Nearly one-third of the way through the NBA season and the Rockets have struggled. However, riding a two-game win streak, the bench is starting to show up, and GM Daryl Morey is still looking to make moves.
Disappointment. That is the first word that comes to mind when someone mentions the 2018-19 Houston Rockets. Indeed, it’s been a lackluster start to a season that had more expectation than last season. The Rockets were 65-17 last season. In fact, they didn’t lose their 14th game until about midway through last season. They currently sit at 13-14 through 27 games.
Remember last season’s amazing switch defense scheme that had them as high as sixth in defensive efficiency last season? Lose Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute and now the squad is ranked in the bottom third in defense. What about the super efficient and high powered second-ranked offense of last season. Ranked 20th so far this year. Unfortunately, Houston has lost their “swagger” from last year. Toughness is also missing.
Another interesting fact is that last season, the Rockets were held under 100 points only eight times. This season, Houston has already been held under 100 points eight times.
There are a number of things to point to so far. However, not all is lost for the Rockets and they’re not panicking just yet. Injuries have played a huge part. Carmelo Anthony just didn’t fit in and new pieces are still finding their way on this team. Although James Ennis III will be out with a hamstring injury, there a few bench players that are beginning to find their stride. The return of Brandon Knight will be interesting given that he hasn’t played in about two seasons.
Nonetheless, Tuesday’s victory over the Portland Trail Blazers was due to in large part to the bench.
Stats vs. Blazers
James Harden: 29 points, 4 assists, 1 rebound
Chris Paul: 11 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists
Danuel House Jr.: 12 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal
Shout out to fellow Texas A&M Alum Danuel House Jr. for making and contributing to the Rockets roster. Since becoming a member, he has played with an outstanding balance on both ends of the floor. This game also saw Gerald Green and Nene make significant contributions to the game.
However, aside from the great defensive effort, this game ended with Houston being clutch in the 4th quarter. Too many times this season the Rockets surrendered big leads. At one point in this game, Houston went on a 25-5 run that solidified the lead and secured a victory.
And then came the Los Angeles Lakers, led by superstar phenom LeBron James.
Stats vs. Lakers
James Harden: 50 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists
Clint Capela: 16 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks
Danuel House Jr.: 15 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal
This game turned out to be fun all the way. Oh, and Harden only messed around and got a triple-double. Meanwhile, House Jr. continued to play well while coming off the bench. However, there are still holes fill to on this roster. While the last two wins are impressive, some tweaks can still be made.
Side note, Harden is the all-time leader in 50 point triple-doubles with four in his career.
Enter Daryl Morey. Rumors have circled around regarding Houston acquiring Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope via a three-team trade, or attempt to reacquire Suns forward Trevor Ariza. Remember him? On top of another three and D guard/forward, the Rockets are in dire need of a big man that can stretch the floor. However, there are only so many guys available. If Morey is able to trade for either KCP or Ariza while keeping Ennis III, then the starting lineup is deeper and the bench gets deeper.
A great stretch four the Rockets could really use is Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu. He is a guy who can shoot the three-pointer and defend well. Add him, and P.J. Tucker can return to the bench, thus making the second unit formidable. Imagine a second unit of Eric Gordon, Gerald Green/House Jr., P.J. Tucker/Ennis III, Aminu, and Nene. Instantly better. One more player to be on the lookout for is Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore, who is another player that fits the needs of Houston right now.
Whatever Houston decides to do from here, it is evident something needs to happen now. However, the improved offense, defense, and clutch time ball during this two-game streak is a welcomed sight. Now the Rockets must keep this level of intensity going and create a bigger streak to make up some ground in the West. Currently, the Rockets sit two games out of eighth place, behind the Sacramento Kings.
Next up, the Memphis Grizzlies at home on Friday. Let’s hope the Rockets start making up some ground. See you Friday night, Red Nation.