A couple of issues back, I suggested that Boston could be the underdog of the East heading into the restart. Nows the time to find the same culprit for the West, and my choice is the Houston Rockets.
Currently in 6th place, the Rockets are a tough team to figure out if they’re a serious threat. At the beginning of the season, the team overnight was transformed into a radical small-ball movement squad. Houston took some time adjusting to its new way of life, but just before the season slammed on the breaks, the Rockets were beating title-contending teams. That’s why they’re not positioned higher in the standings.
The biggest question this team faces: Can this small-ball style of play beat the Goliath teams like the Lakers and Clippers? They have two MVP caliber players on their roster, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who are smack-bang in the middle of their prime. In the past, Harden has put up historical numbers in the regular season while finishing among the league leaders in minutes played. But come to Playoffs, he hits a wall, and the team falls short again, and again, and again. However, with four months’ rest, he will be as fresh and well-rested as he’s ever been at this stage of the season.
The Rocket’s new style of play has a high ceiling, and combining that with an extended break, this could be the year Houston breaks through and makes a run to the NBA Finals. Strange things happen in the Playoffs, and adding this extra element of unfamiliar territory in Orlando, anything is possible.
Catch you Monday.