday should provide some semblance of an idea about who looks NBA ready, and who doesn’t.