Can James Harden Make The Houston Rockets A Contender?

Nov 28, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) reacts against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City won 120-98. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were supposed to bring championships to the Houston Rockets. Instead, both superstars were heavily troubled by injuries and the Houston fans were left wondering what could have been.

Once Yao Ming announced his decision to retire from basketball in 2011, it was clear that the Rockets would embark on a journey to find a new face to the franchise. While clearly being in rebuilding mode, the Rockets still managed to stay competitive, but failed to make the playoffs last season.

In this off-season, the Rockets decided to gamble on Jeremy Lin. Houston hoped that Lin could sustain his high level of play from last season, and offered the restricted free agent a contract the Knicks couldn’t possibly match. Before the start of the season, the Rockets also managed to land James Harden, who will be the face of the franchise for years to come.

The Rockets exploited the situation in which the Oklahoma City Thunder were in, and happened to have just the right trading pieces to land Harden.

Now that Harden is in Houston, the Rockets have a very competitive roster, more than capable of making the playoffs this year. However, can Harden help the Rockets recruit more talent, and in turn make them serious title contenders for years to come?

Well, Harden realizes that he can’t do it alone, and that the Rockets organization will need his help to surround him with talent. In an interview with SportsRadioInterviews, Harden said:

“Of course. I’ve been starting that recruiting process. One player is not going to win a championship. Nowadays you need two or maybe more. I’ve definitely started the recruiting process. We need more guys to come over here, so we can win. For right now we are going to stick with the players we have and try to run with that.”

As it currently stands, the Rockets have a great opportunity to build something special. They have a lot of contracts coming off the books after this season, and a bunch of cap space that will allow the team to be a major factor in next year’s free agency.

Furthermore, the players that are signed to long term deals have shown potential. Omer Asik, who was mostly considered as a defensive presence, has shown more versatility since joining the Rockets. Chandler Parsons has been a huge discovery, and has all the tools to be a great player. Patrick Patterson has also shown improvement, and is having by far the best season of his young career.

Basically, the Rockets have the perfect starting platform. They have a good young core of players who can either be complimentary pieces to a championship caliber team, or valuable trade assets.

Houston is a big sports market, and with the amount of cap space that the Rockets will have in the coming seasons, there is no reason to doubt that the team will be an attractive destination for a lot of free agents.

The Rockets have the flexibility to sign players to big contracts, a franchise player in James Harden and an overall bright future, all of which GM Daryl Morey will try to sell to big time free agents.

While Jeremy Lin hasn’t convinced anyone that he will earn the big contract he just signed, the backcourt for Houston is pretty much locked in, at least for now. However, the 2013 free agency class will feature quite a few decent big men. Names like Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and David West will most likely be available. The biggest names of the 2013 class will be Andrew Bynum, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. All 3 players will quite likely lean towards staying put rather than looking for a new home, but anything is possible.

The bottom line is this: Rockets have a great opportunity to build something special in Houston. Having made a commitment to the 23-year-old Harden as the team’s centerpiece, the Rockets have a big window and are under no time constraint when it comes to building a championship contender. If the Rockets’ front office makes the right moves, we could very well see the team not only make the playoffs, but become relevant in the big picture.


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