Houston Rockets Daily Rocket Science: (Un)deserving

Feb 4, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts on the court at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 4, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts on the court at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

The public opinion of the Houston Rockets has changed dramatically over the course of this season, but it is only partially merited.

Less than a year ago, it was an undisputed fact that the Houston Rockets were one of the most dangerous teams in the league and that MVP runner-up James Harden was one of the best players in the game. The team, led by the Beard, made a somewhat unlikely run to the Western Conference finals. Though they eventually were defeated by the Golden State Warriors just four games to one, the public was far too quick to forget that the Rockets lost the first two games in that series by a combined five points.

After acquiring Ty Lawson over the summer and bringing back the core from last season, the general assumption was that Houston would win around 60 games and would be one of the least fun teams to play against this year.

Well, we know all too well how that plan went. A combination of the disastrous “Ty Lawson Experiment”, locker room issues, lack of effort, and defensive ineptitude has kept the Rockets from dominating like they should have, and may end up preventing them from seeing postseason action.

The casual fan’s opinion of Red Nation has plummeted, and with good reason. The team has been nowhere near where they should be. However, the extent of the lowly view of the team is sometimes taken too far. In today’s Daily Rocket Science, we’ll examine the specifics of where the public rightfully and wrongfully scoffs at the Rockets.

Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web

Many fans tend to let out a chuckle when the possibility of the Rockets missing the playoffs is brought up, and that action is quite merited. A quick comparison of last year’s stats and this year’s stats reveals that Houston has dropped off in nearly every category, and that isn’t even counting the intangible drop-offs like the awkward Dwight Howard contract situation or the cancelled Donatas Motiejunas trade. To expand on the disappointing fall away from last year’s dominance, Brian K. Patterson of House of Houston provided a passionate article on why this year’s Rockets do not deserve to make the playoffs.

The team, as it is in its current state, won’t be returning to the Toyota Center hardwood next season and there will be plethora decisions made about many of the futures of the players listed on this roster.

I mean, come on, the Rockets lead the Suns by 15 points at one point during the game and they lose by nine? Those fans who were in attendance of last night’s game certainly have the right to boo as they did.

Another thing that fans tend to scoff at is the play of superstar James Harden. Even the most casual fans are quick to point out embarrassing Vines of defensive sequences where Harden seems to be completely disinterested and unaware. Because he is the leader of the team, a ton of the blame for this year’s failed campaign falls on his shoulders.

However, the scoffing at and lowered opinion of the Beard is completely unmerited. He has fallen off defensively, but still posts defensive ratings in major categories that are better than or equal to the likes of Kevin Love, Damian Lillard, and Jimmy Butler. In addition to that, he’s averaged more points, rebounds, and assists this year than he did last year when he should’ve won MVP. To prove my point in the most poignant and effective way, Darren Yuvan of The Dream Shake argues that Harden has somehow become one of the most underrated players in basketball today.

Harden’s been even better since the All-Star break. His post-break averages of 30.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 8.4 assists are truly off the charts, and it’s a testament to his greatness as an offensive force that this otherwise terrible Houston squad was even in contention for a playoff spot to begin with.

They were lifted to this point solely by the nightly offensive dominance of The Beard, and remove Harden’s 12.3 win shares from the team’s record, and we’re suddenly looking at a 50-plus loss squad, and the LakersNets and Timberwolves as peer company. Something to think about when assessing whether or not Harden is truly underrated.

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All this disappointment has put the Rockets in a peculiar situation. In order to make the playoffs, Houston has to win the last two games on their schedule, and the Utah Jazz have to lose at least one of their last two. The last game of the season for the Jazz is against the Los Angeles Lakers in Kobe Bryant‘s last game of his career. After the Rockets finished beating the Lakers yesterday, James Harden reportedly went to Kobe for some help. According to Zach Harper of CBS Sports, the Beard asked the Black Mamba to beat Utah so that Houston can have a shot at the playoffs.

"He wants Kobe to win his final game. It may not be for the legacy or going out with a victory. Harden’s team needs the help for making the playoffs. The Lakers host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday and the Jazz, after winning in Denver on Sunday, still hold a one-game lead on Houston in the standings. Both teams play Monday night, but that final day of the season could be the difference between the Rockets returning to the playoffs and finding an embarrassing appearance during the   Lottery. NBA Draft"

I hope that today’s DRS has been helpful in educating the public on how far to take the Rockets jokes. Sure, poke fun at the D-Mo situation or the fact that Josh Smith is still on the team, but spare the guy who’s the best player on the team and better than half the guys who get ranked above him in the NBA Player Rankings.

Send our Editor any Rockets-related article/video/tweet/gram/vine that we may have missed via Twitter direct message to @TTOTambz.

Next: NBA Power Ranking Lists: How Pundits Rank Rockets in Week 23

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