The Houston Rockets have been one of the most surprising teams in the NBA this season. They are off to a 16-12 start and are currently one of the hottest teams in the league with a five-game winning streak. They are doing all of this despite having an average of just 1.9 years of NBA experience on their roster. That is the youngest and least experienced team in the league. Their most experienced player is Carlos Delfino, with 7 years in the league. This hot start has them sitting 6th in the Western Conference standings. However, they still have 54 games left on the schedule. The NBA season is a marathon, not a sprint. Can this team turn their hot start into a playoff berth?
The majority of the task of getting the Rockets to the playoffs falls upon the shoulders of James Harden. The main question when the Rockets acquired Harden before the season was if he was truly a number one option in this league. James has answered that question with a resounding yes. With averages of 25.8 PPG, 5.3 APG, and 4.5 RPG, he not only has established himself as a legitimate number one, I believe he will be a MVP candidate within the next couple seasons. He is that good.
But the Rockets can’t only rely on Harden to get them to the playoffs, Jeremy Lin will need to step up his game. Lin is currently averaging 11.9 PPG and 6.2 APG. Although those numbers could improve, the numbers that concern me most are his shooting percentages. Lin is currently shooting only 42.7% from the field and 28.6% from beyond the arc. With Harden being the best ball handler and playmaker on this team, Lin is being asked to spot up and to space the floor more than he has in his entire career. His percentages need to rise to enable Harden to attack the basket and make the plays as he is accustomed to.
While Harden and Lin seem to make all the flashy, highlight plays for Houston, Omer Asik is doing the necessary dirty work for the Rockets. He is currently averaging a career best 10.9 PPG and is 4th in the league in rebounding with an average of 11.8 RPG. He is also considered the heart of the defense for this Houston team. He averages just over one block per game, while effecting countless other shots by anyone who drives the lane. He is also the perfect big man to play the pick and roll game with Lin. He continues to get better at finishing at the rim and Lin has always been a willing passer. He has exceeded expectations in Houston and has turned into an above average center in the NBA.
The “Big 3″ in Houston have their work cut out for them if they are going to make a push for the playoffs this season. I may be in the minority, but I believe they get there. One of the bonuses of having a team as young as the Rockets is that they are constantly improving every game. With this team winning now, how much better will they be in a couple of months with their team chemistry improving with every game? Harden and Lin will continue adjusting to each others game and have the potential to be one of the best back court duos in the NBA. The Houston Rockets will make the playoffs this season, and that is something no one saw coming.
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