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Houston Rockets Power Ranking: Rockets Slip a Few Rungs Week 10

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Houston Rockets Power Ranking – Week 10 Lists

The Houston Rockets have experienced a bit of a roller coaster ride over the course of the season as they’ve suffered injuries, added players and tried to find an established chemistry with each change. Entering week 10 the Rockets suffered some tough losses which found them slipping down the ladder. Based on their efforts this week expect to see them take a ride upward again next week.

I take a look at each of the national media analyst lists and offer my own two cents:

NBA: John Schuhmann’s week 10 list finds the Rockets dropping 4 spots from 6th to 10th.

The USA Today Panel moved Houston down 3 spots. Interestingly the teams that flank Houston are Dallas who they’ve surpassed to regain the division lead today and Chicago who they lost a closely contested game to this week who rank just beneath them.

ESPN’s Marc Stein also drops Houston 3 spots and notes the less than smooth transition of Josh Smith to the team. Another interesting tidbit is he says Houston insists they never promised Smith a starting role as previous outlets reported.

NOTE: John Hollinger continues to believe in the Rockets as he is one of the few analysts who have kept the Rockets in the top 5 of his daily ranking.

Finally Matt Moore of CBS gives perhaps the most scathing assessment of the Rockets writing they need to figure themselves out after their see saw big losses followed by big wins.

Tamberlyn’s Top-10

For the first time my list experienced some major shifts and a team I was previously not sold on finally swayed me and entered my top 10. Notably the Rockets fell again, but like Toronto who took the greatest drop I expect both teams to recover and re-ascend the rungs on the national lists as well as mine next week.

1.  Golden State: A week after I dropped them to third because they lost to both Los Angeles teams they spanked the Raptors who had beat the Clippers and Denver in a back to back series. They are proving to have the deepest team in the Association and are excelling on  both ends of the court. Normally I shy away from a team with so much perimeter shooting but with Bogut back and the ascendance of Draymond Green these Warriors look to have all their bases covered. (last week 3)

2. Portland:  The Blazers remain impressive to me and haven’t lost a step without Robin Lopez in the line-up. While the Hawks have the same record I believe the stars on Portland make them more lethal. In the third game of the season the Blazers lost to Golden State so it sucks they won’t face them again until March 24 as I’d love to see how they measure up to each other at this stage in the season. I’ll have to suffice with seeing how they play against Atlanta at the end of the month. The current question is which Blazer makes the All Star game Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge or both. My guess is Lillard based on him not missing any games and leading in Aldridge’s injury absences.    (last week 1)

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3. Atlanta: I’ve said all season this team was one of the top seeded Eastern teams and they’ve been proving me prophetic. And now when they finally ascend to the top of the East, I’m going to cry foul. I still think they are a great team, but I’ve watched a few of their recent games witnessing more than one occasion where the zebras aided them at crucial points in the game. How coincidental the Hawks can’t lose just as they announce they are up for sale!

Sure they are a top 4 Eastern team in my opinion, but the fact the zebra’s are making sure they stay at the top of the ladder tells me the league wants to make sure they get a great price for them. Hey, it’s not like Atlanta had the fans running to watch their games, they needed a boost and this is apparently that boost. I watched for weeks as the West dominated NBA conversations and now NBA TV seems to only be able to discuss the Hawks. I know the Hawks are birds, but this one smells FISHY!  (last week 4)

4. Dallas: They beat OKC, Washington, Boston and Cleveland last week and are showing the addition of Rajon Rondo is doing what they wanted (improving their defense). Plus there is still time for the offense to return to the top of the board once Rondo fully assimilates. This team is scary and will only get better assuming no injuries occur. They still need to find some bench assistance specifically in the front court with the loss of Brandan Wright, but overall this Texas team may well be the one (not San Antonio) who gives Houston the biggest challenge for the division. (last week 9)

5. Chicago: Jimmy Butler continues to be amazing and will likely earn a max contract based on his early play. Rose on the other hand hasn’t looked good and it’s concerning. In the game last Friday against Toronto he looked okay, but that game could easily have been lost (especially if the zebra’s hadn’t helped the Bulls).

He’s had moments, but the nagging question in my mind is will he return to consistent form or is he not pushing 100% because he’s worried about getting re-injured.  Every time I’ve seen him have tough games this year he ends up missing the game(s) right after. That’s not a great sign. Fortunately for Chicago they’re so deep it won’t matter unless they lose numerous players unless of course they lose Butler then they’ll be in trouble – big trouble!    (remain 5)

6. Memphis: Memphis survived without Zach Randolph and continue to grind away. They still look susceptible facing high flying offensive juggernauts and will need to make some trades to address that offensive problem specifically.  (remain 6)

7. San Antonio: They lost to division rivals: Memphis but beat New Orleans and Washington showing they can beat top teams back to back. They got Patty Mills back but continue to deal with injuries to starters Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard while other key players like Splitter/Ginobili have been in and out of the line-up. They’ve had a hard strength of schedule early, so I still think they’ll pull out one of their infamous extended win streaks especially when the health situation turns.

Given Popovich tends to play by his own terms, it’s just as likely he’ll be content to take his time reintegrated players as long as the Spurs remain top-8. He knows better than anyone this season anyone from 1-8 in the West could move onto the Conference Finals and then into the finals.

I actually pondered this week if Pops is purposely not pushing the team to finish top 8 so he can avoid facing OKC in the first two rounds as the Thunder will likely finish 7th or 8th if they make the playoffs. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Pops is already way ahead of everyone planning to avoid OKC in January instead of April.  (last week 8)

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8. Houston: A roller coaster week for our Rockets who lost to Washington and got blown out by New Orleans and then easily beat Charlotte before annihilating Miami. They’re still searching to find the right fit for Josh Smith and continue to integrate new members and healthy returnees back into the line up.

My biggest concern remains the usage of Dwight Howard. I’m just not certain if he is healthy and if he is then why isn’t he showing consistent dominance. Seeing how he can take over a game and the next game disappear offensively it feels like it’s not just about players getting him touches because much of his offense comes off rebounding on the offensive end. I hope it’s not health related, but I’m beginning to wonder if he needs more rest.  (last week 7)

9. Toronto The load of playing without DeMar DeRozan and a brutal Western road swing finally caught up the Raptors who had 2 terrible games. At least against Golden State they had an excuse and did try to stay in the game. However the game in Phoenix showed they were not only ready to go home evidently they’d already packed their defense into their suitcases.

The next 6 at the ACC feature much improved teams like Charlotte and Detroit and the hottest Eastern team: Atlanta who they’ve beaten twice. DeRozan should return during this home stand which is welcome news especially for Kyle Lowry who has been burdened by carrying the heavy load in DeRozan’s absence.    (last week 2)

10. Washington: Okay, okay I give in. John Wall had shown me he belongs and then some. However it was the performance of Bradley Beal specifically against Houston that made me decide to give in. They still tend to have brilliant performances followed by stinkers which speaks to their inability to play consistently, but they’ve won me over. I’m also still not sure Nene will remain healthy when he has to play a hard series, but their depth is impressing me and with Gortat/Humphries/Blair/Seraphin available it’s looking like they are one of the deepest teams in the front court.

Living in Toronto I’ve had a hate on for the Celtics for years so I’ll never be able to forgive Paul Pierce for his numerous infractions and unnecessary bragging. That said, the fact Rashual Butler (not Pierce) is the vet receiving all the media attention for his reemergence as the veteran scoring threat makes me smile.   (last week unlisted)

Honorable Mentions:

Two teams remain on the periphery close to entering my top ten and one fell out, but is likely to reemerge there next week or shortly after:

New Orleans: I’m a huge fan of Anthony Davis who is poised to become a perennial MVP candidate. And, it’s great to see Tyreke Evans reemerge as the talent we first witnessed his rookie season. I still think Erik Gordon is over rated and will be the player who stops the Pelicans from breaking through to the playoffs this season. Still, they’ve been impressive with quality pieces in Ryan Anderson, Omer Asik and Jrue Holiday. In my opinion they remain one player away from entering the upper echelon, but it’s coming soon. I think they’ll hit a phase this season when one of the key players misses some games due to injury and it will cost them the eight spot.

 Phoenix Suns: Sure they are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, but I’m not a fan. Unlike the exciting team of last season I find this team has a certain bravado that rubs me the wrong way. Like the Clippers last season the Suns have become the team this season who read the zebras the best in the NBA. When the zebras start to give a team the edge they take advantage by crossing the line with how they defend knowing they can get away with anything during that stint in the game.

They also embody something I’m not fond of which is: they are poor winners! Many players on this team have adopted the attitude of their coach and long term that could end up causing locker room problems when he needs to dial them back. Dragic and Bledsoe remain the leaders (and class) but I’m seeing the Morris twins, Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker and Alex Len all display poor sportsmanship at times. At a recent game Green repeatedly used profanity so loudly the TV mikes were picking it up as he taunted the opposition right in front of a bunch of little kids. Not cool.

Oklahoma City: While they fall out of my top ten I don’t envision them remaining out for long. Still feels like they might need to tweak a few things, but I refuse to believe the talents of Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka will remain out of my top 10 or the West’s top 8 for long.

Other Tidbits:

Clippers: They continue to play unenthusiastic ball with Blake Griffin looking like he’d rather be having bamboo sticks shoved under his nails most nights. I’m just not sold this team of Griffin, Paul, Crawford and veteran laden bench players is going anywhere but to the bottom of the playoff seeds. Don’t shoot me yet, but I’m putting it on the record I won’t be surprised if this is the team who actually falls out of the West’s top 8 prior to the playoffs! And, I also won’t be surprised to see Blake Griffin end up heading to New York if the price is right or Boston in exchange for the copious draft picks Danny Ainge has amassed! The other option could be Chris Paul getting fed up and asking to be traded to New York in order to join his good pal Carmelo Anthony where he could easily run the triangle for Phil and company.

Jan 5, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) is guarded by Denver Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo (10) during the first quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Wiggins/Minnesota: Okay so they aren’t winning, but if you’ve had a change to watch Andrew Wiggins and the Wolves  over the past 10 games you’ve been lucky enough to see why there was so much hype around the young Canadian. While many of his fellow rookies have fallen to injury Wiggins continues to grow and is excelling with increased playing time.

He’s put together multiple games in a row scoring 20 points, is filling the stat sheet and is offering a jaw dropping play nightly either on offense or defense. When you look at how valued and unique two way players like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Wesley Matthews are Wiggins upside is huge. Then factor in they’ve all been in the league for several years and look at Wiggins January numbers: 21.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals. In addition he’s doubled his 3-point attempts in a month and is hitting close to 37% of them (1.2 per game).

Plus he’s doing this without the benefit of Ricky Rubio or Nikola Pekovic being on the court. When I think about how Portland, Golden State and OKC all emerged into the upper echelon and New Orleans sits on the periphery it’s worth noting this Minnesota team could easily enter that fray much sooner than most people anticipate if Flip Saunders adds one or two key veterans next season.

That’s it for week 10, albeit it arrives a few days before my week 11 entries will show up, but just like the team who made the playoffs on the last day of the season said “better late than never!”

As always, I invite your comments and would love to see your top-10 picks.

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