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With the lockout already having killed the season’s first 100 games (and counting?), trying to preview the season of 30 teams that might not actually have one seems about as worthwhile as raking leaves on a windy day. But I love raking and the wind only makes it last longer. Razzball has you covered, even if you didn’t want to be covered. That’s love. You’ll appreciate it when you’re older. Look at it like this, the only way any of this stuff can be disproven is if the season ever actually starts. So go ahead, NBA, make me a fibber! I dare you. Until then, consider this fantasy basketball gospel. From now until the start of the season, we’re bringing you the 2011 Fantasy Team Previews, which will focus on each team in order to paint a clearer fantasy picture. Who’s starting? Who might surprise you? And who (besides the league’s owners) might make you want to hurl yourself off a bridge in a few months … or years? Next up – The Houston Rockets (Yao is ashamed of his replacement’s size).

Gained – Jonny Flynn, Marcus Morris, Donatas Montiejunas, Chandler Parsons, Kevin McHale’s coat hanger shoulders

Lost – Brad Miller, Yao Ming (officially)

Probable position depth -
PG – Kyle Lowry*, Goran Dragic*, Jonny Flynn*
SG – Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee
SF – Chase Budinger, Terrence Williams, Chandler Parsons
PF – Luis Scola*, Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Mike Harris
C – Chuck Hayes, Jordan Hill, Donatas Motiejunas, Hasheem Thabeet, Marcus Cousin

* free agent

Surprising Team Fact From Last Season – The Rockets led the league in assists despite their leading dimesman (Lowry) only having the 17th highest total last season and their second-most prolific assister being 79th and a squat center (Hayes).

Number of Top 20 Fantasy Players   (par 0-1)0,
Number of Top 50 Fantasy Players   (par 1-2)1, Martin
Number of Top 75 Fantasy Players   (par 2-3)3, Scola, Lowry
Number of Top 100 Fantasy Players
(par 3-4)0
Number of Top 200 Fantasy Players (par 6-7) – 8, Budinger, Hayes, Williams, Patterson, Dragic

3 Concerns Heading Into the Season

1. How many centers does it take to replace Yao Ming?
Five, on paper. But Chuck Hayes is really this team’s only reliable big … despite the fact that he’s not actually all that big (6’6”). Last year, the Rockets had a rostisserie of Hayes-Hill-Miller and a few games of Yao sprinkled over top. Yao retired, Miller was sent to Minnesota and in their place they added Donatas Motidontwannaeventrytosayit, the 2009 no.2 overall pick and recent D-Leaguer Hasheem Thabeet, and Marcus Cousin. Chuck Wagon is a solid 8/8/3 option at center in later rounds. He’ll supply you with nearly 2 stl+blk and low turnovers each game. Hill has the chance to break out, if he’s given a chance to break out and I don’t know that he will be.

2. Hey, so Chase Budinger is great at volleyball. That’s weird, huh?
Not as weird as Kevin Love’s affinity for the sport. All I know about volleyball I learned from watching ‘Top Gun,’ namely that the players involved have to be greased up beforehand, constantly flexing for one another’s benefit and agile in a pair of jorts. Budinger is almost certainly all of those things, but Love? I think we can all agree, doode is anything but agile … I’m sorry what was the question? … There was no question? Well, dat’s yo fault!

3. Where did Kyle Lowry come from and are bus tickets still available for me to visit that place?
Philadelphia? Um, yeah. I’m pretty sure you can bus to Philly if you needed to. Unless you’re speaking metaphorically, in which case, I’m still pretty sure bus tickets are available for Philly. Also, I don’t know what “metaphorically” means. Lowry averaged 14/4/7and a career-high 34 mpg last season. His shot can stand to improve from the .426 it stalled at in 2010, and there’s reason to think it will. He was tossed into the starting position after Aaron Brooks a) got hurt and then b) got untalented. Then Lowry slogged it out as the Rockets tried to define itself without Yao, without Brooks, without a starting PF who doesn’t block and rebounds underwhelmingly and without a clear presence at SF. A situation like that translates to a lot of shots from Lowry that Lowry probably wished he hadn’t taken before he actually took them. Kevin McHale’s calming, fatherly voice should soothe away many of those bad shots, either that or McHale will rotate his three PGs like he was still in Timberwolves country.

Rookie Review! Marcus Morris (no.14) seems like a guy Kevin McHale will not only like right away, but the type of player he specifically would improve after a year or two. Morris is a quick-but-undersized forward with a great turnaround jumper, numerous moves around the basket and the ability to defend well against smaller PFs. He can’t jump and his rebounding is sketchy because of his size and for those reasons, you’re not going to want to draft him this year. But Morris is on my shortlist of guys we might want to take seriously in a year or two. Donatas Motiejunas (no.20) came over from Minnesota in the Jonny Flynn trade and has been widely compared to Dirk Nowitzki. Mostly because any white guy over 6-foot-10 from Europe with a jump shot gets the Dirk comparison (if he’s from the U.S., he still gets the Larry Bird comparison). I think player comparisons should work like military ranks. You start out with comparisons to Darko, then move up to Bargnani. Once you do something in this league, then you get the Dirk comparisons.  Unless you’re comparing Motiejunas to a 20-year-old Dirk. In which case, yeah. They’re a lot alike. Chandler Parsons (no.38) has been called “unselfish,” “non-aggressive offensively,” and, wait, what was the third term? It’s here somewhere. I just had it … oh yeah, “fluid runner.” Yeah, I’ve read enough.

Fantasy Disappointment in ’11 – Luis Scola. Statistically, he had his best season last year (18/8/3, .515/.738) and represented the lone big man the Rockets had that the team could lean on. So they leaned on him. We all need someone to lean on, Mr. Olmos. But in the offseason, Houston went out and grabbed two new bigs and an oversized SF. Additionally, Patrick Patterson will be a year older and that much more developed, but not in a puberty type of way, which means subtractional things for Scola’s stat line. Scola’s still this team’s number 1 big and a lock to be picked somewhere around 60-70 in most drafts, but even if one of the young bigs produces, that’s gravy coming out of Scola’s bowl.

Biggest Fantasy Contributor in ’11 – Kevin Martin. Speed Racer missed 21 games in 2007, 31 games in 2008 and 35 games in 2009. He missed just two last year and I’m scared to death to assume the tides have shifted. He’s still frail. He’ll be this team’s top producer on the court, but I’ve drafted him every season EXCEPT last year and I’m one ACL tear away from the looney bin with this mamaluke.

Deep Sleeper – Patrick Patterson. The 22-year-old didn’t get much burn last year, playing only 17 minutes a game, but in the time he did have, he showed raw, but varied offensive skills, serviceable defense and an efficiency not common among guys his age. His per36 stats were 14/8/2, with 1.5 blk and 1.2 tov. He won’t sniff 36 mpg this season, but he might see 25 and he might average 10/6/1, with 1 blk per game. On a team with this much mishmash at its frontcourt, talent like PaPa is just an injury away from an unforeseen breakout season.