Without a true star on their team, they will need a true team effort in every game to simply be a .500 team.
The first key to the Rockets winning almost any game is Kyle Lowry.
Thus far, he has played like an absolute All-Star to say the very least. He’s averaging 15 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. In addition to the stats, Lowry brings a lot more to the table. He plays good defense, even if the stats don’t always show it, and he plays every single game like it’s his last.
Lowry is a consistent force for every second he’s on the court. He plays with energy, and more than anyone else on the team, can be seen as an inspiration for the rest of the team. Without Lowry, this team could completely fall apart, which is scary after watching the team be destroyed by the Clippers by 28.
The second and third keys are essentially the same with different names. Kevin Martin and Luis Scola absolutely must put up at least 20 points apiece. There simply is not enough consistent scoring on this team without Martin and Scola being the leaders from the perimeter and interior respectively. Without both of them playing well, the team does not have enough scoring power.
Martin is capable of scoring more than Scola, but that does not mean he’s more essential. Scola is the only scoring threat on the interior, and without him scoring, the team becomes scarily dependent upon jump shots.
That shouldn’t be surprising on a team that has only five players who could play at the four or five (and that’s including Hasheem Thabeet and the 6’9″ Jeff Adrien, who for his career, averages 2.4 points per game).
If Martin and Scola aren’t lighting it up, there’s no one else on the team who you can count on to put the ball in the basket. Sure, there are nights that Chase Budinger can get hot, but he’s averaging less than 10 points per game both this season and in his career.
The fourth key is the backup center for the Rockets (at least for now). Samuel Dalembert is the only true center on this team and is certainly the only interior defensive presence on this team. Jordan Hill has the ability to get up and block a shot, but he’s far too inconsistent and gives up way too many easy baskets.
For the Rockets to win, Dalembert needs to be both a shot-blocking presence in the paint and our best rebounder. However, it’s hard to expect that out of him when he only plays 12 minutes like he did against the Clippers or even in the almost 20 minutes that he has been playing.
He’s simply not on the court enough to have the type of impact that the Rockets need him to have. Thus far, he has had only one game that was even remotely close to good enough, when he played against the Hawks and put up seven points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes.
The fifth key is essentially a big question mark. They need someone, who has not already been named, to step up.
That could be Budinger lighting up the scoreboard, Patrick Patterson adding muscle to the defense and a low-post presence on offense, Marcus Morris making an impact (despite the fact that he’s currently in the D-League; yeah, I’m digging deep), Terrance Williams becoming the dynamic talent that he’s physically capable of, even if he doesn’t seem to have the mental makeup for it or the starting center Jordan Hill developing into the top-10 pick who made the Tracy McGrady trade seem like it was such a good deal.
Someone has to step up and give the Rockets something, or they may be on their way to a top-tier draft pick.