NBA Houston Rockets

5 Keys To Houston Rockets’ 2014 NBA Title Hopes

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5 Keys For The Houston Rockets To Win An NBA Championship

Jerome Miron-USA Today Sports

When the Houston Rockets signed All-Star center Dwight Howard this offseason, the mission in Houston became loud and clear: win an NBA Championship. After a disappointing season with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012, Howard chose Houston to begin his journey toward his first championship. By joining forces with Chandler Parsons and James Harden, the Rockets were ready to make Howard's championship dreams come true before he decides to cry his way out of town and demand a trade.

So far, the Howard experiment has worked as Houston is the fifth seed in the competitive Western Conference. The Rockets only trail behind the Oklahoma City Thunder by six games for the top spot in the conference, and Houston's own "Big Three" is gaining both confidence and chemistry as the season goes along. However, in such a competitive conference, this team still has to make some adjustments if it wants to hoist a championship trophy in June. Houston's offense has never had a problem, but the team's defense has made fans look away. Even though they have improved defensively as of late, Houston is far way from being a championship-caliber defense. The Rockets' title run could end because of these defensive flaws. It doesn't matter if they can outscore opponents; if the Rockets can't stop them come playoff time, this team's championship hopes will end sooner rather than later.

It's not too late for Houston to fix these problems. There are plenty of playoff teams in the league who still have question marks on their rosters. With the trade deadline approaching and still plenty more basketball left to be played, the Rockets can make that leap into becoming a championship team and make it to their first NBA finals since the 1994 season. Here are five things that the Rockets have to do to make it happen.

Justin Beaucage is a Philadelphia Eagles contributor for Follow him on Twitter @jbrantsports85, "Like" him on Facebook, or add him to your network through Google.

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5. Houston Should Trade Some Of Their Bench Players

Andrew Richardson-USA Today Sports

There are players on Houston's bench that are eating up a lot of cash and could be used as trade pieces for better players. Center Omer Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin have been in trade talks since the offseason, and they could still be moved before the trade deadline. The Rockets could ship these players off and add either defensive role players off the bench or find a true point guard. It could also free up cash for moves later on.

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4. Improvements on Defense

Jerome Miron-USA Today Sports

If the Rockets want any chance at an NBA title, its defense will have to step up down the stretch. Houston is ranked 18th in the league allowing just over 101 points per game. The Rockets have improved lately, but continuing to get better defensively is extremely crucial for them come playoff time.

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3. Cut Down The 3-Point Shooting

Three Point
Troy Taormina-USA Today Sports

Despite having shooters on the roster, Houston struggles from behind the arc. They are shooting 34.7 percent from 3-point land, which is 23rd in the NBA. Even with the struggles, they still shoot the most threes per game in the league at just over 25 per contest. If the Rockets cut down the 3-point shots, focused on finding consistent open mid-range jumpers and fed players in the paint (where they are ranked third in the NBA), it would be more of a winning formula.

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2. Houston Needs A Point Guard

Point Guard
Jerome Miron-USA Today Sports

The Rockets need to find a true point guard to be an elite team. All of Houston's problems begin with the lack of ball movement. The team is 24th in assists per game, and need a passer to develop more efficiency on offense. This team is full of scorers, but that doesn't mean much if there isn't a player who can give them the ball in open situations.

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1. Give Dwight Howard The Ball

Jerome Miron-USA Today Sports

The Rockets' biggest key to a championship is to keep giving Howard the ball. Despite being an All-Star reserve this season, Howard is playing fantastic basketball with his new club. He is averaging 18.6 points per game with more than 12 rebounds per contest, clearly showing he is still the most dominant center in the league.