The NBA doesn’t return to action until Thursday but the Rockets made some noise on Monday.
They agreed to a 10-day contract with Jeff Green, who could eventually sign for the remainder of the season. It was also revealed that another veteran forward, DeMarre Carroll, intends to sign with them once he clears waivers. Carroll reached a buyout agreement with the Spurs on Monday.
These developments are a clear signal that the Rockets are going all-in on their small-ball approach. They traded Clint Capela to the Hawks, in part to get out from his long-term deal and dodge the luxury tax. But they’ve also seen that they can win games with the likes of P.J. Tucker and Danuel House manning the power positions.
The Rockets have two of the league’s premier guards in former MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook and conventional wisdom would say they would be complemented by a quality big man or two. Mike D’Antoni has a couple of traditional big men at his disposal in Isaiah Hartenstein and Tyson Chandler but instead has decided to go with an interchangeable group of forwards. Recently-acquired three-and-D wing Robert Covington is another key piece in this approach.
Houston has championship aspirations but currently sits fifth in the Western Conference standings behind the Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets and Jazz. The Clippers are the only member of that quartet that doesn’t have a dominant big man, though reserve Montrezl Harrell comes pretty close. The Lakers, of course, have superstar Anthony Davis. Nikola Jokic is the Nuggets’ top player and Rudy Gobert collects Defensive Player of the Year awards for the Jazz.
No matter which team the Rockets face, they’ll have to figure out a way to guard those players and hold their own on the boards. Or perhaps they’ll just anticipate they can run and space the floor so adeptly, they’ll neutralize them and force the opposition to go smaller.
Anyway, it should be fascinating how this plays out. This leads to our question of the day: Can the Rockets succeed in the playoffs without a traditional center?
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