The Exclusive Eight: No. 6, the Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets have dealt with a lot of growing pains after losing Chris Paul and acquiring Russell Westbrook in what seems like a last-ditch effort to make a run at an NBA title under Mike D’Antoni.

The duo of Westbrook and James Harden seemed to be a match made in heaven through the first 14 games where they went 11-3 after rattling off eight-straight wins. That wasn’t quite the case, because, through the next 16 games, they went 9-7 and an inconsistent trend followed up to the hiatus.

Injuries and inconsistency crippled Houston, even into the hiatus, where they lost four of their last five games. Three of those losses came against non-playoff teams. This reads like the Rockets shouldn’t be on this list, huh? Maybe they shouldn’t, but Westbrook, Harden, and Tucker are the fighting type and aren’t going to go out sad.

Westbrook averages 25.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game in the playoffs. Harden averages 22.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.6 assists in the playoffs. While there’s a question mark around whether or not these guys can get the job done in the playoffs, they’re also on a shortlist of duos that can contend for a championship when at their best.

The Rockets may not get the job done, but they may. I don’t have them winning a series against the Thunder who were eighth on this list, but I give them a great chance against the Nuggets in the West and the Raptors and Celtics from the Eastern Conference. It depends on the brand of basketball we get from Westbrook and Harden, and how D’Antoni addresses a gaping hole in their offense with a 6-foot-5 P.J. Tucker at the center position.

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