Wait, can we call them elite yet? Even though they have yet to play a second of NBA basketball as a team?
Right now, the Rockets aren’t more than just a paper team. We haven’t seen them play with Harden and Dwight running pick-and-rolls. Although they will most likely turn out just fine, we can’t be 100 percent sure, as we saw with the Los Angeles Lakers last season.
Going into last year, L.A. looked like a surefire contender. With Kobe, Howard and the team adding veteran Steve Nash along with Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, it seemed like they would be just fine. Well, that’s where we went wrong.
Still, things will be different in Houston for Howard, right? The Houston Rockets organization most certainly hope so.
In my opinion, there are only four elite teams in the NBA. Obviously, the two-time defending champion Miami Heat are one of them, as is team who was just a defensive rebound away from beating them, the San Antonio Spurs. The Indiana Pacers were very close to making the NBA Finals, to say they are not an elite team would be an inaccurate statement.
Who is the other elite team? The Chicago Bulls. Believe it or not, Derrick Rose is coming back from an injury this year. Howard has been on three different teams since Rose last played a game. When Rose does come back, the Bulls are most certainly elite, assuming he is 100 percent. Chicago gave the Heat a fight in the playoffs this past year, even winning Game 1 on the road without Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich.
Add these players into the mix, and you’ve got trouble. When Rose is 100 percent healthy, it is hard to argue against him being one of the top players in the NBA.
A weakness the Rockets will have right away is that Howard and Harden haven’t played together. They might have played some pick-up games together in the past, but that doesn’t compare to NBA basketball.
Not only have they not played together in the NBA, but it’s not like Harden has been with the Rockets forever either. He is still adjusting to Houston, still getting used to Kevin McHale and all the Rockets players. Don’t expect a fast start right away, as it takes time to gel. As you might remember, the Heat didn’t start off hot in their first year, beginning the season with a 9-8 record.
Something the Rockets need to settle right away though, is who will be Batman. Either Howard or Harden will have to be second fiddle to the other, much like what Dwyane Wade had to do with LeBron James. Look how that turned out: back-to-back NBA champions, and three straight NBA Finals appearances.
At the end of the year, will the Rockets make this list of elite teams? Time will tell, but let’s see them play a few games first.