1 James Harden is playing at an MVP level
The 2017-18 NBA MVP award appears to be a two-horse race between James Harden and LeBron James with Harden having a slight edge amongst league pundits. Any team boasting the league MVP has a great chance of winning the championship and Houston is no different.
On the season, Harden is averaging 31.1 points, 8.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. What really has taken his game to the next level is the improvement in his one glaring weakness; his defense. Harden is averaging 1.9 steals and 0.7 blocks per game, his one-on-one defense is solid, awareness on rotations and floor spacing is excellent and he is no longer a defensive liability that teams can exploit.
As long as Harden can continue to play at this phenomenal level on both sides of the ball, the Rockets have as good a chance as any at winning it all.
2 Chris Paul is the ultimate experienced floor general
The addition of Chris Paul was a huge off-season move by the Rockets going all-in on their 2017-18 championship push.
Patrick Beverley was a solid point guard, pesky defender and beloved in Houston, but was never on the same level as the talented Western Conference backcourts. With Paul, the Rockets now boast one of the best guard combinations in what has become a guard-dominated league. What is most noticeable for the Rockets is that Paul controls the whole game and runs their offense when Harden needs to rest.
This was the biggest area Houston struggled in last year, and now with Paul running the show one of their biggest weaknesses has become one of their biggest strengths.
3 Clint Capela has arrived
Perhaps the biggest improvement for the Rockets this season has come from their big man in the middle Clint Capela. Capela has improved in nearly every statistical category this season putting up averages of 14.3 points, 11 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 0.8 steals in 27.3 minutes per game.
What he has become is the perfect complement to Harden and Paul. He can set them a hard screen at the top to free them up for a shot and then roll to the rim with force to get on the end of a perfect pass and easy finish. Come playoff time, Capela will be a handful for defenses and add another dimension to the Rockets team.
4 Abundance of lengthy wing players
The old adage of defense winning championships still holds true so any team vying for the ultimate glory must have a defensive presence. The Rockets have this in spades in Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. All three can play lockdown one-on-one defense and step up to the challenge of stopping the league’s best.
Their versatility means they can all rotate through both the 3 and 4 positions and the Rockets are able to always have a fresh savvy defender at those positions on the court at all times. Add in they all shoot the 3-ball at a respectable clip and the Rockets have great quality on the wings.
5 The depth of their bench is potentially the best in the league
Any time you can bring Eric Gordon off your bench to get you 18.5 points a game you have a good bench. With Mbah a Moute and Nene added to the mix, you have a strong defensive presence and underrated offensive prowess. Top it off with some instant offense and constant 3-point threats from Joe Johnson, Gerald Green, and Ryan Anderson and you have a remarkably deep bench that can support you all the way to the promised land.
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