Rockets report card through 21 games

Rockets report card through 21 games
December 8, 2013, 4:00 pm
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It's report card time for the Rockets. After 21 games, roughly one quarter of the season, Houston sits at 14-7 and coming off one of their more impressive games to date. They took apart the Golden State Warriors, 105-83 and did so with Jeremy Lin (knee) and Omer Asik (thigh) still sidelined with injuries.

Unfortunately, injuries and inconsistency are probably the words that best describe the season so far for Houston. Dwight Howard is already the only Rockets player to appear in every game. But on the bright side, even with nearly every player on the team getting hurt in some form, none  have cost them extended time and none of them, outside of Chandler Parsons' back spasms, appear to be lingering.

Overall team grade: B
The Rockets' 14-7 record is probably good enough to earn them a B+, but the losses to Utah and Phoenix this past week prevent any bonus points. They have been shuffling line-ups, but the players themselves have said their inconsistent performances have little to do with that, rather they simply haven't played hard enough on some nights. Following five of their seven losses they have come back with wins. The win over the Warriors was a good example of their willingness and desire to put the necessary effort into the game to prevent a long losing streak.

They are fifth in the western conference, but would have home court advantage with the fourth best record.

Starters
Dwight Howard: B+
Howard is third in the league in rebounding (12.9), after grabbing 18 rebounds in each of his last two games. He clearly is a healthier player than he was with the Lakers last season. He's been engaged most of the season, has not demanded more touches than he is currently getting and that is probably a good thing as the Rockets are the top scoring league in the team.

Chandler Parsons: A
Any question about his importance was obvious in the two games that he missed, which were both losses. He's shooting nearly 40 percent on 3-pointers for the season, but he's at 55.5 percent over his last seven games. He can be their best player on any night, and he's their most helpful player on most nights.

Terrence Jones: A-
Opportunity knocked and Jones answered. When he got minutes against Toronto in their double-overtime win, he posted the first of now six double-figure rebound games. He's been in the starting lineup in every game since then and almost always gets the offense started well in the first quarter.  Very active, still makes mistakes, but makes far more good plays than bad.

Pat Beverley: B
He was given the starting nod over Jeremy Lin, although when both have been healthy, that duo has played well together. He was at his best in the game against Golden State. His attributes are putting pressure on the ball. He helped force Steph Curry into eight turnovers and a 5-of-14 shooting performance.

James Harden: B-
Harden ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring at 23.7 points per game. He’s scored more than 30 points in three of the last four games and in each of those three, he’s shot better than 50 percent. After averaging just 4.4 assists in the first seven games of the season, he’s at 6.1 assists per game in his last 10 games. When he is looking to pass as much as he is to shoot, the Rockets offense is even much more dangerous. His defense has been an issue much of the year, but he showed against Golden State that when he wants to, he is capable of being a factor on defense.

Bench

Lin: A

It was really unfortunate for Lin that he suffered a grade-1 right knee sprain against Atlanta in late November since he was enjoying a strong offensive start to the season. Lin is first in the NBA in shooting percentage on drives, shooting 65.4 percent, among players with at least 55 drives (A drive is considered any touch that starts at least 20 feet of the hoop and is dribbled within 10 feet of the hoop and excludes fast breaks). (LeBron James is second at 63.8 percent). He true shooting percentage is 64.1%, among the best in the league for guards.

Brooks: A

The production from Brooks has been phenomenal. He's had to step in a lot this season since Harden, Beverley and Lin have all missed time. His 47.8 percent 3-point shooting is ninth-best in the league.

Casspi: B

He joined his third team in four seasons, but this one might be the right fit. The combination of his 3-point shooting, 41.7 percent, and willingness to take it to the basket has been a very welcome addition.

Garcia: C-

It's been a struggle for most of the season for Garcia, who has had way more poor shooting games than good ones. Considering his role is to hit open 3-pointers, that is an issue.

Asik: C

This grade doesn't seem to matter much since there is strong likelihood that Asik will be traded with the next two weeks. He was not happy when the Rockets signed Dwight Howard and was even more unhappy when he became a bench player.

Motiejunas: C

There have not been many opportunities for Motiejunas, but he's played well when given the chance. There could be another opportunity for minutes for Motiejunas when Asik is traded.

Incomplete

Smith: He had not played much before suffering his knee injury and has not returned.

Brewer: He has been near the end of the bench for much of the year and also had a right calf strain that kept him out of action for about a week.