Rockets Power Rankings Roundup
We go around the web to see where your Rockets rank this week!
NBA.COM - 3rd - In the case for Mike D'Antoni for Coach of the Year, it should be noted that not only did the Rockets make a huge jump offensively this season, but they rank as the sixth most improved defensive team, having allowed just 0.5 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season, with the league average jumping 2.3. But if you value fourth quarters over the rest of the game, then James Harden probably isn't your MVP pick. Harden has shot just 35 percent in the clutch this season and 37 percent in fourth quarters since the All-Star break. The Rockets have been outscored by 2.8 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter after getting outscored 78-50 in the final 12 minutes of weekend games against Detroit and Sacramento. They did get Ryan Anderson back from an ankle injury for those two games, and he made nine of his 13 3-point attempts.
ESPN.COM - 4th - Eric Gordon has secured my Sixth Man Award vote. Mike D'Antoni (spoiler alert!) has an excellent chance to land atop my coach of the year ballot that will be unveiled Tuesday. And James Harden, of course, is still right there with Russell Westbrook in an MVP brain twister that I'm taking until Thursday to settle on this scorecard. Throw Kawhi Leonard back in there if you wish, as mentioned in the Spurs comment, but this sentiment hasn't changed: There's really no wrong answer here. All three have strong cases, and all three have holes in their résumés to seize upon if you feel the need. Our head hurts trying to work through all the permutations. The Rockets clearly feel that the attention Westbrook is getting for his triple-double exploits is unfairly affecting Harden's campaign -- judging by the recent missives from the team's own Twitter feed and several tweets from GM Daryl Morey -- but it's also true that Harden might have had this thing wrapped if the Rockets maintained their 31-10 pace from the first half. Like it or not, Houston is only a 23-16 team in the season's second half, which we suspect has slowed some of Harden's MVP momentum as Westbrook has surged ... just as Cleveland's 23-21 record since Jan. 8 derailed LeBron James' MVP bid.
SI.COM - 3rd - The Rockets are locked into what looks like a favorable matchup against the Thunder. It’s also going to devolve into an extension of this year’s contentious MVP debate. Pat Beverley will be the X-factor as Houston tries to slow down Russ and make waves in the postseason. With the number of offensive weapons they have, I’m bullish overall here.
BLEACHERREPORT.COM - 4th - And on the 77th day, James Harden rested. Sidelined by an illness for Sunday's win over Phoenix, the Beard was a spectator for the first time this year. He recovered just fine, pumping in 31 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in his return against Denver on Wednesday. The Rockets take a hit this week for a couple of reasons, though. First, they lost Sam Dekker to a broken hand—not a devastating blow, but one that'll cost them a rotation player who could man both forward spots in a pinch. Second, Houston is 0-3 in its last three games against playoff-bound competition. Two of those losses came to the otherworldly Warriors (one this week), so we can't judge too harshly. But there have to be consequences for small slips at this point in the rankings.
ROTOWORLD.COM - 3rd - The MVP debate this season is already wild enough as it is, and while the MVP will be voted on before the playoffs, you have to love that the two leading candidates in James Harden and Russell Westbrook will be matched up in the first round. Does Harden think he can win the award? He thinks Houston’s record is his best case. "I think that's the most important thing. I thought winning is what this is about -- period," Harden said "I'm not going to get in-depth with all that, but I thought winning was the most important thing. If you set your team up in a position to have a chance, at the ultimate goal, that's the most important thing."
CBSSPORTS.COM - 7th - James Harden's wrist pretty clearly isn't right, and it's getting to be more and more of a concern. He's shooting just 41 percent from the field and 30 percent from three in the last 10 games.