NBA Trade Deadline and 2013 Free Agency: Houston Rockets Set Themselves Up to Be Contenders Soon

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Feb 20, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) walks off the court after a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets score the third most points in the NBA, and one thing coach Kevin McHale really seems to understand is that an effective team in transition can surprise a lot of opponents:

The Rockets have knocked off the L.A. Clippers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, L.A. Lakers – twice (who hasn’t?) and the Chicago Bulls – twice.

Those are big wins over quality opponents for a team whose chances may be far better than their record indicates (four games above .500, and 8th seeded in the West). In the victory over Golden State on Feb. 5, the Rockets put up 140 points, and won by 31. Their 23 three-point field goals tied an NBA record, and Jeremy Lin had a great game against his former team, shooting 10-of-16 from the floor for 28 points, in addition to dishing out nine assists and turning the ball over only twice.

Lin’s play making skills should help newly acquired Thomas Robinson considerably.

Robinson was acquired from the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 20 in exchange for Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas and starting power forward Patrick Patterson.

Patterson is a good stretch-4 with a good NBA skill set who will be a fine player in time, but don’t expect him to start for Keith Smart with incumbent power forward Jason Thompson playing so well.


What does Thomas Robinson Bring to the  Rockets?

T-Rob has the athleticism to finish alley oops, and he’ll get plenty of them from both Lin and the Rockets player who has created such a stir this season: the NBA’s fifth leading scorer James Harden.

Harden’s ability to finish and create offense in the transition is second to possibly only LeBron James’, and Harden made his first All-Star appearance in just his third NBA season. He’s now been inked to a max-contract and is clearly Houston’s foundation for building a contending team.

Harden is a good facilitator and Robinson will feed off his double teams and ability to pass well out of them.  Robinson won’t miss many looks around the basket, and in addition to that he’s a great offensive rebounder (see: five offensive rebounds against Anthony Davis and Kentucky in the NCAA championship game; 17 rebounds total).


The Rockets Could look Past Robinson to make an even bigger splash this summer.

Since the Rockets are under the cap this offseason, they will be able to make a run at the premier names on the market: Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson of Utah, Josh Smith of the Hawks, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Chris Paul—among others, will be the crop from which James Morey will choose Harden’s complement for the better part of his prime.

Each option is interesting, and the Rockets only did themselves further financial favors when they jettisoned Marcus Morris for a second round pick. Yes, Morris was the No. 14 overall selection in 2011, but at this point shaving his contract off the books makes more sense so that the Rockets have every dollar available to spend this summer.

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