During the 2016-17 NBA season, headlines will be dominated by Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors on a daily basis. However, having a super-team doesn’t guarantee a championship; just look at the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. Everything can change and anything can happen in the NBA. A team can implode, the injury bug could strike, or a team simply might not play to its potential. In this Last Word On Pro Basketball series, we’ll break down which two key factors will determine the fate of each team in the upcoming season.
In this edition, we’ll take a look at the Houston Rockets.
Two Key Factors to a Successful Houston Rockets Season
First Key: Health
The Houston Rockets had quite a bit of change in the off-season. In free agency, they were able to bring in Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Nene. However, they also lost Dwight Howard to the Atlanta Hawks. The new additions have seemed to fit in perfectly with the Rockets, as they have all been very productive in the preseason. But if one thing is in the way of the three acquisitions fully helping the team, it is their health.
Gordon, Anderson, and Nene are all talented players. But for the past few seasons, injuries have kept them sidelined for quite some time. During Gordon’s five-year tenure with the New Orleans Pelicans (previously Hornets), he appeared in no more than 64 games in a single season. Outside of that, his total for games played was in the 40s every season. For Anderson, he has been able to appear in more games than Gordon. But last season, he appeared in only 66 games, and only 61 in the previous year. Nene only appeared in 57 games for the Washington Wizards last season.
All of these players are expected to be big factors in the success of the Rockets going forward. Each of them bring a certain aspect of their games that the team has needed. But if they want to fully play at the highest level, they must make sure that their bodies are in the best shape possible and ready to go. Everyone knows just how much these acquisitions can pay off for the Rockets. But all of that depends on their health. This is a risk that the organization was willing to take.
Second Key: James Harden
It has been quite the off-season for James Harden. In July, he restructured his contract with the Rockets, keeping him signed until 2019. A few weeks ago, new head coach Mike D’Antoni announced that Harden would be the full-time point guard for the upcoming season. During the preseason, it has seemed as though D’Antoni made the right decision for the team.
Harden has seemed to be more free and relaxed since the departure of Howard. In the off-season, he put a lot of time into getting his body in shape and developing leadership skills. His teammates have made it clear that the team is going to go as far as Harden takes them. They have all seen the change in him and are fully on-board with it. Harden has openly talked about his defensive struggles and how he intends to fix that throughout the season. As long as Harden is on the court, the Rockets are going to be just fine. He is the backbone of the team, and he is ready to take this team to the next level.