Mavericks Divison Preview: Houston Rockets

By Rami Michail
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The Dallas Mavericks don’t just play in the toughest conference in the NBA; they play in the toughest division.

Along with the Mavericks, the South West Division consists of the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and San Antonio Spurs.

Last season the Mavs, Grizz, Spurs, and Rockets all made the playoffs and finished with 49+ wins.

You can expect the division to be just as tough, if not tougher, this year as well.

Houston Rockets

If nabbing Chandler Parsons from the Rockets wasn’t enough to make this a much watch season series, Mark Cuban and Daryl Morey have helped ignite this rivalry with their back and forth through the media.

The Rockets ended last season with the West’s 4th best record at 54-28. They would fall to the Portland TrailBlazers in the first round thanks to the heroics of Damian Lillard.

The offseason brought plenty of mixed results. The loss of Parsons and others and missing out on Chris Bosh have put the Rockets championship ability in doubt.

Key Additions

  • Trevor Ariza (SF/SG)
  • Jason Terry (SG)
  • Kosta Papanikolaou (SF)

Key Losses

  • Chandler Parsons (SF)
  • Jeremy Lin (PG/SG)
  • Omer Asik (C)
  • Omri Casspi (SF/SG)

2013-2014 Leaders

  • PPG: James Harden (25.4)
  • RPG: Dwight Howard (12.2)
  • APG: James Harden (6.1)
  • SPG: James Harden (1.6)
  • BPG: Dwight Howard (1.8)

Dates

  • Oct 7th @ Dal (Preseason)
  • Nov 22nd @ Hou
  • Jan 28th @ Hou
  • Feb 20th @ Dal
  • Apr 2nd @ Dal

Q&A

Scott Rafferty joins us to answer some questions on the Rockets and their match ups with the Mavs.

Editor’s Note: Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles) writes for Fansided’s Hardwood Paroxysm, SB Nation’s Ridiculous Upside and TrueHoop’s Magic Basketball. He got kicked in the face by Yao Ming once and lived to tell the tale. He’s easily a MUST follow on Twitter, so do it!

1. The Rockets added Trevor Ariza, Jason Terry, and Kostas Papanikolaou to make up for the losses of Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik. Do you feel the new additions will be able to compensate for the subtractions? Was Ariza the right choice to replace Parsons?

Not entirely. The Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik experiment didn’t work out as planned and it’s unlikely that it would’ve in due time, but it wasn’t as though they got a good return on either of them (they were both moved for basically nothing in the hope of creating space for Chris Bosh, which, obviously, didn’t work out). To add to that, we don’t really have any idea of what Kostas Papanikolaou will bring to the table and Jason Terry hasn’t been relevant for a few years now. For that reason, the old trio is certainly better than the new trio.

In saying that, Trevor Ariza might actually be a better fit than Chandler Parsons in the starting lineup. Ariza doesn’t need the ball in his hands as much, and he’s a better defender and 3-point shooter, which better compliments James Harden and Dwight Howard. Parsons was never going to be the second option on the Rockets as long as Harden and Howard were around, so having someone with a more defined role should benefit the team.

2. Outside of Dwight Howard and James Harden, which Rocket should fans keep an eye on?

Troy Daniels. How much playing time he’ll get this season remains to be seen, but if all goes to well he could be a great spark plug off the bench for them. He’s by far and away the best 3-point shooter the D-League has ever seen, and he gave reason to believe that he can replicate some of that magic in the NBA this season when he gave the Rockets some good minutes in the playoffs.

The team will go as far as Howard and Harden take them, and Daniels could make both their lives much easier by spacing the floor at a high rate. That’s why I’m excited to see what happens with him.

3. Including the preseason opener, the Mavs and Rockets will face each other five times this season. Which matchup(s) will your eyes be focused on?

Whoever is guarding James Harden. Although the Mavs don’t have any two-guards who can defend him, they’ve got some depth at the three that could give him some trouble. Parsons has proven to be a good defender in the past when he’s locked in and Al-Farouq Aminu is a specialist in that regard, so the Mavs have a few different ways they can approach that challenge. Now that they’ve got Tyson Chandler back in uniform, they have a good rim protector, too, so that makes life even more difficult for Harden.

4. What do you see the Rockets doing that will give the Mavs trouble in their matchups?

Dwight Howard was a monster in the playoffs last season, and now that his back is fully recovered (or so he says) we could see the Dwight of old this season. If that’s the case, the Mavericks could struggle to contain him. As good of a defender as Tyson Chandler was in the past, he’s 31 years old now and he’s coming off of a couple disappointing and injury-ridden seasons in New York. Not only that, his backups are Brandan Wright and Bernard James, neither of whom will be able to slow Howard down. So if Chandler doesn’t regain his old form, the Rockets will look to exploit that mismatch.

5. What will Houston struggle with against the Mavs?

The same way that every other team in the league will struggle against the Mavs: guarding Dirk Nowitzki. Terrence Jones, who is likely to be the starting four again this season, doesn’t have the strength nor length to slow Dirk down individually, and now that the team has added a number of 3-point shooters, doubling down on him is even more of a death sentence. The Rockets can’t really afford to put Howard on him for long periods of time, either, so it’ll be interesting to see what their plan is.

6. Where do you predict the both the Rockets and Mavs finishing in the West this season?

I’m confident that the top three teams in the Western Conference will be the Spurs, Clippers and Thunder again. After that, though, it’s all up in the air. I could see the Mavericks making a push for the fourth seed and I think the Rockets are a step behind them. So, because I want an exciting first round matchup in the playoffs, let’s just say the Mavericks finish fourth and the Rockets finish fifth.

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