We are now roughly 60% through the 2018-19 NBA season. The results so far haven’t been what any serious Rockets watcher or fan was expecting. After securing the #1 seed in the Western Conference the year before, the Rockets have spent a goodly portion of the season out of playoff position entirely.
Currently they rest in the 6th seed, with #3 and #9 roughly equidistant. Getting to that point has been in large part due to the Herculean efforts of reigning MVP, James Harden. Not to belabor the point, but Harden is in territory untrod by any modern NBA great at this point. Harden has taken on the lion’s share of Rockets scoring. Trying to stop his multifaceted game is like trying to contain the legendary hydra.
Harden really has left other NBA superstars behind. It seems almost a bore at this point, but his 30+ point per game streak now stands at 26 games, and seems stable into the future. Harden’s burden is heavy, but every night he crashes through defenders like a bull, and is a nightmare to defend from the three point line. It seems only right that he retain the MVP belt for another season. When time comes for the awards season cattle-call, Harden should again be the apple of the pundit’s eye and vanquish the three-headed beast of Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis.
But enough about the NBA’s greatest hero. Let’s take a look at the Rockets injuries thus far, and see if they put their struggles in perspective.
Looking at every game the Rockets have played so far this season, the team could be considered fully healthy in 15 of them, or 29% of the season to date. Fully healthy for these purposes means missing no starter from that period of the season. Their record in those games is 9-6, or a 60% winning percentage.
This is far below their form of last season, even when healthy, but it is worth noting that the longest stretch of continuously healthy games for the Rockets this season is seven games, or 13% of games played. In that stretch they went 5-2. The next longest is six games, which produced a .500 record on a difficult road trip, with a tough loss to Dallas in the mix.
The last time the Rockets were fully healthy was December 11th, at game 26. Since then, for the next 26 games (or half of the season played thus far), the Rockets have been without at least one starting player in all 26 games. They’ve been without at least one starter and rotation player in 20 of those 26 games (77%). They’ve been without two starters in 17 of those contests (65%).*
Other teams, of course, most notably Denver, have suffered injury woes as well. They didn’t, however, from what I can tell, start off with players missing, and with such a dismal run of losses. The Rockets have been playing catch-up while down at least one starter in 70% of their games played thus far.
What does it all mean?
It could mean that it’s possible that there’s an excellent Rockets team still waiting to come together. A team no one, including the Rockets, has yet seen. It could be that getting one player back, and immediately losing another one or two, makes it difficult to establish the kind of consistency that leads to winning team basketball.
It’s also notable that the Rockets, whilst losing player games to injury (Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, James Ennis, Gerald Green, James Harden, Brandon Knight, Nene Hilario, Gary Clark have all missed time) and to other issues (Carmelo Anthony, Danuel House) they’ve also added two key pieces in Austin Rivers and Kenneth Faried.
No one has actually seen a Rockets team that features a healthy Chris Paul, James Harden, Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, Clint Capela, Austin Rivers, Kenneth Faried, James Ennis, Gerald Green, Danuel House, Nene Hilario and Gary Clark at the same time. It could be special, and deeper than last year’s unit.
We won’t know until they all take the floor together on the some night, hopefully in mid February.
*James Ennis III is counted as a starter during the period of time he was considered a starter, but missed games as such.
When the Rockets get healthy...
This poll is closed
they will dominate.
they will be about the same.
they will, somehow, be worse.
Kristaps Porzingis, #MaV4LyF will be healthy first.