Mar 5, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) and Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Houston Rockets defeated the Orlando Magic 101-89. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
2) Houston Rockets
2013-14 Record: 54-28
Vs Southwest Division: 11-5
Playoffs: Lost 4-2 to Portland, 1st round.
The Houston Rockets’ relative stasis over the offseason is going to cost them, at least in the short term. While it’s understandable to see why Rockets GM Daryl Morey chose to rid himself of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin’s salary to pursue a top tier free agent, the Rockets ultimately came away empty handed.
While Lin’s void is hardly much to fill, losing Asik is another problem altogether.
Houston is woefully thin at the 4/5-positions. Only Donatas Motiejunas and Clint Capela backup Dwight Howard, and neither can play big minutes. There will be other options to add a cheap backup center, but big men are never in abundance, and even the likes of the recently dealt Hasheem Thabeet could have been useful.
There certainly seems to be enough merit to the idea of orchestrating a trade for a defender at the 4/5 spot. Without it, the Rockets will be dead in the water against LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki and Zach Randolph. Terrence Jones simply isn’t there yet.
Outside of that, James Harden has to take some steps as a player to return to at least playing average defense. He is relied upon mostly to be the workhorse offensively, but as a team leader, guys look at his actions and cue off them. When he is passively allowing a defender to dash past him, he’s setting a tone.
Dwight Howard needs a larger role, and it is up to both Kevin McHale and James Harden to ensure he receives it. The Rockets have some changes to make if the team is to finish any higher than the 6th or 7th seed in the West.
There’s a lot of talent with just Harden and Howard alone, but the Rockets are not a team replete with depth, and inexperience is going to be the theme of the season with guys like Jones, Motiejunas, Troy Daniels, Isaiah Canaan and others expected to step into major roles. It’s exciting to think what these guys are capable of, but they’re just not ready yet.
2014-15 record: 50-32
Playoffs: Lose in 1st round