Ranking every Houston Rockets team since James Harden joined
By Amsal Madhani
In 2012, James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets. He has helped Houston be a threat every year, but which years were the best?
On October 27, 2012, the Houston Rockets pulled off one of the most significant trades of the decade, acquiring James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and two first-round picks.
Since that trade, the Rockets have consistently competed in the Western Conference and have been a threat to win the NBA championship almost every season. The Rockets have yet to miss the playoffs with Harden at the helm and have also never been under .500 in that span.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey has tried his best to surround Harden with enough talent to win a ring, coming up with creative ways to make the Rockets roster good enough to compete in the West.
The Rockets haven’t been able to reach the goal of winning a ring with Harden just yet; however, some say that if Chris Paul didn’t hurt his hamstring in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against Kevin Durant’s Golden State Warriors, they would’ve won the championship in 2018.
Although that 2018 Rockets team probably had the best chance of winning a title in the Harden era, there have been many other great Houston teams spanning that timeframe. Here are the rankings of the best Rockets teams since Harden was traded to Houston in 2012:
No. 8: 2015-16 Houston Rockets
The 2015-16 season was just a complete disaster for the Houston Rockets. After finishing the previous season 56-26, many expected the Rockets to be a powerhouse in the West once again, however, things did not go that way.
With the core of James Harden and Dwight Howard returning, most expected either the same or better results than the previous season, however, things took a turn when the Rockets started the season 4-7. Due to their horrible start, the Rockets surprisingly fired Coach Kevin McHale, creating a stir in the locker room for Houston.
The Rockets received backlash from many people present in the media, including Magic Johnson. Players on the team were stunned and had no idea about the direction of the team. Assistant Coach J.B. Bickerstaff then took over a dysfunctional Rockets team led by James Harden, an upset Dwight Howard who was unwilling to change his game to the pick and roll, and Trevor Ariza, who was one of the only constants on the team.
The Rockets ended the season with a sub-par 41-41 record and made the playoffs as the eighth seed only to get knocked out in the first round in five games by the Golden State Warriors. This was a season to forget for Houston.
No. 7: 2012-13 Houston Rockets
In Harden’s first season as a Rocket, not many people expected him to play at a star level. Although he was the Sixth Man of the Year the previous season, not many thought that he could lead a team to the playoffs, especially in the West.
In his first season with the Rockets, Harden was surrounded by a lot of young talent. The starting five for the Rockets consisted of Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, and Omir Asik. Out of the starting five, Harden was the most experienced, having three seasons under his belt.
Off the bench, the Rockets had some promising young talent putting up numbers to help the team win. Their bench was lead by an NBA veteran, Carlos Delfino, a young Marcus Morris in his second season, and 26-year-old Toney Douglas. Also accompanying Delfino, Morris, and Douglas off the bench were rookies Patrick Beverley, Terrence Jones, and Donatas Montejünas.
The 2012-13 Rockets were a surprisingly balanced team when it came to scoring, other than Harden, of course. The Rockets had six different players averaging double figures in the scoring column with Harden leading the way with 25.9 points per game. Off the bench, the Rockets had eight players averaging at least five points per game.
Although this was a very balanced team, the Rockets finished as the eighth seed in the West and were bounced out of the first round of the playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, they did put up a fight, as they were able to stretch the series out to six games.
Like mentioned before, not many expected the Rockets to be anywhere near the playoffs in the 2012-13 NBA season, so some can say they overachieved with the roster they had. Nevertheless, the results showed a promising future for the Rockets.