Houston Season Preview
- By Kyle Kappe, Day 1, 2023
HOUSTON - With 4 new starters on a team that is used to making deep runs in the postseason, it's safe to say that it's a new era in Houston. GM Kyle Kappe has taken much deserved heat for trading away the three best players from those teams and brought in what most people believe is a much weaker team. With parallels to RL trades of Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett where stars went for a much smaller haul of talent, Kappe looks to stabilize a lineup and roster with an eye for the future (ignoring the subsequent failures of both franchises).
C - Reigning champion Antoine Hall is featured at the starting center spot. There are whispers that he should be the main threat for the Lighting, but he looks to be the second option on the team. He brings experience and skill to the spot but everyone in Houston knows that he's replacing one of the best players in Clarkson, and that isn't an enviable proposal. Newly acquired rookie, Jarrell Harrison looks to be the main backup C with OG Adebayo also providing limited minutes here as well.
PF - Superb defensive minded Wesley Sherman is slated to start over fan favorite, Ryan Collinson. Sherman provides almost no real scoring threat other than we he can bring down in the form of putbacks from rebounds. He's one of the best post defenders in the league and is an automatic starter. Collinson is the main backup here with Harrison also providing some cover.
SF - Quite a few questions were raised when Swayda was traded and Pace LeGarde brought, with age being cited as the main reason for the move of Swayda being made. No matter as LeGarde is now here in Houston. Widely believed to be the focal point on offense, he'll have plenty of room to operate with few true scoring threats on the team. 2nd round draft pick, Derrick Poole will provide the backup minutes with Devin Wallace also capable of playing minutes as well.
SG - Kierall Richardson is being hyped as the "cure all" for the loss of talent on the team. Acquired for a first round pick, he slots into the SG spot and will be asked to keep defenses from packing it in down low. 2nd round rookies DeAndre Buie and Derrick Poole will provide backup minutes here as needed.
PG - Stephan Hood is the lone member of the Thunder who returns to a starting role with the team and even that was in doubt during the brief tenure of Tarver. No matter as the job is his and he is known as pass first PG who looks to space the floor with passing. His weakness is that he isn't a big threat to score so teams can lag off of him. Kendrick Lee is a mini-clone of Hood and so the dropoff from starter to back up should be small. Rookie Buie will be the 3rd string PG if it gets that far, but minutes will be few for him there.
Outlook - The biggest question for this team is Kappe's direction. Most feel he did not get good value for Clarkson, but in the end, the deal is done. His short tenure saw him take a likely championship threat to one that probably pushes for the 8th seed in the playoffs in the best case scenario, in a western conference that has dominate teams, ones which Houston helped create. Critics will be coming hard and fast and it's unknown if Kappe's team can get off the mat, much less answer the bell to start the season