The Houston Rockets have traded some of their long-term flexibility for victories this season.
The Rockets had been looking for a star player, trying to put together a package for Dwight Howard all summer. Instead, they essentially filled their 2012 cap room with Harden, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, Royce White and Terrence Jones.
A ton of new pieces for coach Kevin McHale to put in place, but does this new core raise Houston into the NBA’s elite?
It’s a tough question to answer, with so many unknowns expected to contribute to this squad. We have yet to see Lin play a large sample size of NBA games playing starter’s minutes. Ditto for Asik, who’s expected to be the Rockets' defensive anchor.
Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy notes the Rockets' inexperience:
Jeremy Lin, James Harden and Omer Asik are the cornerstones of the Rockets. A lot of potential, but they've started a combined 34 games.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) October 28, 2012
If you believe in the ideology that experience breeds winning, give the Rockets a few more years. On the other hand, look at Harden’s old team, the OKC Thunder. They took those clichés about experience and stampeded all over them like a pack of bulls.
Much of the Rockets' success, it seems, will fall on their newest acquisition, but how Harden adjusts from being the third-best offensive player on the team to the No. 1 option?
“The Beard” plays a lot like Manu Ginobili, who has been scoring points and winning games in San Antonio for an entire career.
Yahoo! Sports Marc J. Spears has Harden scoring a boatload of points in a Rockets uniform:
Then again, Ginobili always had Tim Duncan and Tony Parker by his side. Are Lin and Asik comparable? Harden wishes.
The Rockets are not short on role players, full of pick-and-pop partners in Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris. If Harden and Lin step into superstar roles, they’ll have a bunch of viable parts to fill in the rest. Their pick-and-roll game could be especially deadly with both stars at the controls.
Plus, the Rockets' draft picks will have to come in and make plays right away. Royce White and Terrence Jones both certainly have the tools to contribute from day one and be more than just complementary players.
If Harden, Lin and Asik can increase their production in bigger roles, proving that they were held back by their former teams, the Rockets can compete in the playoff hunt.
The term "elite," though, may be wishful thinking. They will need a ton of “Beardsanity” to make that leap.
Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow NBA news and commentary from him on Twitter @TheRealShiek