The Houston Rockets made a pair of crucial moves to bolster their roster when they picked up James Harden and Jeremy Lin. Now, because of those crucial moves, they have the potential to make a deep playoff run.
There is a large pool of talent in the Western Conference, including teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors. But the Rockets belong among those elite teams, in large part due to their two biggest offseason acquisitions. Harden deserves Most Valuable Player consideration and, while he isn’t as hyped as he was with the Knicks, Lin deserves a lot of credit for his play.
Lin’s 12.3 points per game is nothing special, but 6.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game are very good. He has done a great job setting up Harden, who has ascended to the MVP ranks. Since he is the primary scorer on the league’s best scoring team, Harden has evolved into a better scorer and a better all-around player.
Houston has a top rebounder in Omer Asik, who is among the league leaders with an average of 11.1 rebounds a game. They have Harden averaging 26.5 points and eight guys averaging 8.9 points or more, which is insane. The Rockets are known for dropping a lot of points on their opponents, as they lead the league with an average of 106 points a night.
The Rockets have a lot of scorers, such as Lin, who let people know he was for real with a 38-point performance against the Lakers last year, Harden, Chandler Parsons (14 points per game) and others. Houston isn’t known for having a great passing guard such as Steve Nash or Chris Paul, but they are eighth in the league with 22.8 assists per game and Lin is helping a lot with that. And they are also 10th in the league with 43.2 rebounds per game, putting them in the top 10 in those three major categories.
Obviously, those stats mean nothing if they don’t translate to wins. But I’d say a 21-16 record is pretty good and as Lin and Harden develop better chemistry with this newly constructed team, Houston will develop into a perennial contender. Some people think it will take time, but considering that the Clippers and Thunder are the two main powerhouses in the West (there are other talented teams that don’t have what it takes to get to the Finals), it’s safe to say Houston, 12-5 in its last 17 games, can make a run for a championship.
If there’s one thing in particular that could bring them down, it’s experience, but it’s always good when your biggest concern is merely experience. Harden got to the NBA Finals with the Thunder, but it’s safe to say he choked there. That’s not to say that he can’t handle the pressure that comes with the playoffs, because he tore up the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, but he won’t be able to guide the team through the playoffs alone.
Houston doesn’t have any other Jason Kidd-type player on their team that can help control the emotions of the younger players. Carlos Delfino, 30, is the only player on the roster older than 26 and Delfino isn’t exactly revered as an experienced veteran. However, you’ve seen young teams (like the 2011-12 Thunder) get to the Finals and this year’s Rocket team can do the same thing.
The Rockets’ point differential this year is plus-2.8 per game because of all their offensive success. However, they have some defensive talent, including Lin, who ranks fifth with an average of 2.03 steals per game. Houston isn’t the worst defensive team, as they are 23rd in opponent field goal percentage. That’s nothing to brag about, but it shows that they can play some defense.
But when the offense is always clicking on all cylinders, there’s not much to worry about on the defensive side of the ball.
Not every team needs a spectacular defense to win a championship and, while a championship is a stretch, the talent is there for this Houston team. The Rockets lack experience, but they can always try and nab a guy like that on the trade block and that won’t be too much of a factor. It’s very difficult to control their offense, and it will take a lot for a team to beat them in a shootout.
Because when the Rockets are on they do not stop scoring.
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