Houston Rockets 2019-20 Team Awards
With the NBA season on hold, it’s the perfect time to reflect on what’s happened and shine a light on the difference makers for each team. Here at OTG we are doing an NBA Awards series for all 30 teams to highlight those players that are most important to their franchises. Let’s take a look at one of the most divisive teams in the league: The Houston Rockets
Most Valuable Player: James Harden
This one isn’t complicated. James Harden’s unbelievable scoring is the life blood of this Rockets team. His talent has turned one of the more shallow rosters in basketball into a title contender through sheer dominance, and that’s the type of play you want from an MVP. His style of play is maddening for his detractors but all the foul baiting can’t allow us to forget that he is one of the best, most reliable players in basketball. Russell Westbrook was an obvious second choice but his up and down play throughout the season combined with him playing less games causes this to be a runaway for Harden. While he struggled to score efficiently at times during the season, his presence has a calming effect on Houston’s offense regardless of his percentages. With a decreased season and more rest this might be Harden’s best chance to finally capture an NBA title.
Defensive Player of the Year: PJ Tucker
Tucker has been Houston’s Swiss Army knife on defense for a few years. His versatility is the reason that the Rockets felt comfortable trading Capela and going all in with their revolutionary basketball strategy. Tucker’s ability to guard the best player on the opposing team and then be the starting center at 6’5 is as valuable to Houston as Harden’s ridiculous scoring average. This is one of those awards that is so obvious that there isn’t really a credible honorable mention, Houston’s defense is that reliant on Tucker.
Sixth Man of the Year: Austin Rivers
The best ability is availability and that’s the theme for this award. Eric Gordon is Houston’s dynamic sixth man who has a Sixth Man of the Year award to show for it. However, Gordon was rarely available for the Rockets this season and Austin Rivers stepped into the role and made the most of it. I know 9.8 points on 35% three point shooting doesn’t look impressive on paper, but Rivers' impact goes beyond raw numbers. His impact as a reliable third ball handler and defender is what separates him from Ben McLemore and the other Rocket reserves. The team isn’t as deep as some of their Western counterparts, so they’ll need Rivers, Gordon, and the rest of the role players to compete for the championship they need to legitimize this era of Rocket basketball.
Rookie of the Year: Nobody
Houston goes into another season without a difference-making rookie to speak about. With a team as top-heavy as the Rockets are it would make sense to go search for difference makers on the right side of 30. Instead they sink more money into veterans in hopes of squeezing a championship out of this aging group. The Rockets haven’t had a first round pick since 2015 and their disregard for using the draft to improve their roster is a decision that will be felt for years to come.