Wednesday night was one of those nights that had David Stern sporting his most shit-eating, I’m-getting-richer-by-the-second grin. A slew on NBA action came and went, and the league’s stars shined pretty damn bright. None brighter, though, than first-time All-Star James Harden.The Rockets superstar (yes, we need to start calling him that now) dropped 46 points on the Oklahoma City Thunder, leading his new team to a 122-118 victory over his old team.
The performance saw Harden shoot an unconscious 14-19 from the floor (7-8 from 3, 11-12 from the stripe) while providing eight rebounds and six assists. And you can imagine the kind of defensive pressure OKC was throwing his way. Let’s just stop with the analysis, because words can only go so far; the Rockets currently have a top-10 player and he’s only getting better.
Harden isn’t alone, though. Daryl Morey has assembled a team that has the talent in place to finish the season on an incredible note. Jeremy Lin, in case we all forgot, is more than capable of carrying a team – he finished with 29 points to give Houston a whopping 75 points coming from their backcourt alone. Chandler Parsons (a TSS favorite!) also chipped in with 17 points. Parsons – like Lin – gets buckets (14.5 points per game on an incredibly efficient .471 shooting, excellent for a wing player), and gives the Rockets yet another scoring option. If just one of these two can play a consistent Robin to Harden’s Batman, Houston can’t be stopped on offense. They currently rank first in the league at scoring, pouring in 106.1 points per contest.
What’s holding them back from reaching elite status is defense. The only player who seems to hold his weight on that side of the ball is center Omer Asik, and a large part of that is because he is a rebounding machine. Other than that, they start one of the worst defensive point guards in the league (Lin) and feature nothing more than league-average defenders at other positions.
Their Wednesday acquisition of Thomas Robinson could pay of huge in that regard. Robinson is exactly the kind of athlete that this team needs to fortify their defense a bit. Big and athletic enough to guard either forward position, it’s easy to envision Kevin McHale telling his new rookie acquisition, “Just focus on defense. That is why we brought you here. You will be a fourth option at best. But you can thrive on defense. Please, don’t forget that.” And Robinson, glad to have escaped the black hole that is swallowing the Kings franchise, will surely listen, offering some much-needed assistance to one of the worst defensive squads in basketball.
Can a Lin-Harden-Parsens-Robinson-Asik starting lineup win you a championship? Absolutely not. This team is shallow, inexperienced, and playing in a conference that features a player named Kevin Durant. But you’re kidding yourself if you think teams aren’t quietly shitting themselves at the prospect of playing H-town’s new-look Rockets.