There have been several drastic events that have had a major impact on the results of the Houston Rockets 2012-13 season.
Houston was not expected to compete this season. After a start to the offseason that saw the team lose much of the talent from the 2011-12 season's roster, analysts and NBA minds alike were ready to write off the Rockets for at least the next two seasons.
Then, it happened.
Jeremy Lin signed. Omer Asik followed suit. Then, James Harden was acquired to give the Rockets the superstar oomph that they so desperately needed. Without these players, there's almost zero chance that Houston would be where they are today.
The Rockets still have work to do with the playoffs approaching, but they've put themselves in a good position for this season and future campaigns. Should their core remain in tact, Houston can climb up the ranks of the Western Conference.
It was a long journey to where they are (fighting for the No. 6 spot in the West), and it can be summed up by the following moments.
When considering the Rockets' roller coaster of a year, analyzing their 2012-13 season has to begin with the acquisitions of big-name talent.
It began on July 18, 2012 when the New York Knicks announced that they would not match the offer sheet on point guard Jeremy Lin. With a recognizable name and talented point guard in the fold, Houston was on its way to respectability.
Just a few days later on July 24, Omer Asik became a Rocket when the Chicago Bulls failed to match his offer sheet. The Asik deal was criticized at the time. Many believed that general manager Daryl Morey had overpaid for a player that had started just two career games in two seasons.
Those who criticized could not have been more wrong. Asik has established himself as a dominant rebounder and respectable scorer in the post. The Rockets would most certainly not be in the position they are today without Asik.
The final piece of the puzzle was none other than James Harden. The Beard became a Rocket on October 28, 2012. The move was not initially supposed to have the outcome that it has had today. Harden was considered a very good player but had yet to prove himself in a starter's role.
Fast-forward about six months, and Harden is one of the top superstars in the NBA. Give Morey a ton of credit for the offseason he put together.
The Rockets and Daryl Morey could not have asked for more from Harden in his first two games as a Rocket.
Just four days after being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden suited up against the Detroit Pistons and put on a show. He recorded a double-double with 37 points and 12 assists but also threw in six rebounds for good measure.
In his first game as the focal point of an NBA offense, Harden rose to the challenge.
Then, the season's second game came. Against the Atlanta Hawks, Harden decided he'd one-up his Rockets debut. He scored 45 points on just 19 field-goal attempts.
Overall in his first two games, Harden shot 63 percent from the floor and got to the free-throw line 23 times. With a superstar on the rise, Houston seemed to be ready to turn some heads.
Omer Asik had performed at an acceptable level over the season's first two months. He averaged 10.4 points and 11.9 rebounds per game in November and December.
December 25 was his coming out party, though. In his first game back in Chicago against his former teammates, Asik scored 20 points and grabbed 18 boards in a 23-point route. Asik began gaining recognition after this game, and rightfully so. His play became a key to the Rockets attack.
Since that date, he has averaged 10.5 points and 12.0 rebounds per game. While the numbers don't stand out as much different, it's the quality of the games that has mattered. He's put up double-double after double-double this season, oftentimes bringing down near 15-plus rebounds per game.
Asik's big game also gave the Rockets confidence that they could beat the tougher teams of the NBA. The Chicago Bulls are one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference. For a young team like Houston, beating contenders goes a long way for confidence.
If the Rockets have proved one thing this season, it's that they can score amongst the best in the league. Actually, as of April 10, the Rockets have the best scoring offense in the NBA with 106.2 points per game.
On February 5, the Rockets put on a scoring display for the ages. They defeated the Golden State Warriors by a score of 140-109. In the process, Houston drained 23 three-pointers. That number tied the Orlando Magic for the most threes made in a game in NBA history.
Jeremy Lin dropped five threes, while James Harden and Chandler Parsons each hit four. The Rockets top players pretty much hit any shot from deep that they put up during the game. To say their performance was impressive would be an understatement.
Beating a team like the Warriors was big for Houston. Often considered one of the team's biggest rivals, Golden State had gotten off to an exceptionally strong start this season. Now with less than a week to go this season, both teams are fighting for the No. 6 spot in the West.
Houston owns the tiebreaker, and that would not have been possible without their record-tying performance.
The Rockets made a deal right before the trade deadline that came as a surprise to many. The Rockets were by no means a team that didn't need improvements, but acquiring the No. 5 pick in the previous season's draft came as a shock to the NBA.
Houston traded Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas to the Sacramento Kings for power forward Thomas Robinson, a player with a world of potential. Marcus Morris was also shipped off to Phoenix for Francisco Garcia, Tyler Honeycutt and a second-round pick to complete the three-team trade.
Robinson has yet to make a huge impact, but his athleticism brings a new dimension to the table. The Rockets were already considered a faster team, but Robinson's speed is an improvement over both Patterson and Morris.
In the long run, Robinson will be a huge pick up. His potential is so great that he could breakout at any moment. Morey deserves a huge amount of credit for this trade.
James Harden was motivated in the last meeting of the season (barring a playoff matchup) between the Rockets and the Thunder. So motivated that he produced the highest point total of his NBA career.
The Beard scored 46 points on just 19 field-goal attempts, leading the charge in a 122-119 victory. Houston went on a 23-10 run in the last four minutes of the contest to steal a victory from Oklahoma City.
Harden's individual performance was incredible. Stepping up against the game's toughest teams is the true measure of a superstar, and he did just that. From a team standpoint, though, the victory was even more impressive.
The Thunder represented the Western Conference in the NBA Finals last season, and they have performed like a powerhouse once again this season. Defeating such a strong team let analysts know that Houston had the skills to beat the best—something they'll have to do in the playoffs.
Harden's career game would not have looked as impressive had the Rockets lost the game. Without Harden, Houston would have most certainly lost.
The Rockets generally don't play too many nail-biters—they either win big or lose big. They brought their A-game on March 24 against the San Antonio Spurs, however, and that resulted in an instant classic.
With the Rockets down 95-94 with 4.5 seconds left in the game, the team turned to none other than James Harden to take the last shot. He sank an off-balance jumper to give his team the lead—a lead they would not diminish.
He scored 29 points in the game, 18 of which came in the second half. He played as superstars should in the clutch against one of the best teams in the NBA.
Beating the Spurs was huge. Many could argue that it was the most important win of the season for the Rockets. They effectively proved to themselves that they could run with the big boys in a playoff atmosphere by winning with 4.5 seconds left.
The probability of playing in blowout games in the playoffs is low. To win in the playoffs is to win in close games. The Rockets proved to themselves, and the league, that they could get it done when it matters.
How sweet it must feel to clinch a spot in the NBA playoffs after undergoing an entire makeover during the offseason.
Playing the talent-depleted Phoenix Suns, Houston needed a last-second, game-winning goaltend courtesy of the Suns to come out with a victory. Harden dropped 33 points and led the team in scoring.
The game represented a rare performance for Houston. The team shot just 6-of-30 from beyond the arc, a mark that generally won't get it done in the NBA. Luckily for them, they did not play down to their opponent in other areas and were able to come out on top.
Houston can finish no lower than the No. 7 seed in the West. There's still a chance to capture the No. 6 seed, though Golden State owns a one-game lead with just four games to go. Houston does hold the tiebreaker.
After watching his team go from nothing to something, Daryl Morey should be basking in the glory of assembling this team. It took some luck for the pieces to fall into place, but Morey bet on the potential of the individual to watch the performance of the whole flourish.