What’s Fueling the Houston Rockets?


The Houston Rockets are currently the hottest team in the Western Conference. Some might say the hottest team in the league. Currently they have a surprising overall record of 25-4 and 14-2 in the Western Conference. What has made them so successful?

The Houston Rockets are already a great team with the presence of James Harden, “The King of the Euro-step.” They were 3rd in the Western Conference last year, finishing 55-27 in the regular season. They averaged 115.3 points per game, third best in the league behind San Antonio and Golden State.

The 2016-2017 Rockets were getting it done primarily through Harden. Averaging 29 points per game (44% FG, 35% 3Pt), while dishing out 11.2 assists per contest, arguably the best part of his game. For the most part, he was relied on in clutch situations, and was no question the top option with the starting unit. The one thing Harden isn’t known for is his defense, so he must be surrounded with good defensive players.

Having defensive-minded forwards such as Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson really helped Harden’s cause. Patrick Beverley, too, was a guard-dog that always pressured the ball. He produced a solid 10 points on 42% shooting for Houston last season. The Rockets also had solid frontcourt depth in Nene, a center-forward with a defensive presence, but has equal success offensively. He split time with Clint Capela, the rim-protecting center that fit Houston’s system well.

The other advantage this team had last season is having guys off the bench that could be starters for other teams. Guards Eric Gordon and Lou Williams both provided two-way capabilities that could drive the ball and shoot well. They both shot over 40% from the field last season, averaging 16 and 18 points per game respectively.

So, the bench comes in and gives teams no slack when the starters rest. The wheels are turning for Houston. How can this team get better than this?

During the offseason, the Rockets made the big time, “Blockbuster Trade”, when they acquired Chris Paul from the L.A. Clippers for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, and cash. This trade completely changes the offense of the team. Now, you have two elite ball handlers in Harden and Paul, who are both capable of creating their own shot and finishing at the rim. Houston can run more ball and screen plays, and they can space the floor out even further. It puts a ton of stress on teams, because you can’t let Harden or Paul run free. Teams will have to choose between doubling Paul and Harden staying man-to-man. Regardless of all of this, they both have the vision to pass the ball to the open man.

Chris Paul battled a knee injury in the beginning of the season and has only played 14 games thus far. In these 14 games, he is averaging 17 points on 48.1% from the field and 43.4% from 3-point land. He has also posted 9.5 assists per game. The Rockets have yet to lose with CP3 in the lineup, and this could potentially last a lot longer as the season progresses.

Sixth man of the year Eric Gordon started in place of CP3 while he was sidelined. Through 25 games thus far, Gordon is averaging 19 points per game, a much needed component from their bench. The Rockets are getting the same production from the guard position. Then the rest of the team is still giving you great minutes and play.

Head coach Mike D’Antoni deserves a lot of credit for putting this team back on the map. Both sides of the ball are rolling, and it doesn’t hurt to have great talent. D’Antoni gained a lot of insight and experience from being an assistant coach on Team USA. D’Antoni might just win back-to-back NBA Coach of the Year awards if the Rockets keep this up. The real question is, can they remain atop the Western Conference? What happens when the postseason arrives?



About Roderick Wilbon

General NBA writer from St. Louis, Missouri. Twitter: @Rodzrd

Recommended for you

Powered by themekiller.com