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TDS Tuesday 5-on-5: Are the Rockets Back?

Jeremy, Colin, Darren, Xiane and Conrad discuss the Rockets and their attempt at a comeback.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The team members at the Dream Shake each took a seat at the roundtable to discuss this quick turnaround and if the Rockets can maintain it.

This week, Jeremy Brener (JB), Colin Connors (CC), Darren Yuvan (DY), Xian E (XE), and Conrad Garcia (CG) participated in the roundtable.

Chime off in the comments below and keep the conversation flowing.

1. With Harden back in the fold, can the Rockets bounce back after their sluggish start?

Jeremy Brener (@JeremyBrener): I think we’re starting to see it now. The win over the Pacers was the win that convinced me that the Rockets are going to be okay. It took a while, but we are here. The team may not be totally out of the woods yet, but this three-game road winning streak has definitely been a step in the right direction.

Colin Connors (@colinconnors4): Without a doubt. With the Harden/Capela/Paul trio in the fold, expect to see the Rockets rise in the standings fairly quickly.

Darren Yuvan (@DarrenYuvan): I think so. They’re already playing better and should continue to improve as the new players get acclimated and the rotation settles in. Also, the big news about Jeff Bzdelik should only help things.

Xian E (@xiane1): I would think so. The last couple of games seem to confirm that age old adage “When Harden, Paul and Capela play in the same game, the Rockets rarely lose.”

Conrad Garcia (@ConradBuckets): Absolutely. I know a lot of the complaints have been that the team doesn’t even look like themselves when Harden is gone, i.e. sluggish and non-competitive, but, yeah, that happens sometimes. They’re winners of three straight, and- BIG SURPRISE- Harden has been a huge factor in the two wins he did play in.

2. Carmelo Anthony has been red hot lately. Can he keep up this pace?

JB: Absolutely. I think Melo is only going to get more comfortable in his role and system as the season rolls along. I’m very impressed by what I am seeing from him on the offensive end. The defensive end is what worries me, but I think with guys like P.J. Tucker and Gary Clark, they can balance it out and keep Melo on the floor without being a huge defensive liability.

CC: I don’t think it continues. Anthony’s shooting should normalize as he fits in as a reliable fourth option.

DY: He can because there’s room enough in the Houston offense, but he has to continue to also improve defensively so that he can continue to stay on the court as the Rockets’ rotation fills out. We all know Melo can score if given the opportunity.

XE: Yes. He has. Or at least orange warm. I think he can do that, he still really hasn’t found his way into the Rockets system, but you can see he’s trying. By mid-season I think he’ll be one of the most dangerous bench scorers in the NBA. I don’t really want to hear about his defense anymore, as defense isn’t even really allowed in the NBA this season, so why single Carmelo out?

CG: That depends on what you mean “by keeping up the pace.” For the past few games he’s putting up 20 points and 50% shooting fairly easily. I don’t think that’s going to continue; not cause he can’t do it, but it’s just insane to keep those numbers off the bench. His scoring will level to 15-17 points a game, but he can keep his efficiency high, if not higher, with the Rockets more healthy. So, yeah, he can keep it up.

3. Should the Rockets trade for Jimmy Butler? Why or why not?

JB: I was very much for a Jimmy Butler trade, even when the Rockets were willing to trade four firsts for him. However, his recent wishy-washy behavior leads me to believe that it just isn’t worth all the hassle. The Rockets are seeming to find their groove just fine without him, especially on the defensive end, where the Rockets haven’t allowed more than 100 points in each of the last two games.

CC: Yes they should, he’s a perfect fit, especially without having to give up Gordon or Tucker.

DY: Definitely. The team is still missing a defensive wing, and Butler provides that and then some. Houston’s title window is now, and if Eric Gordon has to go to make this happen, not only am I all for it, but I’d even pack EG’s bags for him. Include P.J. Tucker, and I’m singing a different tune, but I’m all for moving EG and picks in a package for Butler if the option is there.

XE: Sure. I suppose. I mean, the act he’s putting on now shows that he’s got something beyond Dwight Howard potential if things ever go wrong with him. He’s actively awful right now, rather than passively (at least publicly) like Dwight, who was always smiley and friendly and more or less said the right things. Butler’s a fine player, but if you wondered what last season with Kawhi would have been like if he played occasionally and talked? Wonder no more. Butler is showing you.

CG: This will forever be a yes unless Eric Gordon becomes a bonafide superstar and two-way player. I hate the idea of the Rockets gambling on a guy with one year on his contract, but you don’t think keeping EG is a gamble either? Plus, at least you’re gambling on a true difference-maker and a player who can help you compete with the Warriors. As long as they’re not including P.J. Tucker or another true asset, please get this done.

4. Can Michael Carter-Williams find his way back into the rotation or is he a lost cause at this point?

JB: The fact that it hasn’t even been ten games and he is out of the rotation is incredibly alarming. Gary Clark offers far more upside and is a better shooter than him. After Clark’s two-way deal ends, I expect Daryl Morey to ink him and waive MCW in the corresponding move.

CC: The MCW experiment is over. I doubt he plays more than a handful of minutes anytime soon.

DY: I think he’s a lost cause. After a great preseason, we saw why he was struggling to stay on an NBA roster. The Rockets have a great track record for getting the most out of guys, but it’s likely just not gonna happen with MCW.

XE: I wouldn’t say he’s a lost cause, because it’s unclear if he was ever a found cause. That said, the Rockets really do need more than two guards available. I’d like to see him in the role which was intended for him - a wing who can handle the ball, attack the basket, play defense. Gary Clark seems to have taken that role on the basis of good defense and an ability to hit open shots, even if he can’t be your point guard. I don’t think the Rockets expected Clark to be this useful, and that, more than anything is, is MCW’s problem.

I advise against falling into The Joey Dorsey Trap - that is, thinking the doings of a legitimate veteran minimum player with no well-defined role are a weighty matter to the Rockets. The thin roster and various problems overstated MCW’s importance. Ennis is a different case, as he’s a veteran minimum guy we’re starting, but mostly so MDA can go send Tucker to put out fires when he figures he’ll do the most good. If you want to know who MDA’s new Shawn Marion is, it’s Tucker, oddly enough.

CG: Yes, but only because the guard position is light. If Brandon Knight were healthy, this isn’t a discussion. But with Gordon sitting lately and Knight still out, there’s still a need to be filled.

5. With three games this week (11/8 @OKC, 11/10 @SAS, 11/11 vs. IND), what will the Rockets’ record be?

JB: With Westbrook likely out for Thursday’s contest, I like Houston to take that game. I think they find a way to beat the Spurs too and go 5-0 on the road trip. However, Indiana gets revenge and beats them at home because the Rockets can’t win at home. It’s a rule. 2-1.

CC: 3-0

DY: 2-1, with wins over the Thunder and the rematch with Indiana and a loss to the Spurs.

XE: 2-1. Finish the road trip at .500.

CG: Unfortunately for basketball fans everywhere, Westbrook left Monday’s game against the Pelicans with an ugly ankle sprain, so we don’t know his status for their game against the Rockets. If he’s out, I think the Rockets will roll over OKC. If he’s in, I still believe Houston will take it. The Rockets have had their way with San Antonio this past couple of regular seasons, so I don’t think that will change for this upcoming match up- even if they do have a new star. I do think Indiana will get its revenge on the road and tie the series, though. The Rockets will be squared up at 6-6 after this week’s series of game.