ESPN’s NBA writers came out with their early Western Conference predictions. ESPN predicts the Houston Rockets to make the playoffs, but it may be a lot closer than many Rockets fans think.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder: 58-24
2. San Antonio Spurs: 57-25
3. Los Angeles Clippers: 56-26
4. Portland Trail Blazers: 51-31
5. Dallas Mavericks: 50-32
6. Memphis Grizzlies: 49-33
7. Golden State Warriors: 49-33
8. Houston Rockets: 49-33
Eight?!? EIGHT!!! Wha?!? How?!?!!
Breathe a bit. It’s not so crazy.
Sure the eighth seed sounds terrible and disrespectful, but they may not be too far off. ESPN has the Rockets tied, and ultimately losing the three-way tiebreaker to become the eight seed. One less turnover here, and one free throw there and the Rockets could easily win that tiebreaker and be a six seed.
They also have the Rockets just two games out of a four seed, the same four seed they were last season. They won 54 games last season, and ESPN projects them to lose five more than they did last year.
As of this post, it’s not crazy to say the Rockets are a bottom tier playoff team in the West. Sure, James Harden and Dwight Howard will likely improve together, after their first season playing as a duo. You could expect both Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones to improve.
But as of now, it wouldn’t shock me to see this team NOT win more than 50 games. You could argue their depth is even worse than it was last year, certainly much less proven. It could be a wild season for Kevin McHale trying to figure out his rotations next season.
I still see this team making the playoffs, but as I said earlier, a turnover here and a free throw there could make all the difference in the West.