When all was said and done Wednesday night, the Houston Rockets had won 56 games, secured the No. 2 seed in the historically tough Western Conference and laid claim to their first Southwest Division title since the 1993-94 season.
Prior to the season, few predicted that the Rockets would be this good and win the NBA's toughest division. The Rockets managed to accomplish this while facing the second-toughest schedule in the NBA. As the season wore on and injuries ravaged the Rockets roster, it was unclear if they would be able to compete at such a high level in the loaded Western Conference.
James Harden however, had other ideas.
No one predicted that Harden would be one of the two best players in the NBA this season and be in a toss-up for MVP with the Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry. Harden's heroics lead a team that not many had faith in to the top of the Western Conference and their first division title in over 20 years. Let's take a look back to before this memorable season and see where the Rockets were predicted to finish.
Some other interesting notes regarding preseason predictions for the Rockets:
- Chris Mannix picked the Rockets as his flop team of the year.
- Five of Sports Illustrated's six writers predicted Kevin McHale was the coach on the hottest seat. While none of the SI guys had the Rockets reaching the Conference Finals.
- No one at Yahoo had the Rockets reaching the Conference Finals either.
- Four of the six contributors to Fox Sports had the Rockets bowing out in the first round vs the Los Angeles Clippers.
- Zach Lowe had the Rockets ranked in his 4th Tier.
- General managers voted James Harden as the best shooting guard in the league and also gave the Rockets a slim chance at winning the Southwest Division.
Even with the Rockets returning two All-NBA players in Harden and Dwight Howard, there was not much faith that they could take the next step. That lack of confidence most likely had to do with the Rockets heart-breaking first-round playoff loss and their offseason roster turnover. The Rockers lost a devastating first-round series to the Portland Trail Blazers and then managed to lose Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, and Jeremy Lin in the offseason.
Even after all those losses, Harden carried the team and turned in a career year. While though there was no mention of him in MVP predictions before the start of the year, you can bet he will be near the top when all the votes are counted this season.