Matchup Preview: Orlando Magic vs Houston Rockets


Over the next month, we’ll be talking with a variety of people who cover each NBA team to find out a little bit about their team, and how they expect the season to go. We’ll also find out what they believe will be the most intriguing matchup when the two team’s meet during the regular season. We conclude the Southwest Division with a look at the Houston Rockets. Brett David Roberts of Space City Scoop joins us. Follow Brett on twitter @BDRHoops

Game Dates 

Wednesday, January 14th @ Orlando 

Tuesday, March 17th @ Houston 

Last Season: 54-28; Finished Fourth in Western Conference; Lost in First Round To Portland 

December 8th: Houston 98 Orlando 88

March 5th: Orlando 89 Houston 101 

Projected Starters

Point Guard: Patrick Beverley 

Shooting Guard: James Harden 

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza 

Power Forward: Terrence Jones 

Center: Dwight Howard 

Apr 30, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward

Chandler Parsons

(25) reacts to making a three-pointer during the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Out is Chandler Parsons, in is Trevor Ariza. How big of impact is this going to have on the team on both ends? 

A: In the short term, this move will be imperceptible. Trevor Ariza and Chandler Parsons had nearly identical PERs last season, while Ariza is clearly an upgrade defensively.  What is up for discussion here is the idea that Chandler Parsons continues to improve to maybe being a legitimate No. 2 option within an offense. If that happens, Daryl Morey lost his gamble. 

Dallas has always made some questionable personnel moves, but Parsons proved over the last three seasons he has a high learning curve. He’s also one of the better at catching fire and putting the nails in the coffin. Great signing for Dallas, and Houston does fall down a bit — but some of that is also due to dealing Omer Asik, too.

Apr 12, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones (6) dunks the ball past New Orleans Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow (3) during the first half at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Terrence Jones really burst onto the scene last season as a nice complimentary piece. What can we expect from him this season, and what does he need to do to take that next step? 

A: Terrence Jones is inconsistent, but he shows enough flashes to have the makings of a very good player. I see Josh Smith as the “high upside” simply for the fact that their play styles are so similar. Smith has never made an All-Star team, and that’s something Jones is unlikely to do either. But that shouldn’t discount his value as an NBA prospect.  

What hurts Jones more than anything is his defensive abilities. He reaches and gambles too much. He bites fakes. He is beguiled by the crafty 4-men in the league, as evidenced by LaMarcus Aldridge averaging 43.5 points per game in the two games in which Jones started in the 2014 playoffs (games 1 & 2). Physically, getting stronger is the only way he can become a legitimate power forward.

Q: What’s one matchup you’ll be watching when the Magic and Rockets meet? 

More from Games

A: It should be interesting to look at the backcourt. Patrick Beverley is a complete pest, and if Elfrid Payton is starting by then, he will likely be much the same. Now, at shooting guard, James Harden is one of the best scorers in the game and arguably the worst defender in the NBA. That said, Victor Oladipo could have a big game. Vic is known for tough suffocating defense, as well, but Harden has a way of getting to the line and picking and choosing his sweet spots on the court. When he’s at his best, it really doesn’t matter who is covering him.  

Either way, the backcourt battle is worth keeping an eye on because both teams feature their best talent at the guard positions (arguable for Orlando given Vucevic, but that’s a digression).

Q: What’s this Rockets team’s ceiling? Could they make some noise in the west, or are they going to fall short again?

A: The Rockets by and large stagnated this offseason. Daryl Morey struck out on all the coveted free agents, from Kyle Lowry to Carmelo Anthony to Chris Bosh. Also, as mentioned, losing Omer Asik is going to affect the Rockets more than they may realize right now. He was the most rugged defender on the team, notwithstanding that Dwight Howard was the best.  

The Rockets rely on a lot of inexperience with Jones, and behind the starters, there are mostly young unproven talents, like Isaiah Canaan, Donatas Motiejunas, Troy Daniels, and the promising mystery in a box, Kostas Papanikolaou, or Papa Kostas, as I dubbed him on Space City Scoop. Clint Capela is another such Pandora’s box. He has a lot of tools, but he’s D-League bound — despite his representation stating that he wanted “to start,” you can’t make that kind of stuff up.

The most promising of all may be guard Nick Johnson. The former nephew of Celtics’ legend Dennis Johnson, Nick brings a lot of the same athleticism and defensive skills of his uncle. He may see time immediately given the thin depth chart behind Beverley. And we also have no idea what Jason Terry is still capable of. Johnson could be the first guard off the bench after he adjusts to the NBA, and with his top-notch athleticism this could happen far sooner than later.

The Rockets fall to the sixth seed in the West this year, to sum it up. Oklahoma City, San Antonio, L.A. Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Portland Trailblazers are all better teams, both on the court and on paper. Kevin McHale hasn’t inspired much of a defensive culture, and those types of teams typically fizzle out in the postseason. It goes without saying that another first round bounce will likely send McHale packing.