COMMENTARY | It's a new day for the Houston Rockets.
With the season just a little more than two months away, the Rockets' faithful are anxiously awaiting the new-look Rockets hitting the floor. Houston was able to make the playoffs last year with 45 wins, which is a number that will rise in all likelihood next season.
Here's a list of other numbers that will be on the rise for the Rockets in the 2013-14 season:
Last season, the Rockets were 18th in the league in home attendance, and 14th in the NBA in overall attendance, according to ESPN.com. This season, Houston should be a big draw on the road, and their home attendance numbers should rise as well. Houston will probably draw a lot of boos with Dwight Howard on the roster, but the loudest boos will come from Magic (March 5th) and Lakers (February 19th and April 8th) fans.
Nationally Televised Games
The Rockets will play a whopping 26 nationally televised games next year, which is 20 more than last season. The highlights include the Los Angeles Lakers at home on November 7 (TNT), the New York Knicks in the big apple on November 14 (TNT), a road game against the San Antonio Spurs on Christmas night (ESPN), and a road game against Harden's former squad, the Oklahoma City Thunder, on December 29 (NBA TV).
While I expect that Harden's scoring numbers will drop slightly (from 25.9 to around 23 per night), I also expect his assist numbers to increase with an improved supporting cast. Harden will still be lethal offensively, and I feel like this year's statistical output will be closer to what we see Harden do for the rest of his prime years. The bearded lefty is a more than willing passer, despite what some people (usually Jeremy Lin enthusiasts) say, and this coming season will prove that to all the doubters. Harden averaged 5.8 assists per game last season, and I expect that number to be closer to seven next year.
Opponents Points Per Game
A year ago, the Rockets allowed 102.5 points per game, 28 in the league. Part of that was due to their frenetic pace (they led the league in possessions per game) part of it was because opposing point guards abused them ( go back and check if you don't believe me), and the other part was due to their lack of a quality 4-man and shot blocker. With Howard in town, they'll be playing at a slower pace, and they'll have a big man who can get off their feet and protect the rim. I'm not expecting Houston to be a top-five defense by any means, but they should be somewhere around 15th.
Terrence Jones' Minutes
The young big man out of Kentucky figures to be a possible candidate to start at the 4 for the Rockets next season. Even if he doesn't get the highly contested job, he still figures to land a rotational role, which is something he had trouble doing last season. There's a reason Daryl Morey chose to move Thomas Robinson, Furkan Aldemir and Royce White instead of moving Jones, and I'm assuming it's because of Jones' diverse skill set. Don't be surprised if Jones asserts himself as a foundational piece of this Rockets team next season.
James Harden's Turnovers
With Dwight Howard in Houston, Harden won't be the only guy who can get the defense moving anymore. Harden will still be lethal in the pick-and-roll game, and he's sure to get more open three pointers with a dominant big man in the post. Harden led the league in turnovers last season with 3.8 turnovers per game, and I expect that number to drop to around 2.5 next season.
Chandler Parsons' Points
The Rockets' third star averaged just 9.5 points per game in his first season, and then jumped up to 15.5 per game in his second. The Rockets biggest vocal leader will see his scoring numbers continue to rise this year, while his shooting percentages should improve with better, less contested looks. I expect Parsons to average around 18 point a night next season, which will make him, Harden and Howard one of the top scoring trios in the NBA.
Houston has a chance of grabbing a top-four playoff seed next season, after finishing eighth in the West last year. The Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers will likely grab the first three seeds, but I expect Houston to grab the fourth seed and play either the Memphis Grizzlies or Golden State Warriors in the first round. The Rockets have done enough the last few off seasons to make them a top-four team; now it's just time for them to prove it.
M. De Moor is an NBA junkie and a general columnist on Hoopshabit.com. He has followed the Rockets from the championship days of Hakeem Olajuwon, to the years of Francis and Mobley, to the McGrady and Yao era, and will continue to follow them through Harden and Dwight's reign of destruction.
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