2008 NBA Preview: #6 Houston Rockets

Offseason Movement: The team acquired Ron Artest from the Kings in exchange for Bobby Jackson and draftee Donte Greene. Trading for Artest is a risky move, but one that the Rockets pretty much had to take. The window is closing on the Tracy McGrady/Yao Ming combination and the team had to make a bold move to shake things up. And any move that puts Ron Artest on your roster is a bold move. The Rockets also re-signed forward Carl Landry, who was very productive in limited minutes last season.
Keep Your Eye On: The Rockets’ injury report
If T-Mac, Yao Ming and Ron Artest can all play 75+ games and are healthy for the playoffs, this team will be very competitive. But as history has shown us, that is a HUGE “if.” Yao hasn’t played more than 57 games in any of the last three seasons and McGrady is averaging 61 games played over the same span. So the Rockets can’t really hope that the duo will stay healthy, they just have to hope that whatever injuries T-Mac and Yao do sustain aren’t of the season-ending variety.
The Big Question: Assuming health isn’t a factor, how will Ron Artest fit in?
With the acquisition of Artest, three of the Rockets’ top four players are actually small forwards. Luckily T-Mac can play off guard and Shane Battier can play a little power forward and come off the bench. Known for his…um…fiery personality, Artest rehabbed his image while with the Kings, and for the most part he was a pretty good citizen. Anytime you add a player of his caliber, the other guys are going to have to make an adjustment. The silver lining to the T-Mac and Yao injury concerns is that the team will probably need Artest to play a major role at some point this season.
Outlook: Along with T-Mac, Artest, Battier and Yao, the Rockets have a nice group of role players that helped the team catch fire last season after they lost their center. Luis Scola gave the team inside scoring and rebounding (though he was absolutely lost on defense) and Landry provided some much-needed toughness in the paint. Brent Barry provides some outside shooting, while Aaron Brooks is developing into a nice backup for starter Rafer Alston. The team can go nine deep, which gives them the necessary depth to withstand a short-term injury to one (or both) of their stars. If everyone is healthy for the playoffs, watch out for the Rockets. If T-Mac or Yao sustains another season-ending injury, the Rockets might elect to blow the team up and start from scratch.

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