STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Despite having a sabermetrically savvy GM in Daryl Morey who's not hesitant to make big moves, the Rockets have been mired in the middle of the pack in recent years, either making the playoffs as a low seed, or narrowly missing them as they did last season. In fact, one can argue it's actually because of Morey's ability to find value that the Rockets have been unable to re-build in earnest after Yao Ming's foot problems forced him to retire. Instead of being one of the league doormats for a few years and accumulating high picks, the Rockets have had to make do with the 12th pick (Jeremy Lamb) this year, the 14th (Marcus Morris) in 2011, and the 14th in 2010 (Patrick Patterson). Moreover, Morey has tried to trade for elite players like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol but either didn't have the goods to get those done, or saw the trade rescinded by the league.
Heading into 2012-2013, the Rockets should be one of the youngest teams in the league now that Luis Scola, Sam Dalembert and Marcus Camby are gone. Instead, they brought in point guard Jeremy Lin to replace Kyle Lowry, while Patterson and newly signed Omer Asik will see most of the minutes down low. The only significant holdovers besides Patterson from a year ago are veteran Kevin Martin - who might not be there for long - and last year's second-round pick Chandler Parsons, who should start at small forward. Expect this to be a team that gets up and down the court, with some potential for fantasy usefulness from Lin, Parsons, and Martin, should he remain with the team.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Lin should see the bulk of the work at the point - say 35 minutes per game - with Shaun Livingston and Tony Douglas competing for the remainder. If Martin remains with the team, he'll see 30-35 mpg at the two, with Lamb and Carlos Delfino backing him up. Parsons should see 30-35 minutes at the three, with Defino and Marcus Morris spelling him occasionally. If Royce White - who's missing the early part of camp with anxiety issues - gets back in the fold, he could log 5-10 mpg at the three as well. Patterson projects as the starting power forward with 25-30 mpg, but Morris and White could push him for minutes as the season goes on. Rookie Terrence Jones might also merit a look later in the year. At center, Asik - who signed a three-year, $25.1 million deal - will get the bulk of the minutes - probably 25-30. Donatas Motiejunas should back him up and see 10-15, a number that could grow as the season goes on.
Omer Asik: The Rockets gave Asik - a little-used reserve - a three-year $25.1 million deal which the Bulls didn't match. Asik is raw offensively, but he projects as a very good rebounder and shot-blocker, filling the Marcus Camby/Samuel Dalembert role on the Rockets this year. He's slated to start and should be a good source of those two categories if he approaches 30 minutes per game.
Donatas Motiejunas: The lean seven-footer played in Poland last year, where he shot the three and blocked a few shots. He'll have a chance for minutes behind Omer Asik on a young Rockets team.
Patrick Patterson: With Marcus Camby and Samuel Dalembert gone, the starting power forward job is Patterson's to lose. Patterson showed glimpses of what he could do last season, scoring 24 points in a game and registering double-digit rebounds in three contests. Patterson is athletic and has good range on his jumper for a big man, but the offense is likely to run through Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lin this year.
Chandler Parsons: Rockets coach Kevin McHale did a lot of tinkering with his rotations last season, especially at small forward, but in the end, Parsons came away with a firm grasp on the starting job. He finished the season with averages of 9.5 points, 4.8 boards, 2.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 threes in 28.6 minutes per game. Those numbers could improve in Parsons' second NBA season, especially with a more concrete role on the team coming into the season. For a rookie, he had impressive shooting percentages of 45.2 from the field and 33.7 from downtown. Unfortunately, he also shot just 55.1 percent from the line, though he averaged just 1.2 attempts per game. Parsons' best free-throw shooting season in his four years of college was 66.2 percent, but that was also the year he had the most attempts. He could be something of a liability at the line, but at least he won't be getting too many attempts at the charity stripe. The Rockets brought in Carlos Delfino in the offseason to compete with Parsons for minutes at the three, but given Parsons' youth, and McHale's familiarity with him, it seems like the starting job is his to lose.
Marcus Morris: Last year's first-rounder, Morris didn't make a significant impact, as Parsons beat him out for minutes at the three, and Morris probably doesn't project as a regular four. This year, Morris will have to hold off Royce White and Terrence Jones even to secure a backup role.
Royce White: Anxiety issues kept White from joining the Rockets at the beginning of camp, but assuming he gets over that hurdle, he's a versatile big man who can score, pass and rebound. He's unlikely to have a big role out of the gate - especially if he doesn't report soon - but there's some long-term upside here.
Terrence Jones: Jones will compete for backup minutes at the three with Marcus Morris and Royce White behind Chandler Parsons and possibly Carlos Delfino. He's a versatile big man with good size and above-average ability as a passer.
JaJuan Johnson: Johnson will compete for reserve frontcourt minutes, but given the lack of experience ahead of him, he could get a shot at some point. He's a capable scorer and shot blocker, but is on the slight side for a power forward.
Jon Brockman: A journeyman power forward, Brockman - assuming he gets over his current eye injury - will compete for backup minutes in the frontcourt.
Jeremy Lin: Perhaps you've heard of him? Had a pretty nice run with the Knicks earlier this year, wound up on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice and on Time Magazine's most influential list. But the Knicks weren't as enchanted with Lin as everyone else - even before they let him walk to Houston, general manager Glen Grunwald was working to bring in help at Lin's position. That may have been a matter of fit. At this point in his career, Lin is more of a scorer than floor general, better at creating for himself than setting up teammates. That should serve him well in Houston, a painfully young team in the midst of a rebuilding effort, and it won't be terribly surprising if Lin is able to average 17-20 points per game the way he did at the height of Lin-sanity. He has a fair share of flaws in his game. Lin isn't much of a jump shooter, and he turns the ball over a lot. He'll also have to adjust to defenses knowing he's coming now. With Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic leaving Houston, Lin will be the undisputed starter and leader on the Rockets.
Kevin Martin: Martin failed to yield much for those who invested in him last season, as he shot a paltry 41.3 percent from the field before a shoulder injury ended his season prematurely. As a result of these complications, Martin's main skill - his scoring - plummeted by more than six points per game from the season before. Even with the subpar campaign and his extensive injury history, Martin's prospects still look somewhat bright in light of the Rockets' offseason overhaul. General manager Daryl Morey tried in vain to land Dwight Howard, trading away Samuel Dalembert and accumulating three first-round picks in an attempt to entice the Magic to make a trade. When that failed, he created cap space by amnestying Luis Scola, leaving the Rockets with a core consisting of Martin, free agent signing Jeremy Lin and a collection of raw wing and frontcourt players. Like Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic before him, Lin will surely be in control of the Rockets' offense, but Martin (always with the caveat of "if healthy") should still get his looks given his supporting cast's lack of experience. Martin will only help you in scoring, threes and free-throw percentage, but if he can inch closer to his career shooting percentage of 44.3, he has a chance at re-emerging as a 20-point per game scorer.
Shaun Livingston: It seems like he's been around forever, but Livingston's still just 27 years old. It's hard to say what the former No. 4 overall pick would have been were it not for a horrific knee injury, but he's settled in as a backup who can score efficiently and handle the ball. He'll fight for minutes backing up Jeremy Lin at the point.
Jeremy Lamb: The 12th overall pick in the draft, the long, but slightly built Lamb has a strong midrange game and long wingspan (6-11) to be disruptive on defense. He'll back up Kevin Martin to start the season, but if Martin gets hurt, as he tends to do, or gets dealt - which is certainly possible - Lamb could find himself with regular minutes.
Carlos Defino: Delfino will compete for minutes at the swing spots and provide some long-range shooting when he's on the floor, but he's a long shot to see regular minutes on a rebuilding team.
Toney Douglas: Douglas can handle the ball a little bit and knock down the three, and for that reason, he'll compete with Shaun Livingston to back up Jeremy Lin.
Scott Machado: He looked good in the Summer League and will have a chance to compete for backup minutes behind Jeremy Lin, but NBA veterans Toney Douglas and Shaun Livingston will likely beat him out.
Gary Forbes: Forbes' positional versatility could earn him a roster spot, but he's a long shot to see significant minutes.
Chandler Parsons: Parsons does it all from steals to blocks to threes to assists to boards. He also defends, which will keep him on the court. In a category league, he's going to outearn his draft slot.
Jeremy Lin: The Tim Tebow of the NBA - great for media coverage, but an incomplete real-life player - Lin is capable of scoring and dishing out assists, but he plays a little out of control and tends to turn the ball over. The Rockets don't have much depth at the point, but coach Kevin McHale could lose patience if Lin doesn't take care of the ball.