Apr 11, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham (left) Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (right) rebound in the fourth quarter at Target Center. The Minnesota Timberwolves win 112-110. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NBA Playoffs: Previewing the Houston Rockets


Offensive Rating: 108.6 (4th)

Offensive Factors

eFG%: 53.1% (3rd)
ORB%: 27.4% (8th)

Defensive Rating: 103.1 (12th)

Defensive Factors

eFG%: 48.9% (8th)
ORB%: 25.9% (20th)

Starters:

Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Dwight Howard.

Key Reserves: Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, Francisco Garcia.

Strengths: Taking the most effective shots in basketball. The Rockets is predicated shots at the three-point line, restricted area and free-throw line. They make the most threes per game at 9.5. You’ll never see Houston drawing up a play that is suppose to result in a mid-range shot attempt. James Harden is super good at baiting refs drawing contact and making free throws. He’s effective in transition and is a terror driving and passing in pick-and-rolls. Harden averaged 7.4 assists after the All-Star Break — that’s ahead of Kyle Lowry, Russell Westbrook, Mike Conley and LeBron James. That’s nice.

Chandler Parsons is a nice all-around player — defends other teams wings and finishes athletically in transition. Beverley is Beverley. Testy and destructive. Terrence Jones can blow by slower power forwards.

Oh yeah, how about that Dwight Howard. He’s had a nice bounce back season averaging 18.3 points, 12.2 rebounds on 59 percent over 33.8 minutes per game.

Weaknesses: Perimeter defense besides Patrick Beverley. Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia are okay defending wings but not what you would call stoppers. There is a plethora of gifs and videos showcasing James Harden’s horrid defense. He’s not good and isn’t getting better. Jeremy Lin tries but isn’t a stopper.

Terrence Jones has a hard time defending long power forwards out in space. Have fun with LaMarcus.

X-Factor: Omer Asik. Since the All-Star Break, he has brought down 8.9 rebounds per game and blocked 1.1 shots over 22.3 minutes per game. Asik is Houston’s only reserve big man that defend the basket and corral speedy guards in pick-and-rolls. Playoff rotations condense and Howard will play more minutes, but Asik is important if Howard is in foul trouble. LaMarcus and Robin Lopez can draw fouls.

Threat to Win West?: Sure. When you possess two of the ten best players in the league, you’re a threat to win any game.  I like their chances against Portland. If they reach the second round, their pace and lineup usage forces San Antonio to scrap the Splitter-Duncan front court, which is outscoring opponents by eight points every 100 possessions.

I picked them back in October to win the West. A little shaky on that due to San Antonio blasting the league, Kevin Durant and the Clippers’ emergence into the elite. I’ll say no.

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