The Houston Rockets Should Have Strong Title Hopes This Year

Jan 6, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket as Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) defends during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 6, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket as Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) defends during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets haven’t had much luck these past few seasons, but that could all turn around this year

The trade to bring James Harden to the Houston Rockets was historic, because it turned a Sixth Man of the Year into a sure-fire Hall of Fame candidate.

Harden is outdoing himself this season, averaging 27.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and a career-high 11.9 assists through 38 games.

Russell Westbrook has been a hot topic of late – with those triple-doubles and all – but we should also be observing that Harden has been a triple-double threat himself this year. The transition from shooting guard to point guard has done wonders for Harden, and that has to make Mike D’Antoni happy.

Now, although Harden embodies the greatness of the 29-9 Rockets, his efforts are not the only thing guiding this team to the pinnacle of success.

Three-point threats

Ryan Anderson is one of the key components for the Houston Rockets’ success, between his passing and shooting. However, Eric Gordon has drawn a lot of attention as well and for good reason.

Gordon hasn’t missed a single game this season and in that stretch, he’s provided the Rockets with an effective shooting percentage from beyond the arc at around 41.9 percent, and he’s made a total of 144 threes thus far – Steph Curry has made 139.

As we’ve discussed, Anderson has also provided an excellent stroke from behind the three-point line. Likewise, Trevor Ariza is keeping up to par with his averages for the last few seasons with the Rockets, though he’s averaging 37 percent from three.

The lingering threat of the three-pointer has turned the Rockets into a deadly machine, though they’ve been one of the high-volume three-point shooting teams for a few years now. Regardless, it helps to talk about how Houston is adapting to the new-age NBA. The roster overhaul that took place over the summer is proving to be one of the best offseason moves this year.

Younger players are thriving

Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones’ departures have allowed the emergence of the Houston Rockets’ younger big men to emerge. Primarily, you have to look at Clint Capela. His free throw and field goal percentages top last year’s numbers, and he’s averaging career-highs in points and rebounds per game. Harden’s refined passing is the key reason Capela is getting quality looks.

He’s currently injured, so the Rockets will be missing out on his rim protection and offensive drive.

I would be remiss not to mention Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell.

Harrell has had to step in while Capela is decomissioned and has managed to be quite intriguing for the Rockets. He had a stellar 29-point outing in a 24-point win against the LA Clippers, which indicates some of his potential. Foul trouble might be the biggest concern for Harrell going forward, but he certainly looks like a keeper.

Meanwhile, Dekker is getting solid burn off the bench. He’s played every game this year, and he’s certainly looking like one of the beneficiaries of Howard and Jones’ departure. He’s only averaging 6.8 points per game, but his movement away from the ball is allowing the likes of Harden and the other ball handlers to have options.

Dec 23, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots over Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) during the second half at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Houston Rockets 104-101. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Health

Aside from individual player skill, quite possibly the biggest reason the Houston Rockets are doing so well is the team’s overall health.

Harden is quite durable despite being whacked and bumped in the paint. Gordon looks healthier than he’s been in a while.

Beverley has had some minor issues this season, but his absences haven’t hurt the Rockets as much as one might think.

Though health might help, it comes down to defense and a winning mentality.

Sticking to those two thought processes will make or break the Houston Rockets this season.

It’d be interesting to see if Harden makes the effort to be a voice for this team. It would also be thrilling to see what moves the Rockets front office makes prior to the trade deadline.

Houston has its big three, but with budding young prospects and a need for veteran, bench talent, anything can happen.

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