The Houston Rockets were so close to having a true championship team. With one more piece, they were expected to be able to challenge for one of the top two seeds in the West. The NBA odds now show they might not even make the playoffs.
2014-15 Regular Season Total: 50.5
Why the Rockets Will Go Over the Number
Houston still has a few very talented pieces. Dwight Howard was a really good player last season, including in the playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers. Howard took the ball in the low post and usually put it in the basket. He was sound on defense, and while his free throw shooting wasn’t great, it wasn’t horrible, either, compared to how he had performed in the past. Howard also wasn’t the disruptive presence on the roster many feared he would become. Howard left situations in Orlando and Los Angeles (with the Lakers) in tatters. He angrily walked out of those organizations, leaving behind a trail of bitterness and egoism run amok. However, in Houston, he blended with the rest of the team and did not take the Rockets away from their overall offensive approach, which was to spread the court, find corner three-point shots when available, and use the three-point shot in general. With the Rockets’ floor spacing being a priority, Howard could have stood in the way of that goal, but he managed to fit in nicely. He averaged just over 18 points and 12 rebounds per game for a team dependent on the three. He can do a little better, but his rebounding and defense were valuable for the Rockets. Howard was not the reason the team lost to Portland in the first round of the postseason. With James Harden back and Trevor Ariza returning to the team for a second tour of duty after playing with the Washington Wizards, this team still has a good mix of players.
Why the Rockets Will Stay Under the Number
The Rockets took some huge roster hits in the offseason – one from a player who won’t return, and one from a player who never came to the franchise. The player who isn’t returning is Chandler Parsons, who decided to join the Dallas Mavericks. Parsons has really developed as an NBA player after a decent but hardly great college career at Florida. Parsons averaged 16.6 points, four assists, and 5.5 rebounds for Houston last season, giving the Rockets production in many areas and being a key cog in the offense not only as a shooter and scorer, but as a passer. Parsons was a player who might not have made the final assist pass all the time (though he did so frequently), but he made the pass which led to the pass which led to the shot. His value became apparent to the team, and that’s why it hurt when he went to Dallas.
The Rockets thought they were going to have Parsons, but they also thought they were going to get Chris Bosh from the Miami Heat. Bosh averaged pretty much what Parsons did as a scorer, 16.2 points, while averaging 6.6 rebounds, but he did this as a player who was on a team with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Ray Allen. Bosh was in position to get a lot more shots in Houston and be a 20- or even 23- point scorer. Houston had a title team with him. The Rockets now have gaping holes without him and Parsons. It’s going to hurt.
NBA Pick: Under 50.5