Want to know who's heating up for a big season on the hardwood? Insider is tapping into John Hollinger's projected player efficiency ratings to see who's trending up and down across the NBA. Ric Bucher rounds out the report by examining a pivotal player you'll want to watch as the season approaches. The series continues with the Houston Rockets.
They've already been ticketed for Lotteryville with Yao Ming expected to miss the entire season recovering from foot surgery, Ron Artest going to the Lakers and Tracy McGrady coming back from microfracture surgery on his knee. Understandable, perhaps, but it's a stance that completely ignores the toughness and versatility coach Rick Adelman and his plucky band of role players have developed in the intermittent absence of their stars the past two years. As dominant as Yao can be and as integral as he was to both their offense and defense last season, their small lineup was equally dangerous at times. It was that style, after all, that produced 16 of their 22 consecutive wins two seasons ago. The big question will be McGrady and whether he embraces the chance to make the Rockets his team again or maintains the same "forget-you" attitude that prompted him to abruptly have surgery when rumors abounded that he was about to be traded. It won't take long to find out.
To see which player is taking off, which is crashing to earth and which name you'll need to know for the 2009-10 season, you must be an ESPN Insider.