The Rockets have been one of the most active teams at the trade deadline, making at least one deal in 10 out of the last 11 years, including the last eight deadlines. This season, Houston made a pair of moves that brought athletic swingman K.J. McDaniels from the Sixers in exchange for Isaiah Canaan and a second round pick as well as Pablo Prigioni from the Knicks in exchange for Alexey Shved and two second round picks.
The Rockets look much different than the team that lost to the Blazers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs a year ago. The team had an active offseason, in which it lost Chandler Parsons to free agency and traded away point guard Jeremy Lin and center Omer Asik. The franchise’s major offseason acquisition was forward Trevor Ariza, who has been a starter for the team from day one. During this season, in addition to the moves at the deadline, Houston signed Josh Smith after he was waived by Detroit in late December. And while all these transactions were happening, James Harden elevated his game and put himself into discussion for the NBA’s MVP award.
The Rockets have a record of 37-18, which puts the team in third place in the conference, despite missing Dwight Howard for 21 games due to a knee injury. The team will need its defensive enforcer to be able to stay on the court if it intends to contend for a championship. Houston has not won a playoff series under coach Kevin McHale and has only won one series in the last 17 seasons.
The franchise has improved overall and if the team remains healthy, it appears to have a chance to make a deep postseason run. However, Houston’s competition in the Western Conference has also improved. Only one game separates the Rockets from the Mavericks, who currently reside in sixth place in the conference, so gaining home court advantage in the first round is far from a certainty.
After a busy year of transactions, will the Rockets advance to at least the second round of the playoffs?