To say that the Rockets’ 2015-2016 season was a bust would be an understatement. It’s yet to be seen whether it was simply fluke or if the team overperformed in previous years.
The Houston Rockets, in back to back years, went to the Conference Finals and then nearly missed the playoffs altogether. The roster did not change much from the first year to the second, so it’s logical to assume that one of the years was out of the ordinary.
The way the team plays this season will help to determine which one was which, though the roster is different enough to where it may never be completely clear.
One of Houston’s players who managed to still have a productive year was none other than James Harden. Despite posting similar stats in 2015-2016 to his 2014-2015 numbers, the Beard was left off an All-NBA team to the public disapproval of Kevin Durant. Space City Scoop editor Tamberlyn Richardson makes an argument that the snub was more deserved than Durant may have realized. Though I side with Durant on this one, she makes a few good points.
"For many the regression of the Rockets defensively seemed to fall primarily on Harden’s shoulders which was an unfair burden for ‘The Beard’ to carry. No doubt the turmoil within the team and chemistry issues contributed. Constant negative press beginning with McHale’s early firing, Harden and Dwight Howard’s ongoing feud and copious reports of a chaotic locker room atmosphere also likely factored in the pundits’ dismissal of the Beard."
Another Rockets player who held things together from a personal standpoint throughout the course of the recent disastrous season was Trevor Ariza. The 31-year-old played 35 minutes a game and was tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player on a nightly basis.
Despite the tough assignment, Ariza managed to average a career high in steals per game and shoot 37% from three. Those achievements earned him the Rockets Teammate of the Year award from the National Basketball Players’ Association, according to Darren Yuvan of The Dream Shake.
He also seemed to keep his head on straight among the swirling storm of dysfunction both on the court and in the locker room and was one of, if not the most respected player on the roster.
The 31-year-old Ariza is entering is 13th year in the NBA, and while his athleticism may be starting to slightly wane, expect him to be a key component for the Rockets on both ends of the court again the coming season.
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One of the newest Rockets, Eric Gordon, is on the same mission that the team as a whole is on: to return to form. Dan Fatigato of HashtagBasketball.com writes on how Gordon’s career has been on a downward spiral since his arrival in New Orleans a few years ago. Now, he’ll be looking for a new start with the Rockets in a new role as sixth man.
Now he starts his Houston Rockets career, looking to rekindle the promise of his first few seasons.
What are the Rockets getting at this point? A career 38% three-point shooter who’s a proven scorer when on the court. His defense is not his strong suit, but it’s above the James Harden line. He’s on a relatively good contract compared to others in his free agent class – four years, $53 million with $12 million in year one. He can still get up for dunks at the rim at age 27, but will likely be facing a sharp decline in athleticism during his Rockets contract.
The 2016-2017 season will be one that Rockets fans will want to watch closely. The Rockets have a uniquely high ceiling to go along with their frighteningly low floor, and predicting this team has proven to be pointless.
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