What a mess last year was for this team. They got Kevin McHale fired early in the season, they limped through the rest of the season, and they barely limped into the postseason. The only aspect of their game that was truly at a high level was the childish whining of the now departed Dwight Howard. Very few guys can make being a giant, delusional baby look as easy as he did last year. Ultimately it was James Harden who led the team out of the oblivion and into a brief playoff appearance last year, so it only makes sense that Harden was rewarded with an extension and the team was retooled around him. I'm not saying that Harden had nothing to do with the drama off the court with this team. He absolutely did. He's the best talent on the team by far right now, though, so his silliness was tolerated more than most. Hopefully it won't be quite the same issue this year.
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2016 Houston Rockets Betting Storylines
There are few ways that you can signal a change of direction more obviously than hiring Mike D'Antoni as your new coach. We know that under him scoring and offensive creativity will be valued above defensive discipline and conservativeness with the ball. In that sense he should be an excellent match with Harden. He likes lots of space, he likes to be free to create, and he doesn't love responsibilities extending beyond scoring and creating. Now, Harden and D'Antoni need to capitalize on every inch of potential their partnership has. This roster isn't particularly deep or talented, so if they want to be a playoff team again they are going to need Harden to look every bit like an MVP - even more so than he has in the past. There are few -- if any -- contenders - or at least fringe contenders - that are more centered around the performance of one player than Houston is right now. D'Antoni has been on the Team USA coaching staff while Harden has been on the team, so they know what to expect of each other. You can be certain that D'Antoni wouldn't have been brought in if Harden hadn't approved, so there is at least some reason to be optimistic about the union.
D'Antoni had better hope that he and Patrick Beverley can work together well and can learn to do so in a hurry. Beverley is the only pure point guard on this roster - of note, anyway - so he carries an enormous burden He also needs to stay healthy for a full season - something he hasn't been capable of up to this point.
2016 Houston Rockets Additions and Departures
I kicked on Dwight Howard at the outset. I'm not done yet. His play was not good enough last year to justify his whining, his moping and pouting on the court and, by all reports, his negative influences in the dressing room. He struggled to stay healthy, too. He has been a superstar, and he may find peace and strong production in his hometown of Atlanta this year, but for this team his departure is addition by subtraction.
Aside from Howard the team got rid of Josh Smith and Terrence Jones. They added Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson - two guys from New Orleans, because the Pelicans last year were a model franchise everyone would want to try to replicate - and Nene. Health is a big concern with all three as it was with Howard.
2016 Houston Rockets Futures Odds and Trends
There was money to be made on Houston games last year. All you had to do was bet against them and bet the "over". They were 37-45 ATS and went over in 47 games compared to under in 35. No team in the West was worse to bet on in the playoffs - they were 1-4 ATS, and they went "under" the total in four of their five games.
Houston Rockets Futures Odds (from Bovada)
NBA title odds : +10000
Western Conference title odds : +5000
James Harden MVP Odds : +1600
Season win total (from Westgate): 41.5
2016 Houston Rockets Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
I respect D'Antoni - or at least Phoenix D'Antoni. I like Harden's offensive skill. I like a couple of other things about this team. I just really don't like the team as a whole. They aren't good enough or deep enough, and I am not convinced they have done enough to rid themselves of the disaster that was last year. There are some good teams on the rise in the West - Minnesota and particularly Utah, for example - and I don't think these guys are keeping pace. I don't see them as a playoff squad, and would bet the under on this season win total.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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