As a young team with several emerging stars on the horizon, it's tough to pick just one player from the Houston Rockets with the most upside.
James Harden has already reached a level of stardom as one of the best scorers in the game, but the scary thing is that he is continuously getting better. At only 24 years of age, he has plenty of time to improve his game. He can keep his turnovers down, play smarter possessions without isolations and give this thing called defense a shot.
Chandler Parsons, on the other hand, is a budding star who is finally becoming a household name in the NBA. In just his third year in the league, Parsons completes Houston's Big Three along with Harden and Dwight Howard. He is a valuable glue guy that stuffs the stat sheet and helps the offense flow.
There are other guys who deserve a shout-out, like Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverley, but we'll keep it between Harden and Parsons for now.
So, which one is it?
When Harden came to the Rockets, people were unsure whether he would be able to become the No. 1 option after coming off the bench in OKC with the Thunder. He would prove all of them wrong, emphatically.
The Beard embraced the spotlight, finishing last season among the top five in scoring. He has shown that at just 24, he can put up numbers with the best of them.
Even with Dwight Howard in the mix, there is no question that Harden is the go-to guy in Houston. The Rockets are his team, and they will only go as far as he will carry them. The ball is in his hands with the clock winding down in crunch time. However, Harden is still young enough that he will continue to improve each season.
There is, after all, room for improvement.
First of all, his defense needs work. There's no denying that. In the video below, you can see that Harden does not give enough effort on the defensive end. He loses his by ball-watching and he goes for the steal instead of staying in front of his man far too often. As he matures in this league, his defense will get better. He's a great athlete, it's just a matter of putting in effort and becoming more aware of certain situations.
Secondly, he needs to take care of the basketball. Especially in the playoffs, every possession is key, and you can't have empty possessions that lead to easy points for the opponent. This season, Harden is up to 3.7 turnovers per game, which isn't going to cut it in the postseason.
Another knock against Harden is his tendency to stop the ball movement on offense and run isolations. Instead of running the offense, he holds the ball and lets the shot clock dwindle down, and it usually ends up in a rushed, contested shot.
Despite all of these issues, don't get me wrong, Harden is an elite player in the NBA.
He can score so easily, with his long range and his unique driving ability. He can get to the line at will and still finish inside off the dribble. A little work on his game and he is easily a top-three player that the league has to offer.
With Dwyane Wade hurting and the return of Kobe Bryant still a mystery, the Beard is the best shooting guard there is. His future is even brighter than his present, now that he has the opportunity to shine in Houston without a Durant or Westbrook in his way.
Drafted 38th overall, Parsons has played with a chip on his shoulder ever since day one as a rook. The second rounder has far exceeded expectations and is now a premier player on a contending team.
Parsons is a lengthy small forward who fits well in the Rockets' system. He can shoot the three ball well, and his athleticism and slashing ability make him a lethal weapon offensively. He is also a solid perimeter defender, something that is rare on Houston's roster.
He is a stat-sheet stuffer at its finest. His 16.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game show how great his all-around game is.
At only 25 years himself, you could argue that Parsons is the guy with the highest ceiling left to reach for the Rockets. He spent all four years at Florida, so this is just his third season in the NBA. He has improved tremendously in each of those seasons, and continues to get better with each and every game.
Parsons is still on his rookie contract, and makes less than $1 million each year. At some point, whether it's this offseason or next, the Rockets are going to have to pay him big money to stick around, which I'm sure they will. He's already a member of the Big Three along with Harden and Howard, but he will probably become the Rockets' third and final max contract somewhere down the road.
At the end of the day, Parsons is such a crucial piece to the puzzle, but there is no relevant puzzle without Harden at the reigns. Harden is the star that is still on the rise, which is why he has the most upside of any Rocket.
This of course is just my opinion. There are plenty of deserving candidates on the roster, which is a testament to how well general manager Daryl Morey has built this team.
Comment with who you think has the most upside for Houston.