Over the offseason the Houston Rockets made a lot of noise by signing high profile center Dwight Howard. A lot of expectations came with that signing because the Rockets now had two proven all stars in Howard and shooting guard James Harden. A title was not expected in the first season but a high playoff seed and a deep playoff run was. Now the Rockets are the hottest team in the NBA and are showing signs that they can truly contend for a title this season.
When Dwight Howard was signed this past offseason the expectations for the Rockets in the 2014 season skyrocketed. The previous summer they shocked the NBA world by pulling off one of the most ambitious trades imaginable when they were able to get James Harden from the Thunder. In the 2013 season they showed improvement with James Harden becoming an all star, making the All-NBA third team and leading the team to the playoffs. Further improvement was very much expected when Howard came into the picture, however they are exceeding even those raised expectations.
Since the beginning of the New Year the Houston Rockets have the best record in the NBA at 22-6. Dwight Howard and James Harden are playing very well together and they are even getting almost 17 points per game from Chandler Parsons. Currently they sit in third place in the west only three games back of the Thunder who are in first place. This week the Rockets made a statement by beating the top two teams in the east the Pacers and the Heat. While they needed a last second shot to beat the Heat they thoroughly handled the Pacers by a score of 112-86 with a 38 point third quarter. The slate of games coming up will go a long way in showing how ready the Rockets are for the playoffs as they face the Blazers, Thunder, Bulls and Heat.
Overall favorites to win the Western Conference going into the playoffs will be the Thunder and Spurs but the Rockets are showing that they could cause trouble for those teams in a series. The West is absolutely loaded with contending teams and it would not be a surprise if the Rockets ended up as the two seed or fell all the way to sixth, but at this point they have got to like their chances of making a deep playoff run. If a potential matchup with one of the two top teams in the west happens the Rockets will be hoping it is the Spurs rather than the Thunder because they have won all three matchups during the regular season against the Spurs.
The Western Conference side of the playoffs is setting up to be must watch television and one of the teams poised to make noise is the Houston Rockets. In the playoffs the play becomes much more defensive minded and that bodes very well for the Rockets considering they now have one of the best rim protectors in the NBA in Dwight Howard. While they are probably a year or two from actual title contention the Rockets are showing they will be able to be a real force in this years playoffs.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius