2018 NBA Playoff Preview: Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets surpassed the most wins for a single season in franchise history as they ended the year with an NBA best record of 65-17. They exceeded expectations of many media personnel as James Harden and Chris Paul showed that they were able to run the show, together. James Harden The Rockets have experienced many injuries this year--Harden and fellow Rockets Clint Capela and PJ Tucker are the only players to see action in over 70 games--but none of the injuries have been season-ending.
Harden will possibly get over the hump and capture his first MVP trophy. The two-time runner up led the NBA in scoring (30.4) and three-pointers made (265) during the regular season. The additions of PJ Tucker, Gerald Green, and Luc Mbah a Moute, have helped team defense, increased veteran presence in the locker room, and given Harden and Paul spot-up shooting options.
Biggest Strength - Under head coach Mike D’Antoni, it is no secret that the Rockets’ biggest strength is the ability to shoot 3’s. They have hit 1256 of 3470 attempts (36.2%). The total marks an NBA record for a single team for a season, breaking the record that was accomplished last year, ironically by the Rockets. Houston has nine capable shooters from behind-the-arc.
Biggest Weakness - Chemistry is the Rockets’ biggest weakness heading into the playoffs as the team was 3-3 in their last six games. However, it is no secret that the #1 seed in the Western Conference conservatively rested players. Injuries to Mbah a Moute (dislocated shoulder), Ryan Anderson (ankle); and others could threaten to decrease team chemistry, which is an important aspect during the playoffs.
Team’s X-Factor - Coach D’Antoni must learn from last season’s series loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals and go deep into his rotation. Health is very important in the playoffs and the Rockets actually have the pieces to play a 9 to11 man rotation. Players like Nene, Tucker, Green, and Joe Johnson should all see increased minutes, especially in the first round against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Player to Watch – Why not go with the hometown native? Gerald Green (12.1 PPG) has been a key piece to the Rockets’ rotation since he was signed in late December. It is not certain when Mbah a Moute will return from his shoulder injury, which calls for Green to accept a bigger role. Look for him to take a lot of the pressure off of Harden and Paul.
Estimated Playoff Run – The sky is the limit for this team. However, the expectation is that the Rockets should make the Western Conference Finals at the very least. They have been stellar all season long and have posed a big threat to dethrone the Golden State Warriors, who are struggling with injuries. It is time to start heavily considering the possibility that Houston could win it all.