A couple years from now.
Despite an impressive three game stretch that has seen the Rockets go 2-1, Harden average 35.3 points and Lin dish out 7.3 helpers, Houston is not playoff-bound. Not this year.
I love a lot of the young talent the Rockets currently boast. Chandler Parsons has looked like a stud, Marcus Morris has really started to look a lot more comfortable on the floor and Toney Douglas appears to have found his niche as a defensive specialist. Don’t sleep on Terrence Jones or Royce White either. Those two will explode onto the scene eventually.
But it’s not enough. Even with the aforementioned group of promising prospects alongside Harden and Lin, Houston does not have enough firepower, enough experience or enough of a two-way attack to contend in the talent-heavy Western Conference.
Don’t get me wrong, dealing for Harden was a stroke of genius. It not only provided a relatively unheralded superstar with the opportunity to come into his own, but it took a lot of pressure off the inexperienced Lin’s shoulders, who has, in turn, thrived.
So yeah, this team is a good team.
But as the season progresses, as teams like the Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks near full-strength, as teams like the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies hit their stride and as teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder return to their dominant states, the Rockets aren’t going to be able to keep up. Not with enough of the postseason caliber organizations.
And that’s OK.
This wasn’t an overnight project. Before Harden’s arrival, this team was going to have to endure a bevy of trials and tribulations before it could call itself a polished project.
Now, however, Harden’s emergence has sped the process along. He has instilled a stronger sense of hope in this franchise and its fanbase; he has made this team look a better than it was supposed to be.
Which is great. But again, it ultimately won’t be enough.
One day, Harden and Lin will lead the Rockets to the playoffs, into the realm of title contention—maybe even one day soon.
But not now. Not when there are still so many holes to fill. Not when there are still so many questions that need to be answered.
So buckle up and enjoy the ride that has become the Harden and Lin pick-and-roll, because it’s going to be an exhilarating one.
Just know that it’s one that—for now—has its limits.
Limits that fall short of a postseason appearance.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.