The Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming era has officially been exonerated, as the Houston Rockets have ushered in the James Harden and Dwight Howard era. The days of getting ousted in the first round of the playoffs are long gone and the goal of just barely making the playoffs are history.
The Rockets are ready to ascend to the top in the competitive Western Conference as they are loaded with enough firepower to launch them to the moon itself. The Rockets got the last laugh as they pried away the most dominant center in the NBA from the Los Angeles Lakers, and are hoping that they added the missing piece in building a championship-caliber team that possesses the ability of an electrifying offense and a suffocating defense at the same time.
Even before the Rockets landed “Superman”, the city of Houston was rejuvenated as Harden, Lin and Chandler Parsons created their own version of “Showtime”. With a high-octane offense that consisted of fast-break points at the speed of sound and sniper-like shooting from the 3-point line, the Rockets propelled themselves to a respectable 45-37 record and the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Although the Rockets lost 4-2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, considered to be the second-best team behind the Miami Heat, Kevin McHale‘s team matured throughout the year and showed toughness in key moments of the game.
During the 2012-13 season, the Rockets were one of the best offensive teams in the league, as they were second in scoring with an average of 106 points per game. On the other side of the ball however, the Rockets were one of the worst in stopping other teams from scoring as they were ranked 28th, allowing teams to score 102.5 points per game.
For this reason alone, the Rockets went all out in getting Howard and with his dominance on the defensive side of the ball, their’ expectations skyrocketed with the possibility of becoming one of the “Elite Teams” in the NBA.
With a starting lineup of Lin, Harden, Parsons, Omer Asik and Howard that is as potent as any starting five in the league, the Rockets have also put together a solid bench. Their second group consists of both shooters and explosive scorers.
The Rockets acquired Omri Casspi with a multi-year contract as he last played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although his two seasons with his previous team was less than stellar, he has already proven to be playing like his old self as he can score in multiple ways.
Their bench also includes the enigmatic, yet lethal scorer in guard Aaron Brooks, rookie guard Isaiah Canaan (who was an explosive player in college), defensive stopper Marcus Camby and an athletic forward in Terrence Jones. While the Rockets look like a fantastic team on paper, they will need to prove that they can be an elite team on the court. With that being said, I expect the Rockets to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
I am going out on a limb here and predict the Rockets to finish 10 games better and end their 2013-14 NBA regular season with a record of 55-27 record.
If Howard is expected to return to the player that won the Defensive Player of the Year award three years in a row from 2008-11, the Rockets will have the potential to be a top-tier team and it will be up to them to execute their plan. With Howard in, the excuses will go out for the Rockets, as their expectations will be sky high. We shall see if Howard will either cause a rebirth in Houston or be become another “Dwightmare”.