James Harden and Dwight Howard
Nov 30, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Dwight Howard (12) and guard James Harden (13) react against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half at the AT&T Center. Houston beat San Antonio 112-106. Reuters

The Houston Rockets were considered one of the top teams in the Western Conference last season. However, after busting out in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs and a rocky offseason where they lost multiple key players, can the Texas team preserve their status as one of the conference’s elite teams? Shooting guard James Harden and centre Dwight Howard are considered NBA superstars, but how far can they bring the Rockets in the upcoming 2014-2015 NBA Season.

Houston Rockets Roster/Depth Chart

Point Guards: Patrick Beverley/Isaiah Canaan/Ishmael Smith/Troy Daniels

Shooting Guards: James Harden/Jason Terry/Nick Johnson

Small Forwards: Trevor Ariza/Francisco Garcia/Kostas Papanikolaou/Robert Covington/Alessandro Gentile

Power Forwards: Terrence Jones/Donatas Motiejunas/Jeff Adrien/Joey Dorsey/Josh Powell

Center: Dwight Howard

Key Loss/es (new team): Jeremy Lin (Los Angeles Lakers) and Chandler Parsons (Dallas Mavericks)

Key Addition/s (previous team): Trevor Ariza (Washington Wizards) and Jason Terry (Brooklyn Nets)

Season Outlook: It’s not a major overhaul but the Rockets will have a new rotation in the new season owing to the departure of Parsons, who was pirated in free agency by Texas rivals, Dallas Mavericks in the offseason. Houston’s commitment to Parsons was challenged by Mark Cuban’s franchise when the Mavs offered a long-term 3-year $46.2 million deal for the budding shooter. The Rockets gave in and settled on 29-years-old Trevor Ariza, who they acquired at roughly half the price— at 4 years, $32M.

The Rockets also lost Jeremy Lin, Houston’s primary back-up point guard last season. A trio of PGs—Canaan, Smith and Daniels are expected to play spot minutes early as the Rockets try to find the back-up PG for the season.

Houston’s offence of course will centre around the duo of Howard and Harden. Howard is still a double-double threat despite slowing down in recent years and averaged 18.3 points and 12.2 rebounds (4th in the NBA) in 2013-2014. Harden is one of the top shooting guards in the league offensively logging in 25.4 markers per game— 5th in the NBA in scoring.

Key Stat From Last Season: 107.7 PPG - 2nd in the league in scoring

Houston has a high powered offence which is centred on their ability to push the tempo and get off quality shots from behind the arc. The 107.7 points average is among the tops (Los Angeles Clippers averaged at 107.9 PPG) in the entire league owing to their 24.0 attempts per game from the three-point land. New acquisition Ariza, who will replace Parsons in the starting line-up is also an above average three-point shooter and won’t have a problem adjusting to the high volume of threes system in Houston.

Key Weakness For Upcoming Season: Team Defence, Harden's Defence

The team’s weakness reflect their best player’s (Harden) own vulnerability: defence. As a team, they are the eighth worst team in giving up total scores (103.1 PPG) Of course, Harden’s non-effort on the defensive end is well-documented and criticised:

(YouTube/How U)

Portland Trail Blazers - Potential Breakout Player: Patrick Beverley

Beverley is well known for his activity on the defensive end— constant pressure on the opposing point guard and a consistent nightmare for those he’s guarding. Beverley is entering his third year in the league. He doubled his scoring average from 5.6 PPG to 10.2 from his rookie year to last season and is expected to have a more prominent role on offence with the departure of Lin.


Prediction: The Houston Rockets struggle off the gates but will battle for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, they won’t have home court advantage unlike last season and will be among the bottom half of the playoff teams in the tough Western Conference.