The Houston Rockets are on the short list for favorites in the Western Conference in the 2013-2014 NBA season. Not only did they make the playoffs as an eight seed with an incredibly young team, but they were also able to lure in the best center in the game this summer as they signed Dwight Howard to a four-year deal.
With James Harden, Howard and the emerging Chandler Parsons, this Rockets team is not only loaded with young talent, but is also going to be a ton of fun to watch. However, there are still some questions left to be answered with the Rockets. The most obvious is what is going to happen with Omer Asik, who started at center last season in Houston. The better and more important question, though, is likely what they are going to do at the point guard next season.
Last summer the Rockets were able to ink Jeremy Lin in the wake of his season of “Linsanity” with the New York Knicks. In the regular season Lin started all 82 games and averaged 13.4 points, 6.1 assists and three boards in 32.2 minutes per game. However, while injuries slowed Lin in the playoffs, Patrick Beverley seized the opportunity and showed a ton of promise as he averaged 11.8 points, 2.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds in 33.3 minutes per game.
Beverley didn’t get much of an opportunity in the regular season as he played in just 41 games and saw the floor for only 17.4 minutes per game. He put up solid numbers for those limited minutes, though, as he averaged 5.6 points, 2.9 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game.
It’s quite a dilemma that the Rockets have, but it’s not exactly a bad dilemma. They have to make a decision about who to start at the point guard, but they do get to make that decision between two quality players with a good deal of upside.
There’s no real case to make for either player in terms of age considering that Beverley just turned 25 years old and Lin will turn the same age in August. Both players are also somewhat limited in terms of experience as Lin has played just three years in the league and Beverley just finished his rookie season after playing overseas for a few years.
One of the things that has to be considered coming into this season for Houston is the fact that the point guard isn’t going to be relied upon to take control of the offense with his scoring. At best, he is going to be the fourth option offensively for the Rockets, deferring to Harden, Howard and Parsons. Given that, the real need for Houston at the point guard is a player that can distribute and doesn’t turn the ball over a great deal.
Lin and Beverley both put up solid assist numbers last season, Lin posting an assist percentage of 29 percent and Beverley posting a 26.2 percent in the regular season. However, Beverley is much more adept in terms of ball security. Last season, 13.5 percent of the Rockets’ possessions ended in turnovers while only 12 percent of Beverley’s ended in a turnover. In the postseason, that discrepancy became even greater as Lin turned it over on 19.6 percent of his possessions and Beverley only turned it over on 6.6 percent of his. It has to be mentioned that Beverley started while Russell Westbrook was injured, but that’s still an enormous gap in turnover rates.
Another thing that can’t go unnoticed is the fact that Beverley was so much more successful against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs than Lin was. On both ends of the floor, Lin really struggled with the defensive pressure of OKC and struggled to contain the Thunder’s offense. Beverley wasn’t incredibly effective with his defense, but he was able to handle the speed and pressure of OKC when the ball was in his hands much better than Lin did.
Ultimately, it seems like Beverley has shown the potential to earn the starting job for Houston when the season begins. Given what happened in the postseason, it feels like the Rockets’ upside is greater with Beverley running the show. If Beverley struggles, though, at least Houston knows they have a solid option in Lin to come in as his replacement.