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NBA Finals Betting – Can the Rockets Win the 2020 Title?
James Harden is constantly knocked for two things: his over-indulgent isolation scoring, and his inability to pull out wins in the NBA playoffs.
To these slants, I say, who cares, and hold that thought.
Harden is one of the most creative, crafty scorers the NBA has ever seen. Even with rule changes and help by going to the charity stripe a ton, his scoring ability is ridiculously impressive.
I also don’t know if we can hang all of Harden’s playoff shortcomings on him. Houston may have even won a title a few years ago, had Chris Paul not gotten hurt.
That easily could go down as one of the most costly injuries in sports history.
Things are different this year, though. Harden is still scoring at an absurd rate, but the trade that sent CP3 to OKC and brought in Russell Westbrook has slowly taken form. Then the team got even more creative, as they traded for Robert Covington and slid P.J. Tucker to center, full-time.
Only time will tell if any of this actually amounts to anything, but as the NBA prepares for its return on July 31st, Houston still has a shot at a top seed.
Could they parlay a solid seed into an unlikely title run? Maybe, and here are a few reasons you may want to bet on that happening.
Houston Has Serious Star Power
The most obvious reason to hop on board and trust the Rockets is the fact that they have two superstars on their roster.
James Harden has been a legit MVP threat for years now, while he’s averaging the quietest 34.4 points per game the league has ever seen. There’s also Russell Westbrook, who has turned it to another level since the All-Star break and has averaged over 27 points per game on the season.
Those two guys alone are why opponents can’t take the Rockets lightly. Westbrook can penetrate defenses and attack the rim at will, while Harden can kill you quietly from afar.
Both of these stars can create offense for themselves and others, while both are adept at getting to the free throw line. Offensively, they initiate just about everything Houston does (a combined 70 usage rate), and they’re usually the guy to end a play.
If Russ and Harden can stagger their play, the Rockets should be able to compete with anyone. If they can be on at the same time, they can win any series.
Robert Covington Gives Them a 3-and-D Star
Houston did realize that they had to be a bit more than a two-man show to make a deep playoff run, of course. That’s why they made a play for Robert Covington, who gave them two things at once.
The main thing Covington brings to the table, of course, is his elite on-ball defense. He sports a strong 27.7% steal percentage and blocks 1.3 shots per game but also consistently harasses his man and makes him work for everything he gets.
Covington’s individual numbers have suffered thanks to playing with a bad Minnesota team, while Houston’s torrid pace (3rd) and weak overall defense don’t help.
But Covington isn’t here to win a title based on his defensive merits alone. He’s tasked with doing all he can to slow down the opposition’s top perimeter threat, while also knocking down open shots on offense.
Covington’s always been able to do that (career 35.8% shooter from long range), and if he can fill both roles, he’ll give Houston a true 3-and-D threat.
P.J. Tucker at the 5 Changes Everything
The glue for Houston right now is P.J. Tucker’s move to the five. His ability to effectively play center in Houston’s small ball lineup sparked the trade of center Clint Capela and sent the Rockets down their current path.
It could easily end up being an epic gaffe. That deal takes away serious size when going up against some of the game’s best big men, while Capela was also a menace in the pick-and-roll game on offense.
Houston’s rebounding and interior defense could have problems, but this move makes them more dynamic and more versatile. In theory, it opens up space for their two superstars on offense, while also allowing the lineup as a whole to be faster and more fluid on the court.
Teams with elite size could exploit this, but Houston is betting on the long game here. If Tucker going to the five gives up a lot of points but still leads to the Rockets having an improved offense that scores more points, it’s a win.
They Can Still Destroy You From Outside
The biggest reason to buy into the Rockets, of course, remains their system and outside weapons.
Houston has always been in love with the long ball, and keeping guys like Covington and Tucker on the floor — albeit somewhat out of position — gives their offense more upside than ever.
Prior to the NBA’s suspension, the Rockets ranked second in points scored per game, they had the second most efficient offense, and they made more three-pointers per game (15.4) than anyone else in the league.
Their long-range shooting wasn’t always efficient, but the Rockets can score efficiently and shoot the lights out. When doing both in the same game, they’re virtually unstoppable.
The Rockets are going to be interesting to watch in the playoffs when the NBA comes back.
They have the star talent you want in a contender. They have an elite on-ball defender (two if you count Tucker at the five), they could kill teams with their small ball lineup, and they have tons of shooting.
Offensively, there is no doubt the Rockets will be vocal in these playoffs. If the Tucker move pays off, it just may be the oddball advantage they need to shock everyone in perhaps the weirdest NBA season ever.
Want to bet on the Rockets to win it all? Just make sure you find the best odds at the top basketball sportsbooks before placing a bet.
And head to our NBA blog if you’re looking for more content like this.