Apr 11, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng (5) shoots in the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) at Target Center. The Minnesota Timberwolves win 112-110. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets 2014-15 Path To Contention

Entering the 2014-15 season, a lot of teams, specially in the Western Conference, have a huge shot at contention. It’s imperative that we talk about the suffocating battle that teams from the West will face once the 2014-15 season starts. It’s also indispensable that we refer to the “up-for-grab-ness” of said conference.

That being said, anything short of perfection (i.e. a 2014 San Antonio Spurs-like season) will ruin a team’s chances to reach the mountain top and represent the West in the NBA Finals.

Minutes per game, depth and offensive creativity will make or break the Houston Rockets‘ chances at contention.

Factors that will end up playing a huge role into the Houston Rockets 2014-15 season:

1. Depth:

Coming into the 2014 offseason, the Rockets had a huge chance at improving their starting lineup, and consequently, their bench. The Rockets were close to become one of the youngest and most powerful teams in the Western Conference, but they weren’t able to close out said deal.

After assembling huge runs at Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love and LeBron James, the Rockets torpedoed their chances at getting back Chandler Parsons when they decided not to exercise Parsons $964,000 team option and Mark Cuban raised the restricted free agent’s price tag all the way up to $15 million per year.

After missing out on the aforementioned superstars, the Rockets 2014-15 starting lineup and bench look like this:

Starting lineup.

Bench.

Total Team Salary: $59.3 million.

Huge miss by Daryl Morey since they could’ve had Chandler Parsons for another year at $964,000 and a total team salary of under $60 million. Welp.

2. Minutes per Game:

Now, let’s take a look at the toll that the bodies of the Rockets superstars have taken over the course of the last 3 seasons:

James Harden.

  • 2011-12 Oklahoma City Thunder: 62 games, 2 games started, 31.4 minutes per game. (1,946 minutes)
  • 2012-13 Houston Rockets: 78 games, 78 games started, 38.3 minutes per game. (2,987 minutes)
  • 2013-14 Houston Rockets: 73 games, 73 games started, 38 minutes per game. (2,774 minutes)
  • Total Minutes: 7,707 minutes.

To put this into perspective, LeBron James has played a total of 8,107 minutes in the past three seasons. That’s huge.

If the Rockets are looking to go deep into the Playoffs they need to lower Harden’s minutes. Of course he is young but he will enter next season just as the FIBA World Cup comes to an end and he will need some much deserved rest so his minutes have to go down.

3. Offense:

James Harden is the go-to guy when it comes to the Rockets’ offense. He led the team with 65.2 front court touches per game. This means that Harden had the ball 65.2 times on their team’s offensive side of the court.

Who came in second? Chandler Parsons with 46.7. Third? Jeremy Lin with 44.2.

As the Rockets lose Chandler Parsons to the Dallas Mavericks and Jeremy Lin to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team’s offensive prosperity rides on James Harden’s and Patrick Beverley’s ability to create it.

Fewer Harden minutes and offensive creativity (that and James Harden trying a little bit on defense) are what will make or break the Rockets’ chances at contention. With the lineup they’ve got right now, those chances are not looking as good as they should.

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Tags: Houston Rockets James Harden

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