Skip to content

ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: Houston Rockets

Oct 22, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT

Houston Rockets Introduce Dwight Howard Getty Images

Last season: The Rockets began the year with the somewhat surprising trade for James Harden — surprising because of the Thunder’s choice to deal him so soon instead of pursuing a title with him in place for one more season. It was the right call on Houston’s part, as Harden immediately turned into the offensive star many believed he was capable of becoming.

It was enough to get the team to 45 wins and and eight seed in the West, although facing the Thunder in the first round, even after Russell Westbrook went down with a knee injury, proved to be too tough, and the Rockets were eliminated in six games.

Signature highlight from last season: There was no one game or single play that defined the Rockets last season as much as the overall play of Harden did, so it seems appropriate to simply enjoy his top 10 plays from last season.

Key player changes: Unless you were living in a cave during the summer, you’re probably aware of a certain high-profile free agent center that chose to sign in Houston.

Keys to the Rockets season:

1) Dwight Howard: The man who has been more about drama than bona fide basketball results over the past two seasons has a fresh start in Houston, and he’ll be expected to immediately begin earning that max contract the Rockets handed him this summer.

The good news is that by all accounts, Howard is healthy, and fully recovered from the back surgery that limited him over the first half of his ill-fated season in Los Angeles. The other positive is that while Howard is as high-profile an acquisition as possible, he doesn’t have to be “the man” in Houston — at least not offensively. That’s Harden’s role, so while Howard will have plenty of opportunity to score and will get plenty of touches both on the low block and in pick-and-roll situations, he won’t be relied upon as the primary offensive option.

All the Rockets need Howard to do is return to form as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate who protects the rim, rebounds, and intimidates other teams from even thinking about coming inside. The Rockets were sixth in offensive efficiency last season, but 16th defensively. Howard’s presence should immediately change that.

2) James Harden: Harden was the focal point of the offense last season, and while the team has capable point guards in Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley (who are currently competing for the starting spot at that position), more often than not it was Harden who ended up with the ball in his hands creating for himself or for others. There will be an adjustment period with Howard now, not only because he will warrant a certain amount of touches, but also because his presence in the middle won’t leave as much space for Harden to do what he does best, which is getting to the basket.

There will be an adjustment period while Harden and the Rockets figure out the spacing and use both players’ talents to their advantage. How quickly it all comes together may partially determine just how many regular season wins are piled up in Houston.

3) The rest: Harden and Howard are monster talents at their respective positions, but how much production the team gets from everyone else is more likely to determine their ultimate postseason fate. Camby is a guy who could be of real value in the playoffs, and won’t be expected to be ready long before then.

Omer Asik will be interesting to watch, as he was initially unhappy with the Howard deal for fear his role would be diminished. It will be, despite head coach Kevin McHale vowing to try to play his two big men together, though most don’t believe that will work in anything more than very short stints against very specific matchups.

Guys like Omri Casspi and Francisco Garcia, along with Chandler Parsons are going to need to contribute regularly for this team to get where it wants to go before the year is through.

Why you should watch: James Harden is one of the more entertaining offensive players in the game, and a healthy Howard is one of the best defensively.

Prediction: The West is stacked, but if Howard and Harden are able to figure it out then the Rockets should approach 60 wins, and be a top-three team in the West by the time the regular season is finished. It’s tough to see them getting to the Finals in their first year together, but a deep playoff run should not only be the goal, it should be expected.

Latest Posts
  1. Bucks’ Larry Sanders to play with goggles next season

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:21 AM EDT

    Larry Sanders

    Remember Sanders suffered a serious eye injury last season.

  2. Golden State Warriors top 10 plays of 2014 season (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Way more Andre Iguodala than you might expect.

  3. Report: Celtics will complete Evan Turner signing before training camp begins

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana Pacers Getty Images

    Turner’s stock has dropped significantly since being traded from the Sixers to the Pacers in the middle of last season.

  4. NBA’s rookie transition program tries to educate, but some of the information is presented in poor taste

    Sep 21, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    You can see what they’re trying to do, but some of the things presented went a bit too far.

  5. Behind the scenes look at internal media day for Charlotte Hornets (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    courtesy Bobcats.com

    Our first real look at the new uniforms and new court design.

  6. Tony Parker hits a back over-the-head halfcourt shot (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Tony Parker Tony Parker

    I’m pretty sure Popovich doesn’t want him taking one of these in a game.

  7. Hornets’ Jeff Taylor says he’s recovered from ruptured Achilles

    Sep 21, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Bobcats Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Bobcats

    He’s going to fight for minutes at a crowded wing spot in Charlotte.

  8. Andrew Wiggins says he doesn’t feel much pressure heading to Minnesota

    Sep 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Timberwolves New Players Getty Images

    Nobody expects much from the Timberwolves or Wiggins this season, outside of a few highlight dunks.

  9. Report: Zoran Dragic “in advanced discussions” to leave Europe for Suns next season

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    BASKET-EURO-2013-SRB-SVN Getty Images

    A team is going to have to pay him at least $2 million a year to make it worth his while.

  10. Jeanie Buss ‘not worried’ about Kobe coming back and contributing for Lakers

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Lakers president believes Bryant is ready after he missed all but six games last season due to injury.

  11. Timberwolves ‘not necessarily in a rush’ to agree to contract extension with Ricky Rubio

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Ricky Rubio AP

    Rubio may not like it, but Minnesota can retain his rights in restricted free agency next summer.

  12. Report: Gustavo Ayon’s deal with Real Madrid worth $6.6 million over three years

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Australia v Mexico - 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup Getty Images

    Big man from Mexico preferred to remain in the NBA, but took the payday to return overseas.

  13. Kobe Bryant may join ownership group attempting to purchase Italian soccer team

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Kobe Bryant Kobe Bryant

    With two years left in the NBA, Bryant has an eye on life after basketball.

  14. Taj Gibson says he’s fine coming off the bench for Bulls: ‘Please miss me with the drama’

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Taj Gibson Taj Gibson

    A previous report said Gibson was less than thrilled with remaining a reserve.

  15. Andray Blatche signs deal to play in China next season

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets Getty Images

    Blatche can play, but the NBA offers simply weren’t there.

  16. Giant LeBron James banner approved to hang in downtown Cleveland once again

    Sep 20, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    lebron-banner

    10-story-high banner will return after a similar one was taken down when James left in 2010.

  17. Report: Ramon Sessions signs 2-year deal with Kings

    Sep 20, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT

    Ramon Sessions AP

    Sessions could start at point guard for Sacramento.

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Rondo (2585)
  2. E. Bledsoe (2500)
  3. K. Bryant (2160)
  4. L. James (2046)
  5. D. Rose (1825)
  1. R. Allen (1680)
  2. N. Young (1588)
  3. K. Irving (1522)
  4. J. Hickson (1444)
  5. G. Oden (1405)