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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Rockets

Rocket Fuel: Questions answered as tipoff looms


James Harden is fifth in scoring in the NBA with 25 points per game. | Wikimedia Commons

Last year’s MVP James Harden will have a very different team to lead into this season, several role players were added, as well as a big addition in Carmelo Anthony. | Wikimedia Commons

 

This preseason, the Houston Rockets answered many questions about the upcoming season, including what role Carmelo Anthony will play, how the team will cope with losses of key players, whether or not 33-year-old Chris Paul can still play well and more.

The Rockets went 4-1 in its five-game preseason schedule, the only loss coming against the Indiana Pacers.

After five games of experimental lineups, and as mentioned previously, forward James Ennis III has earned the nod from coach Mike D’Antoni and secured himself a spot in the starting lineup as Trevor Ariza’s replacement. That means the Rockets will be fielding a starting lineup of Paul, Ennis, James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela against opposing teams.

With those five players at the helm, the Rockets still have a lot of firepower and flexibility set to check in off the bench. Guards Eric Gordon and Gerald Green, as well as Anthony, round out the likely eight-man rotation D’Antoni will give most of his minutes to.

There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding Anthony and whether he would accept a role off the bench with the Rockets, but if preseason is anything to go by, that question can finally be laid to rest as it seems he is willing to sacrifice a starting position.

Guard Michael Carter-Williams and forward-center Marquese Chriss may also see some time in the rotation in certain situations. The Rockets have used Carter-Williams differently than his previous teams, as D’Antoni views him as more of a wing player and secondary ball-handler than a point guard, the position he has played his entire career.

In addition to figuring out rotations, the preseason is a time for players to develop a groove heading into the regular season, and Houston’s dynamic duo of Paul and Harden did exactly that.

Paul averaged 12.4 points, 8.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game, which are averages just shy of his stats from last season and should calm any fears about him slowing down. Harden put up 23.6 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds per contest in just 31 minutes, but those numbers are likely to rise come regular season when there is an increase in his minutes per game.

As a team, the Rockets averaged a blistering 40 percent from behind the arc during its five preseason matchups, a statistic that bodes well for a team that takes over half its shots from the three-point line.

Many different Rockets players have dealt with minor injuries throughout the preseason, but the team is expected to have all players available by opening night.

The Houston Rockets will tipoff the 2018-2019 season against the New Orleans Pelicans at home Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

Correction: Zhou Qi, Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss were injured and unavailable for the opening night game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

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