The NBA playoffs will be intriguing this year.
From the Eastern Conference (LEastern), two teams must be considered the perennial favorites to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals: Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. There are a few exciting teams that should put on some entertainment before the inevitable finals, such as Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls, and Toronto Raptors, but it’s quite easy to predict a Heat v. Pacers matchup.
On the Western Conference, it’s less clear. There’s the hungry contender, Oklahoma City Thunder — strengthened by role players that know their role and a fearsome MVP candidate in Kevin Durant. The old guard, San Antonio Spurs — bench play, “Big Three,” three-point shooting, rinse and repeat. And of course, the wild cards: Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and Portland Trail Blazers. Any of the five listed teams may play in the NBA Finals, there is just too much parity in the west.
One team, the Houston Rockets (41-19), deserve some love. The team with the biggest offseason move, Dwight Howard‘s signing, may also be the biggest threat in the Western Conference. There is simply too much talent on this team. Despite a somewhat down year for James Harden, 45.3 percent, 24.4 points per game, 5.7 assists, the Rockets have no shortage of weapons.
First, the continued evolution of Chandler Parsons‘ offensive game and play-making skills top the list. Parsons is simply the best all-around player on the Rockets. From passing and running the break, scoring from anywhere on the court, and the ability to dribble the ball, he’s the “X-factor.” The other unheralded heroes are Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverly. Jones, the barely 22 year old first-year starter is putting up 11.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 53.3 percent while adding a three-pointer as an option. He’s been the best and biggest surprise for the Rockets by a long shot. As for Beverly, he’s the defensive MVP of the team. Beverly is as unknown as another defensive point guard maven, Sacramento Kings’ Isaiah Thomas, but just as great.
This is a team that needs to be feared. They’re the team with less press, but all the flash.
Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox / USA TODAY Sports
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