Kenny Smith cites small ball as reason Rockets won’t win title

Houston Rockets James Harden, Kenny Smith (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Stance )
Houston Rockets James Harden, Kenny Smith (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Stance ) /

Former Houston Rockets guard Kenny Smith believes the Rockets’ current style of play will prevent them from winning the title this year.

The Houston Rockets have been picked by the national media as the overwhelming “sleeper team”, which is an interesting development, to say the least. It’s not to say the Rockets don’t have a championship-caliber team, but the sudden praise is a bit different than what Rockets fans have grown accustomed to hearing.

But the Rockets have arguably benefited from the extended break more than most, for a number of reasons. For starters, Eric Gordon was noticeably struggling this season, as his averages were essentially career lows across the board.

Gordon struggled with knee injuries that kept him in and out of the lineup, which have been fully healed during this time off. EG’s importance can’t be understated, as he was the Rockets’ second-leading scorer during the 2019 playoffs, while also shooting 40 percent from three.

In addition, P.J. Tucker was in need of a breather, as he played a career-high in minutes, while also battling injuries himself. We’ve also heard alot about James Harden’s slimmer physique, which has some people concerned.

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Kenny Smith cites small ball as barrier for Rockets’ title chances

On Friday, former Rockets guard Kenny Smith sang a different tune than what we’ve heard of late, as he cited the Rockets’ style of play as a barrier for them winning the title. Smith was on ESPN’s First Take and explained his reasoning.

“They have a great chance. It’s not like implementing an offense that’s gonna build and ascend again.

We know exactly what Houston is gonna do. Isolate, penetrate, pitch. That’s it, that’s their whole offense. There’s nothing to change, there’s nothing to do.

I think they do have a huge advantage. But at the same time, I think guys like LeBron and AD can play that way as well. I think Denver can play that way as well.

And being that small, I just don’t see it. If they still had Clint Capela, I would probably pick them as the favorite. But without him, I don’t see it.”

Although Smith cited the Houston Rockets’ absence of Clint Capela as the reason for them not being title contenders, the Rockets actually went 10-1 in his absence this season. And for as good of a rim protector Capela had been over the years, Robert Covington proved to be an even better one.

Covington averaged 2.5 blocks per game, which are more than Capela ever averaged as a member of the Rockets. He’s also one of only four players in the league this season with at least 75 blocked shots and 100 3-pointers made.

The Rockets went 8-6 with Covington on the roster, while pulling off key road wins against the Boston Celtics and the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers, who they were picked to lose against. The small ball scheme has been especially advantageous for Russell Westbrook, as it’s essentially meant opposing big men are forced to defend the most athletic point guard in NBA history.

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The good thing is that we won’t have to wait much longer to see how it plays out, as the league’s restart is right around the corner.