Even though a slow start to the season has left many doubting the Rockets, the former Western Conference runner-ups are still very much a threat.
The Houston Rockets have been playing their whole season on the verge. They have avoided falling into the abyss of mediocrity, but have also failed to match the brilliance they showed last season.
Still, there is plenty of talent to be found throughout the rest of the roster. Patrick Beverley and Clint Capela can play D, Corey Brewer is quick as a jackrabbit, and Terrence Jones, Ty Lawson, Donatas Motiejunas, and Jason Terry can all be effective scorers.
Additionally, having a guy who can do this couldn’t hurt too much either.
K.J. McDaniels, everyone.
The fact remains, however, that no matter how aesthetically pleasing the roster, Houston has suffered through four streaks of three or more losses this season. On the whole, the Rockets have not played great basketball. Relative to the noise they made the season prior, Houston has been very disappointing.
The season is far from over and the H-Town crew should not be counted out. The rest of the league may not see it right now, but the Rockets are still a threat.
Getting back to square one and utilizing their whole unit of players will allow the team to more resemble the winners they were last season.
To begin, Dwight Howard needs to play like the second star he was brought in to be. Thus far in the new year he has done so. His averages of 19.7 points and 14 rebounds are a significant leap from his December numbers of 13.8 points and 11.4 rebounds. What’s even more important to note however, is Dwight’s minute increase from 31.9 to 40.3.
If his body allows him to play the type of basketball he excels at, then Howard’s contributions can be expected to remain high. If Harden was Kobe then Dwight is a badly needed Shaq.
Ariza has also come alive as of late. The talented “Three and D” player is shooting .500 from beyond the arc this month compared to .356 in December. Over his last eight games he has shot 20 for 43, which is one of the reasons the Rockets are on a three game win streak and back at .500 for the season.
Ariza’s hot shooting surely came in handy in the Rockets overtime win against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.
The biggest mystery and wildcard for the Rockets the rest of the season is Ty Lawson. The seventh year player has only started 11 games while averaging 6.4 points on .371% shooting, along with 4.3 assists in 24.8 minutes per game.
With numbers like those it is easy to forget the potential Lawson holds. It was not too long ago when the Rockets took a flyer on Lawson and I was convinced he was the missing piece that would push them over the edge.
In Lawson’s four years as a starter in Denver (2011-15), he put up enviable stats. He averaged 16.4 points and 8 assists with a FG% of .453. Most NBA teams would be happy to have a starting point guard who can make that type of impact.
Obviously he is not going to have the ball in his hands as often while sharing the court with ball-dominant James Harden. In fact his usage percentage has dropped down to 15.3%, the lowest of his career, versus 20.9% in his years with the Nuggets. This has to be one of the causes for his poor shooting.
As you can see from these shot charts, not much has gone right for Lawson this season in terms of shooting the ball.
Such a drastic regression from a talented player suggests that things may somewhat even out. Do not expect the same numbers from his Denver days, but if Lawson can get back on the court and develop chemistry with his teammates, then he has a real chance to crack the starting lineup and become a full time contributor.
Only a few months into the season, and one year removed from the Western Conference Finals, it is far too early to count out the Houston Rockets. Plain and simple there is far too much talent throughout their roster to not make the West a fight.
They probably won’t touch the Warriors, Spurs, or even the Thunder, but catching up to and surpassing the Clippers for the fourth seed is very possible if the Rockets start playing their brand of ball once again.
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