The Houston Rockets have greatly exceeded expectations this season and currently seem a likely playoff team in the Western Conference. Houston has thrived this season based on its lethal up-tempo offense, but its questionable performance in other major categories ensures that this team’s chances of a deep playoff run are slim.
However, Rockets fans have much to look forward to in coming years, as this Houston team has the makeup of a potential powerhouse due to its depth and versatility and, perhaps most importantly, superstar talent.
Just take a look at recent title winners like the Miami Heat, L.A. Lakers, Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs. Among other things, one trait those teams all shared was the presence of an elite shooting guard in the lineup.
In an age where shooting guard is the shallowest position in basketball, the Rockets are blessed to have a superstar talent in James Harden. Harden’s top-shelf abilities as both a scorer and distributor set him apart from most of his peers, and Houston will benefit greatly going forward from his ability to create offensively.
The Rockets are also fortunate to have a number of outstanding players signed to very affordable contracts.
Chandler Parsons, one of the best all-around small forwards in basketball, currently earns under $1 million per year while putting up excellent numbers for Houston. With all of this financial flexibility, Daryl Morey should be able to land another major piece in the near future, which should push the Rockets even closer to becoming a true threat to powerhouses like the Heat and OKC Thunder.
However, Houston is still miles away from contender status, and landing another star player won’t be enough to make this team a powerhouse. The Rockets have been stuck for years in a sort of limbo as a pretty good, but not really good, club. Talent alone cannot push this team out of that black hole.
But there is plenty of reason for hope; as frustrating as it may be now, Houston fans should take solace in the fact that their team has managed to be so competitive while playing defense akin to that of a high school JV team.
Among a myriad of problems with the Rockets’ current roster, the horrendous defense stands paramount. The Rockets currently rank as the second worst defense in the league, a glaring flaw that has been masked only by Houston’s dominant offense.
The defensive issues are not due to any lack of talent, as the Rockets have a number of strong individual defenders and plenty of size. Rather, the poor coaching and inexcusable lack of emphasis on the defensive end have kept this team from consistently getting stops.
While Kevin McHale’s offensive brilliance is reason enough to keep him aboard, Houston’s front office must look to upgrade the defense by finding more defensive minded assistant coaches. Tom Thibodeau did wonders for the champion Boston Celtics during his time as an assistant coach for the club, and the Rockets would be wise to look for a similarly gifted defensive ace.
This team has the depth, superstar talent, financial flexibility and scoring prowess to become a powerhouse. All it needs is experience, continued growth and a high-dosage shot of defensive intensity, preferably aimed at the coaching staff.