James Harden was no better than a third option for his first three seasons in Oklahoma City, but Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey suspected he was capable of much bigger things.
He was right.
Harden is the NBA's fourth-leading scorer at 25.8 points per game, and his success has made the Rockets one of the most promising young teams in the NBA.
The Rockets have the league's youngest roster and a ton of cap flexibility moving forward that should render them big players in the 2013 free-agency market.
Harden should enable the Rockets to draw all kinds of talent, and the list of players that will be available to them this summer include Chris Paul, Monta Ellis, Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Andrew Bynum...
And Dwight Howard.
The Rockets have long coveted Howard, and he said in September he'll decide where he's headed after the season has concluded. Howard could pair nicely with Jeremy Lin and Harden to give the Rockets the inside-out punch that would diversify the offense and make Houston legitimate contenders.
And that's the thing: The Rockets will have plenty of options.
Lin's contract is back-loaded, which has afforded the Rockets plenty of cap space this summer. Role players like Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik make excellent pieces to build around.
The Rockets have shown they have what could potentially be a very dangerous backcourt in Harden and Lin, and their lineup is solid.
Parsons has proven himself to be a very capable second-round pick, and power forwards Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris will both make excellent backups once a premier power forward is brought in to man the 4-spot.
If the Rockets added a power forward like Josh Smith or Paul Millsap, their starting five would be well-rounded and suited to match up with any team in the league.
Harden is a multi-threat scorer whose passing ability can enhance both guards and big men, and both Smith and Millsap would slide seamlessly in the Rockets starting lineup and help make them true contenders.
Omer Asik has already displayed far more offensive prowess than most figured he was capable of. No, Asik has not shown a wide array of post moves, but he's finishing well around the hoop and has improved each and every game.
But Harden remains the key. He is the star who will help draw other big names to Houston. He has been a star all along, just one waiting in the wings alongside two other big stars in Oklahoma City.
Now that he has the keys to his own car, it's time to fill it with some high-profile passengers.
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