There is obvious star power in Houston, especially with the off-season signing of superstar big man Dwight Howard. James Harden led the Rockets to the Playoffs last year and had them competing with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but came up just short. There are a few players that could be listed as the X-Factor for this Rockets team, but I think it comes down to Jeremy Lin.
Lin had a fairly inconsistent season in 2012, but is still very much in Houston’s plans for this year. He averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game last year, but also averaged 2.9 turnovers per game as well. He’s going to need to cut down on those turnovers a bit this coming year, and they really need him to stay healthy as well. He played in all 82 regular season games last season, but was banged up most of their Playoff run.
Hakeem Olajuwon was very vocal in his support for Jeremy Lin, claiming that the duo of Jeremy Lin and Dwight Howard will be a deadly combo. Howard loves to set picks and roll to the rim, and that is one of Lin’s strengths as well. If they are able to perfect things, you could see a lot of dunks by Dwight Howard off of lobs from Lin off the pick and roll.
There’s no doubt that Jeremy Lin can score at a high level, but can he be a consistent scorer each and every night? Obviously Dwight Howard and James Harden are going to be the top two scoring options with Chandler Parsons being the third scorer, but they will need Lin to put up some points in a supporting role. His three-point shooting percentage was at .339% last year, and while that isn’t bad, he’s going to need to shoot the basketball better as well. He’ll get wide open looks off of the inside-out game with Dwight Howard on the block, and needs to be able to knock down the open shots.
His point guard skills are solid, but as we mentioned earlier in this article, he has been known to have turnover issues. Lin needs to make sure that his ball-handling is the best that it has ever been coming into this season, because defenses are going to view him as a weak link and attack him. If he’s able to cut his turnovers down to around 2.0 per game instead of 2.9, that will be a big bonus for the Rockets’ offense. He’s very crafty with the basketball, and knows how to get his teammates open looks, and I don’t see that changing.
Defensively is another area that Lin needs to show improvement. He did average 1.6 steals per game last year, but he’s not as athletic as quite a few of the point guards out West. Russell Westbrook is one guy that is going to be a major challenge for him. There’s no doubt that Lin’s basketball IQ is very high, so that will help him out in some circumstances, but he needs to work on moving his feet quicker and also on his help defense and closing out form as well.
Overall, the Rockets are going to have a very good season. We know that they’re going to be a Playoff team in the Western Conference, but they will need the supporting cast to step up behind the Howard/Harden combo if they want to make noise in the Playoffs. Can Jeremy Lin bring “Linsanity” back to Houston? If he does, then this Rockets team will be incredibly difficult to beat.