It’s no secret that the Houston Rockets were a mystery entering the 2012-13 NBA season. Nobody quite knew what to anticipate out of the rebuilding squad, but a flurry of moves during the offseason caused many fans to put a halt on immediate expectations.
Now, with the year rapidly winding down, it’s become clear that the team is moving in the right direction, and rebuilding and finding success don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Whether Houston makes the playoffs or not, and regardless of what they do when there, 2012-13 will go down as the beginning of a new era in Rockets basketball. It hasn’t all been pretty, as there’s clearly still room to grow; however, this team is ahead of schedule, and it’s safe to say that the year has been a resounding success.
How It Began, More Questions Than Answers
The 2012 offseason was a busy one for GM Daryl Morey. The team had no qualms about its attempt to bring in a superstar, and it compiled draft picks in an effort to acquire the league’s hottest commodity—Dwight Howard (according to ESPN’s Chad Ford and Marc Stein).
After failing to obtain the big man, Houston was left with one of the league's youngest rosters. The team lacked any sort of true leadership from point guard to center, and the big question became: How long would this squad have to wait for the raw talent to develop?
Once free agency began, there was no slowing down. The signings of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik were the first indications of true progress, but at the money spent, you had to wonder if the pickups were worth it.
Just days before the regular season began, the Rockets finally got their star in James Harden, yet nobody knew for sure if he’d be worth a max contract. Hopes were high in the eyes of the most optimistic fans, but needless to say, there were still reasons to be wary with such drastic changes.
An Emerging Core
For anybody who doubted Harden’s superstar abilities before the year began, the 23-year-old quickly put those thoughts to rest.
After playing behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for three seasons, the 2-guard was ready to explode onto the scene. He recorded 37 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals in his first game with Houston, and he followed it up with a 45-point showing just a few nights later.
Harden has become a go-to scorer from start to finish, but he’s not the only player making a difference.
For all the money Asik is set to make, he’s doing exactly what was expected of him. In such a fast-paced, three-point-happy system, the perimeter players need someone to bail them out on the boards. That someone has been Asik, as he’s averaging the second-most rebounds in the entire NBA.
Lin is also proving to be the right point guard for the system. He’s been guilty of inconsistent play, as we still don’t know whether he’ll score five points or 25 points on any given night; however, he’s shown that he can push the tempo and get the ball to the shooters when his shot isn’t falling.
The three moneymakers are setting the tone; however, one of the true success stories of the 2012-13 season has been Chandler Parsons.
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Elias Says Chandler Parsons joined LeBron as only players in last 3 seasons to score 30+ pts while shooting 90+ pct http://t.co/QdYvT8yQbu2013-3-4 11:00:30
The 24-year-old began the year as the Rockets’ highest-scoring returner. Now, behind Harden, he’s improved in virtually every statistical category, and he’s showing his versatility when it comes to scoring both at the rim and on the perimeter.
Keeping this crew intact, while adding a piece or two in free agency, is a recipe for success. Fans should be ecstatic with what they’ve seen thus far, and they should be proud of the group that’s already on the floor.
Exciting Brand of Basketball
Regardless of where the Rockets finish in the standings, there’s no denying they’re near the top when it comes to thrilling basketball.
At 106.4 points per game, Houston is the game's top-scoring team. It plays at the fastest pace (according to ESPN), it puts up more deep-range shots than any other team and it knows how to share the ball, despite the individual heroics of Harden.
There aren't many teams that are as fun to watch as this offense, and whether they're in the half court or out in transition, you can expect to see a show night in and night out.
The other thing that’s exciting for fans is that the organization clearly isn't content with where it’s at. The move to bring in Thomas Robinson at the deadline added another talented piece, and when you combine that with the cap space it will have over the summer, you have even more reasons to be excited.
Playoffs or Not, Consider 2012-13 a Success
At this point in the process, it appears as if the Rockets are headed to the postseason. With less than a month to play, the team is looking like the seventh seed out West, which is a huge victory for a group that seemingly had no direction just nine months prior.
However, if the team somehow falls two spots when the year comes to an end, the 2012-13 season will still go down as an undeniable success.
With its defensive deficiencies regularly on display, very few people—if any—can think of Houston as a legitimate title contender. The lottery would be a nice consolation to missing the playoffs—especially for a team that is already moving past the rebuilding stage.
Whether the Rockets are playing at the end of April or not, they’ve been a fun group to watch on a nightly basis. There’s no question that things are looking up, and when it comes down to it, fans in Houston have every right to be excited.