Note: Sportsnet.ca will unveil a team preview every day from Oct. 1-30 counting down in reverse order where we believe the teams will finish.
At No. 21, the Houston Rockets:
2011-12 record: 34-32 (Division: 4th Southwest; Conference: 9th Western).
Omer Asik (Signed from Bulls); Jon Brockman (Acquired from Bucks); Carlos Delfino (Signed from Bucks); Jon Diebler (Acquired from Blazers); Toney Douglas (Acquired from Knicks; Gary Forbes (Acquired from Raptors); Shaun Livingston (Acquired from Bucks); JaJuan Johnson (Acquired from Celtics); Terrence Jones (Drafted); Jeremy Lamb (Drafted); Jeremy Lin (Signed from Knicks); Donatas Motiejunas (Drafted); Royce White (Drafted).
Chase Budinger (Traded to Wolves); Marcus Camby (Traded to Knicks); Samuel Dalembert (Traded to Bucks); Goran Dragic (Signed by Suns); Courtney Lee (Traded to Celtics); Jon Leuer (Claimed by Cavaliers); Kyle Lowry (Traded to Raptors); E’Twaun Moore (Waived); Luis Scola (Claimed by Suns).
21-61 (Division: 5th Southwest, Conference: 14th Western).
Key player: Jeremy Lin
Is Jeremy Lin a 20-game wonder or is he a top-50 NBA player? The Rockets paid a lot of money to answer that question.
Note: With the late acquisition of James Harden, sportsnet.ca decided to move the Houston Rockets up seven spots in out pre-season rankings.
Give Rockets general manager Darryl Morey credit. He understood that his team was stuck in no-man’s land at the end of last season.
They were stuck in a rut, on the edge of being a playoff team which would have made an early exit and being a lottery team.
Almost every player from the ninth-place team in the Western Conference a year ago is gone including stars Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola and Kevin Martin.
In their place are Omer Asik, James Harden and Jeremy Lin and a slew of other fresh faces.
Is this team better though?
Harden certainly represents an upgrade from Martin but questions abound.
Lin and Asik are both question marks as they move in to primetime.
Both Lin and Asik had solid stretches a year ago which has to be an encouraging sign but neither has started for an entire NBA season.
At small forward, newcomer Carlos Delfino will battle second-year swingman Chandler Parsons and rookie Terrence Jones for minutes. Parsons looked solid in his rookie season while Jones was one of three first round picks.
Up front, there is a host of options for coach Kevin McHale to choose from although most are fairly raw.
Patrick Patterson will likely open the season starting at power forward but he will have a hard time holding off rookie Royce White. Marcus Morris also beefed up in the offseason with an eye on earning more minutes as well.
Donatas Motiejunas, a 2011 first round pick of the Timberwolves, was signed and should back up Asik.
The team got better when they acquired Harden but they will need to gel quickly in order to make a serious playoff run.
36-46 (Division: 4th Southwest, Conference: 12th Western).
Who won the James Harden trade?