Few teams were more dysfunctional at times in the 2015-16 NBA season than the Houston Rockets. What can be expected this coming year now that Dwight Howard is gone? Houston has a wins total of 41.5 on 5Dimes NBA odds.
Who's Gone For Rockets?
Howard is still a good player and he will be a Hall of Famer someday. But the former No. 1 overall pick, eight-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year tends to become a crybaby when he doesn't get the ball and things don't go how he wants them to. Howard was the centerpiece of a good Orlando Magic team that reached the NBA Finals once while he was in town, but he forced his way out of there. Howard then lasted one absolutely disastrous year (2012-13) with the Los Angeles Lakers, with Kobe Bryant practically wanting to murder Howard.
Things were supposed to be different in Houston, but Howard had trouble staying healthy as well as accepting that he wasn't the biggest star on the team -- that honor and all the attention and shots went to James Harden. There were serious chemistry issues between Howard and Harden last year.
Thus it was no surprise in June that Howard opted out of the final year of his contract. Must be nice to turn down $23.2 million, but he got a bigger deal in signing with his hometown Atlanta Hawks. Howard played 71 games last year and averaged 13.7 points and 8.5 field goals per game in 2015-16, his lowest output since his rookie season with Orlando in 2004-05. He was still a good rebounder, pulling down 11.8 per game. But Howard couldn't be left on the floor late in games because teams would foul him intentionally because Howard is such a poor free-throw shooter. He hit just 48.9 percent from the line last year.
Houston also said goodbye to guard Jason Terry, forward Terrence Jones and interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. No big losses there.
After averaging 52 wins the previous two seasons and reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2015, the Rockets were just 41-41 last year and 37-45 ATS on NBA picks. They lost in five games in the first round of the playoffs to Golden State.
Welcome To Houston
The biggest addition is new head coach Mike D'Antoni, and his presence should ensure that Houston is one of the two or three highest-scoring teams in the NBA. You know that fast-paced, beautiful passing offense the Warriors play? D'Antoni basically invented that back in his Phoenix Suns days when he had Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. This will be the fifth stop as a head coach in D'Antoni's career. But since Phoenix, his teams have posted an ugly record of 188-254 (.425).
This team is going to play fast and will be entertaining, which is what all owners want, but it's going to be really bad on defense. Harden is a terrific offensive player who averaged 29.0 points (second in NBA), 7.5 assists and 6.1 rebounds last year. Harden, a sieve on defense, is +1800 at SBR's best sportsbooks to win NBA MVP.
In free agency, the Rockets added two more top points scorers but poor defenders in two former Pelicans: guard Eric Gordon and forward Ryan Anderson. Gordon hasn't been good for a while and is made out of paper he's so brittle and injury-prone. Anderson also can't stay healthy but one of the best stretch-4s in the NBA and a very good 3-point shooter.
To add some bulk in the middle to replace Howard, the Rockets signed former Wizards forward/center Nene. Last season for Washington, Nene averaged 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 57 games. The 14-year veteran is a solid player but also a lock to miss some games. He has played in only 238 of 328 regular-season games in the past four seasons.
So basically the Rockets got rid of the injury-prone Howard and added three guys in the same boat. You are probably looking at a starting five of Patrick Beverley at the point, Harden at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Anderson at power forward and Clint Capela in the middle. That's bleh. There's no point guard depth behind Beverley.
The Rockets are +5000 long shots on NBA odds to win the West. Not happening
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Harden might win the scoring title because he's going to shoot as much as he wants and the Rockets may average north of 110 points per game after 106.5 last year. But they also might give up 115 on several nights. I would go slightly 'over' that wins total as long as Harden stays healthy.