How Far Can the Rockets Go? – NBA BasketballTuesday, November 11, 2014 21:00
The Houston Rockets have started strong–can they finish the same?
How Far Can the Rockets Go?
The Rockets started the season strong, even though many experts predicted that the team from Houston should fall down in the rankings this year. After losing some key bench players in their summer hunt for a Super team, experts projected Houston to either get one of 6-8 spots, or miss the playoffs. However, Rockets surprised everyone with their strong start, going 6-0 with 10+ point differential in their wins. Their streak was ended by Golden State, but they played that game without three starters (Howard, Beverley and Terence Jones). How can they finish the season?
Dwight Howard and his Orlando Magic form
Three years after back injuries plagued the center, a surgery and some offseason rest, Dwight is probably healthier than ever. The shape is evident in his movements, both lateral and vertical, his quickness is back, his instincts are back, and he looks like the player that took an Orlando Magic team to the finals in 2009. If he could take a team with Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Rashard Lewis to the Finals, he can surely take one with James Harden on it. Granted, Orlando plays in the East, but Dwight had to go through a strong Boston team that won the title the previous year and Cleveland with Lebron James. In 2008-2009 arguably his second best in his career, he posted averages of 20.6ppg, 13.8rpg (led the league), 2.9blk (led the league) and shot 57% from the field. This year, he averages 19.7ppg, 11.5rpg, 1.8blk, and shots 62.5% from the field.
The effect of Trevor Ariza
Rockets let Chandler Parsons go, and they replaced him with Trevor Ariza. The result is evident as Ariza is the superior defender. The Rockets have posted a defensive rating of 96.2 this year, huge improvement from the 106.3 points per possession they allowed last year. Their offense has suffered a bit, going from 110 offensive rating to 107.9 points per 100 possessions. However, the points differential is huge, 8.8 this year, and 0.4 last year. While it can’t be attributed solely to Ariza, getting an extra defender in the starting lineup sure helps.
Improvement from within
Rockets are counting on few players to make improvements in their game. First and foremost, they count on Terence Jones to make even higher strides this year. Donatas Motiejunas is another player that should see more playing time and have higher impact. But the surprise is Isaiah Canaan, the backup point guard who had a great summer league, and has continued to look great. He averaged 17ppg and 3.3apg per game during summer league. While it is unrealistic to hope those numbers continue in the season as well, Canaan has been revelation through the first few games.
How far can they go?
Rockets are primary an offensive juggernaut. They shoot 3s, get easy buckets in transition, and with James Harden in the lineup, get to the line. Their offense is efficient, but their defense was a problem last year. Dwight had to clean up the mistakes of the whole starting unit. Now, they have Howard, Beverley and Ariza, three defensive minded players in the starting five. Add the fact that James Harden at least tries this year, and the Rockets might be the sleeper in the West to get to the finals. It will depend mostly on Howard and Harden, but the two stars look confident and mature enough to carry the team. And if their defense keeps up this pace, they will be dangerous.
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