Post All-Star Break Predictions for the Houston Rockets
After all, the Rockets acquired James Harden from the Thunder just days before the start of the season in a miraculous move that sent Kevin Martin to a place where his particular talents (scoring and not much else) actually fit.
Overall, Houston has had a rather unpredictable season, from the team’s success to Harden’s meteoric rise to tying an NBA record by lighting up the Golden State Warriors from deep.
However, after an exciting All-Star Weekend in Houston, perhaps the second half of the season will be a bit more predictable for the Rockets. I’ll give it a shot.
Houston Will Stand Pat at the Trade Deadline
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As usual, trade rumors are swirling around the NBA scene like mad as we grow closer to the trade deadline, and Houston has been subject to its fair share of speculation.
Though the Rockets could certainly benefit from a well-placed trade at the deadline, I expect Daryl Morey to stand pat this year in order to prepare for a big splash in the free agency frenzy this summer.
Many of the Rockets most logical trade targets, like Paul Millsap and Josh Smith, enter free agency this summer, so the Houston brass may view it as illogical to trade for these players when they could just as easily sign them to a contract in July.
The Rockets Will Finish 7th in the Western Conference
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Considering the dismal outlook in Houston at the beginning of the season, this strong placement is already a surprise. However, I expect the Rockets to climb even higher after the trade deadline, surpassing Utah to snag the seventh seed.
The Jazz are likely to be very active at the trade deadline, as they look to add depth on the perimeter by unloading either Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson. While such a move will be good for Utah in the long run, losing one of the aforementioned elite big men is sure to decrease the odds of the postseason coming to Salt Lake City.
If the Jazz decide to deal, Houston will capitalize on the opportunity to slide further up in the conference rankings. Unfortunately, this may have the undesirable effect of placing the Rockets directly in the path of Harden’s former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
James Harden Will Earn All-NBA Second Team Selection
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While Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant are safe bets to snag the guard spots in the All-NBA First Team, Harden has an excellent shot of landing a slot in the Second Team thanks to his outstanding personal achievements and Houston’s surprising success.
Harden will have plenty of competition for the honor, though. Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker have both done outstanding work leading their respective teams to the top of the Western Conference, while Dwyane Wade continues to dominate alongside LeBron James in South Beach.
However, Harden’s undisputed status as the number one option in Houston should allow him to take one of the slots, likely alongside Parker, who has quietly posted the best numbers of his career. Harden will have Wade and Westbrook nipping at his heels, but so long as he succeeds in leading the Rockets to the playoffs, his growing popularity should handle the rest.
Daryl Morey Will Win Executive of the Year
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Just days before the blockbuster deal that brought Harden to H-Town, the Rockets looked like quite possibly the worst team in the NBA.
Fortunately, on the eve of a doomed season, Daryl Morey saved the day by bringing in a superstar shooting guard to give the additions of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik some meaning.
Together, these three players have solidified a strong young core for the Rockets, allowing the team to stay competitive and keeping the fan base satisfied. For this, Morey deserves the honor of the NBA Executive of the Year Award.
The Rockets Will Be Eliminated in the First Round
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Even in the best case scenario, the Rockets are unlikely to climb any higher than the sixth seed in the West, ensuring that their first playoff round will be a difficult one. If they manage to make the playoffs, Houston will either face the Spurs, Thunder or Clippers, all three dangerous and experienced foes boasting superstar talent.
Houston’s offense alone will not be enough to cope with these opponents, and at the present time the Rockets simply lack the assets to take down a true contender in a best of seven series.
The Rockets are a team on the rise, but don’t expect them to make it out of the first round this postseason.