When you think about the powerful Western conference, you think about Dallas. You think about San Antonio. You think about Phoenix. Now, you even think about Golden State. The one team I find that always gets overlooked is Houston. Although they aren’t highly regarded as a West powerhouse, the Rockets have some powerful weapons themselves. It wasn’t that long ago that Tracy McGrady was leading the league in scoring. It also wasn’t that long ago that the Toronto Raptors jumped off a cliff for letting themselves let go of this talent. Oh, they also have a guy named Yao. Ya, he’s 7’6”. He’s an all-star and becoming the one of the most powerful centers in the league, among being a fantasy dream pick at the centre position. If the Rockets get any recognition, it’s due to these guys. But the Rockets have other talent that gets overshadowed. The four main guys I want to look at are Shane Battier, Rafer Alston, Bonzi Wells and Mike James. I’m not going to touch on the promising young talent like Luther Head, Aaron Brooks, etc. Firstly, Shane Battier has become one the more recognizable role players in the league. He is that guy that will do whatever it takes to win a game, whether it be rebound, score or play some solid defense. I feel every team needs a guy like this in order to be successful (see Tayshaun Prince). Next, the Rockets have Rafer Alston running the point. His 13, 3 and 5 average is solid, although I’m sure the Rockets would love to see his 5 assists go up to somewhere around 8. Either way, he brings a great ball handler to the court every night. Next, Mike James. This was a great pick-up for the Rockets, as James can potentially turn out to be a star again. Unfortunately, he never got a spark in Mini, but who knows what he will bring. With Alston at the point, I can see James moving to shooting guard, making the Rockets have a very small backcourt. Now, onto Bonzi Wells. He didn’t get along with the coach last year, but with Rick Adelman coming in, Bonzi’s game will inevitably fit in. He’ll at least get some minutes to prove it. This guy is capable of still scoring 20+ point a game. Seeing as how he has to share the ball with McGrady and Yao, chances are he won’t get enough shots, but he still brings a dangerous offensive weapon to the team. Like past years, injuries could play into the picture. That has been the main cause of the lack of success of the Rockets. But all I can think about is if this whole team stays healthy for the majority of the season. These guys can be contenders. I can see them splitting a season series against Phoenix, San Antonio and Dallas. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these guys having home court advantage in the playoffs (again, pending team health). These guys have a lot of talent, and I’m pretty excited to see them make a run in the West. Watch out!


Can Yao and the Rockets be serious West contenders?