Week 5 of the NBA power rankings is out with the Houston Rockets continuing their ascent upward.
Last season the Houston Rockets were consistently, inconsistent. National pundits weekly power rankings found the Rockets standing on so many different rungs of the ladder it was clear no one had a handle on the squads true identity or potential. Conversely, this season has found the home town team experiencing a steady upward climb with the majority of National pundits in eerie synchronicity.
To wit, zero questions exist regarding the Rockets identity, offensive brilliance and untapped potential. In truth the only unknown is whether assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik can get the squad to provide equal effort on the defensive end.
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Suffice to say, the Rockets are perilously close to rejoining the upper echelon. Ironically, the pundits also agree it won’t even require a top 5 defense to get there. That fact alone should offer Clutch City plenty of reason for optimism.
This past week the Rockets experienced another 3-1 week with victories over the Pistons, Kins and Blazers. Houston’s lone loss to the Raptors (another top 5 offense) however, was a reminder of how steep the final step to the top of the ladder is.
Here’s how the National Pundits ranked the Houston Rockets in week 4:
The Rockets’ new starting lineup (with Patrick Beverley) has been even more potent offensively (scoring 131 points per 100 possessions) than their previous starting lineup. The Rockets haven’t shown any defensive improvement, but they’re 5-1 (with two important wins over Portland) with Beverley. Nine of James Harden’s 10 assists on Sunday were for layups or dunks, but he’s still on pace for 415 assists on 3-pointers, which would crush the record of 284, set by Steve Nash when he played for Mike D’Antoni.
Marc Stein of ESPN ranks the Houston Rockets 7th moving them up 2 notches for the second consecutive week. Given the lack of disparity in not only the rankings by the pundits, but the exact shifts by rungs it does make me ponder if the big guys all gather around their computers to Skype each other Sunday nights. I jest, but seriously, I can’t recall a recent timeline where so many of the top National scribes have viewed the Rockets as consistently as they have been the past 3 weeks.
I’m prepared to go out on a limb right now and say James Harden — responsible for a league-leading 58.4 points per game with his scoring and passing — will not be snubbed by a league full of All-NBA voters in April. I’m also prepared to admit that I’m not sure how to choose between Mike D’Antoni and his rival from Hollywood (please see the Lakers comment) for Western Conference Coach of the Month honors given the huge impact his system has made in Harden’s profound rebound.
Okay so not all the pundits are in symmetrical agreement, that said it’s only fair we cut Matt Moore of CBS.com some slack. After all he already had the Rockets ranked 5th last week, so his moving them up one rung to 4th only seems like the logical thing to do. Moore even includes the Rockets in his opening statement with regards to the Clippers dive and his unease regarding something not being quite right with the Spurs. Perhaps it’s time to send Moore an early Christmas card as he apparently was the first of his peer group to grasp exactly what D’Antoni, Harden and this offensive juggernaut are capable of. Besides, I’m kind of crushing on his witty closing line!
Since the opening-night loss to the Lakers, they don’t have a bad defeat on the resume. They’ve fallen to good teams with genuine playoff hopes, and there are signs that this team has a higher gear in it that will show itself as the year goes on. They’re not a sleeping giant, but kind of a dozing dragon.
And his opening statement where he clearly tipped his hat Houston were among his top teams:
Momentum is tricky. The Spurs have won nine in a row but are really struggling to put together the kind of performance we’re used to seeing from San Antonio. The Rockets‘ longest winning streak is only three, but their overall performance has been impressive.
For months my buddies (who I affectionately refer to as the BBoyz) have bombarded me requesting logical reasons why I don’t want the Raptors (my home town team) anywhere near a Boogie trade. Were it not for the fact Jeremy Woo of SI.com delivered so eloquently what I’ve failed to adequately express I’d be a little angrier at the throw away one liner Woo offered up this week for his Rockets ranking. Hey, at least he moved them up one notch from 9th to 8th this week. And thanks for the ammunition Jeremy.
This is working. Is this really working? This is working.
So that sums up how the pundits view the Houston Rockets in week 5. All are in awe of James Harden’s prowess and with Beverley back if they pull off another 3-1 week they should continue to climb the ladder.
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