Attracting a lot of attention around the league with their play, Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets have certainly left a lasting first impression, but with the Playoffs around the corner, they still have things to accomplish being tied for the third spot in a deep Western conference.
With close to 20 games yet to be played in the regular season, giving it your best shot for the top spot in the West when you’re three games behind is not such a bad call and the Rockets need to make that late season surge while still consolidating the home court advantage they have for the first round.
It’s a lot to expect from a team whose rebuilding seemed to be complete only this summer with the arrival of Howard, however it’s a sign of good things to come. Given the average age of the team, the superstars and the role players on their roster, the Houston Rockets have set an example of a successful rebuild by creating a potential dynasty which can go head to head with any team in the league.
More than a decade after Yao Ming brought championship hopes along with him from China, when he was drafted first overall in the 2002 draft, Howard and James Harden now stand in the spotlight answerable to the call of the people of Houston for an NBA title.
Here are a few aspects of their roster and their playing style which show signs of a dynasty in the making:
With their skill level and dominance in each game, the duo of Harden and Howard often remind you of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in their early days. Their coordination, chemistry on the floor and complementing style of play should be a huge positive for Rockets fans.
Dwyane Wade and Bryant are the only shooting guards who can currently be ranked ahead of Harden, but both have been battling injuries this season and Harden is by far without doubt at the top of the list when it comes to shooting guards right now. His impressive passing ability not only gets his team going, but has helped his new teammate Howard get some confidence under his belt.
With an offensive system better suited to his game, Howard has flourished under Head Coach Kevin McHale’s system. The Orlando Magic version of him who use to man the paint, swat shots into the crowd and dunk the ball off alley-ops seems to be back. Together they are one of the best, if not the best pick and roll tandem in the league at present.
Every team which believes it’s a contender needs to have role players who can step up to the occasion when a starter is off his game and although the Rockets don’t fall short in that category, they really could use having more depth on their bench.
Anyhow, Chandler Parsons has been a key contributor on both ends of the floor for the team and is the best player in the team after the superstar tandem. On a fast paced offensive system, a player at the 3 spot who can shoot from long range and run the break is a key cog in the system.
Jeremy Lin might not be creating the same magic on the floor like he once did in a New York Knicks jersey, but he does what the team needs from him; that is to conduct the offense while the second unit is on the floor. We all knew given time, Parsons and Lin could fit perfectly into their roles, but a lot of questions were asked regarding Omer Asik and Patrick Beverley.
Those questions are slowly being answered with the team play the Rockets have showcased while Beverly and Asik are on the floor. Heading closer to the Playoffs, McHale is sure to establish a permanent rotation, which the players and coaching staff will be familiar with.
Team capable of dominating both ends but still a long way to go
The team might not be rated in the top 10 offenses or defenses in the league, but the team has certainly shown the capability to dominate both ends of the floor on numerous occasions. The reason behind their exclusion from the top 10 in defensive ratings has been their inconsistency and this is why I believe this team is still on the road to becoming a dynasty and isn’t one just yet.
The roster depth on a dynasty should be such that the team must be a threat to beat their opponent on their day without any one of their two superstars; however we have not witnessed such a performance of such so far from the Rockets.
Offense wins matches but defense wins Championships and the team must realize the importance of playing defense on a consistent basis, night in and night out, if they want to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
They are the hottest team in the league this calendar year with a record of 22-6, but I doubt the Rockets can even make it to the Conference Finals given the depth in the West. That being said, this is certainly a team which will be a serious title contender in a year or two.Published 10 Mar 2014, 11:59 IST