Replacing a player that averages 10 points, and a little over 3 assists per game, may not seem like a huge deal on the surface. But, for the Houston Rockets, a team that’s had their struggles in the past defensively, Beverley is a huge reason for their success over the last couple of seasons. Beverley’s hard-nosed style of play has given the Rockets that physicality that they lack from pretty much the rest of the roster. While, this is undoubtedly James Harden’s team, Beverley is undoubtedly the heart and soul of the team. Unfortunately, the Rockets will be without their heart and soul as they chase an NBA title. Beverley, will miss the remainder of the season, as he undergoes surgery on his wrist.
The loss is a big blow to a team that’s had more than their fair share of injuries this season. To this point, the Rockets have logged more missed games due to injury than any other playoff team. Dwight Howard, heads that list as he just recently returned after missing 26 games. However, Howard’s minutes will be restricted, and he won’t play any back to back games. Terrence Jones, has missed the most action. The rising star out of Kentucky missed several months and is out again for the immediate future. So, is Donatas Montiejunas, who will be out another week or two. Trevor Ariza, and Harden are the only starters that haven’t missed significant playing time.
The news isn’t all bad for head coach, Kevin McHale and his Rockets. The off-season acquisition of Ariza, and the mid-season acquisitions of Corey Brewer and Josh Smith, give the Rockets a lot of flexibility. While, Beverley is very good at knocking down open jumpers, but he’ll be missed more on the defensive end. Jason Terry, and Pablo Prigioni will replace Beverley, but neither will have the effect that Beverley has on defense.
Prominent NBA guards from Damian Lillard to Russell Westbrook have all publicly expressed frustration with playing against Beverley. He not only D’s you up. He gets in your head. That element of Beverley’s game has been crucial for the Rockets, especially in the Western Conference, which is loaded with great guards. However, there are options. Ariza, and Brewer are terrific on-ball defenders. They don’t wreak the havoc that Beverley does, but when needed they can switch over and stay in front of a driving Russell Westbrook, close out on Steph Curry’s quick three-point release, or keep Chris Paul out of the paint. Having Howard back doesn’t hurt either.
Ball-handling is also an issue. However, Harden is the prominent ball-handler, even when Beverley is healthy. Look for Jones, if healthy, to take on some of that responsibility also. A lineup of Harden as basically the point guard, along with Brewer and Ariza is very doable. Especially, when the game is on the line.
Right now, the Rockets reside in 3rd in the West, only a half game behind 2nd place Memphis Grizzlies. Closing out the season strong will be imperative, and securing the 2nd seed would be even better. There’s no doubt Beverley will be missed. But, McHale has options that still could make Houston a very dangerous team in the playoffs.