In his first game with the Houston Rockets, James Harden posted an all-star caliber stat line: 37 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds. With his ability to score at will, and now having the opportunity to shine, is it possible that he could lead Houston to the playoffs? Not even a week after the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Harden, it looks like for the present, the Rockets got the better of the deal. But not only do the Rockets benefit, Harden now has space to operate and isn’t in the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Looking at the Western Conference the Rockets have a chance to get into the playoffs, and now with a leader, Houston may return to the postseason for the first time since the Tracy McGrady era. Where they end up in the standings will be determined by injuries and how well the other decent, but not great teams, do throughout the season. Seeing that Houston is in a transition year and still needs to build around James Harden, I don’t expect them to be a 4 or 5 seed, or a team that advances past the first round. But for the Rockets, it’s a step in the right direction.
One problem Houston faces is the elite teams in the West. The Lakers, Spurs, Thunder, Nuggets, and even Clippers will give them a lot of trouble. For this season, the Rockets also find themselves in a similar situation to the Toronto Raptors before they traded Chris Bosh, or even the Miami Heat when all they had was Dwyane Wade. Houston has one all-star talented player, but not a great supporting cast. Some nights you may get contributions from the bench, but Harden finds himself in a position where he has to score 30 points a night for the team to win. He is capable of doing that, and he did versus the Detroit Pistons.
For James Harden, this is a great chance for him to prove that he can run a team and lead them to the playoffs. When he was first traded, I only thought about how much the Thunder were potentially losing. But for the Rockets and Harden, they gained a lot in this deal, not only for now, but for the future. Houston acquired a player who can put up 30 points on a nightly basis, and Harden now has a team that he can lead and not worry about being the third option on a deep Oklahoma City team.
Even though it’s early in the season and it’s only been one game, all signs point up for Houston. Later on in March or early April, we may hear that the Rockets are fighting for a playoff position. After looking at this trade as a whole, this was great deal, not only for the organization, James Harden, and the city of Houston, but for the NBA as well. Maybe they can prove that you don’t need a team full of all-stars to be great.