Rockets Answer Many Questions During Surprising First Half

Coming off a miserable 41-41 season with a coaching staff and a number of new players, the 2016-17 were loaded with questions marks, which I examined in October. With a little more than half the season in the books and the Rockets sitting at 32-11, let’s see how they’ve answered some of those questions.

Will James Harden be a leader?
Harden has been as good as anyone could’ve asked for, and appears to be at worst headed for his second top two MVP finish in three seasons. He’s done everything you could’ve asked, and it started over the summer when he led workouts in Las Vegas and Miami. Harden started preaching to this team that it could win a championship back then, and he got everyone to buy in, and in an era where stars routinely rest during the second night of a back-to-back, Harden has yet to miss a game this season.

Can they survive without Patrick Beverly?
Beverley missed the first 11 games of the season after undergoing knee surgery, and the Rockets went 6-5 in that stretch, and won all three games they played when he missed some time with a wrist injury, so with Beverley in the lineup, the Rockets are 23-6 and have been a different team with Beverley on the floor than with him off it.

Points scored per 100 possessions Points allowed per 100 possessions  

Net

Beverley on floor 115.6 104.4 +11.2
Beverley on bench 110.3 106.8 +3.5

Beverley is repeating his career-high 40 percent shooting from behind the 3-point line, but this season, Beverley is averaging a career high in rebounds (6.1), assists (4.4), and steals (1.5).

Does Sam Dekker bounce back?
Dekker played a total of six minutes in a lost rookie season, but year two has been completely different. He has yet to miss a game, and has been about as impactful as you could ask for. He seems to always be around the ball, he makes plays, and has made enough shots from behind the 3-point line. For the season he’s shooting 33.7 percent from distance, but he’s at 38.9 percent in January, after shooting 38.7 percent in November. His shooting took a dive in December, and he’s been a key part of the Rockets bench unit with Beverley, Eric Gordon, and Corey Brewer that is outscoring teams by 13.4 points per 100 possessions.

Can they stay on the floor?
The concerns coming into the season were Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon who have combined to miss a total of two games this season. The issues have been Beverley and Clint Capela. The latter fractured his fibula three weeks ago, but after losing 2-of-3 immediately after the injury, the Rockets of won 10-of-12 since. It’s the NBA and guys get hurt, and there’s a long way to go, and the Rockets haven’t always had the best luck, but if they can be close to as healthy in the second half as they were in the first half, the Rockets will be just fine.

Will they ever play 2 bigs at the same time?
Believe it or not not, they have. Montrezl Harrell and Nene have played together for a total of four minutes in two games, while Nene and Capela shared the floor for less than a minute one night. D’Antoni has played small for every consequential minute his team has played all season keeping Anderson, Dekker, or Trevor Ariza at power forward, and the Rockets have survived. You would think defensive rebounding would be a serious liability playing all small-ball, but the Rockets are having their best season in that department in a while.

Season DReb% (rank)
2016-17 76.4% (14)
2015-16 72.8% (30)
2014-15 72.9% (28)
2013-14 74.1% (20)
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