- The Houston Rockets have largely been dismissed as credible contenders for the NBA championship. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s small-ball lineups featuring 6’5 PJ Tucker as Houston’s starting center have been dismissed as gimmicks. However, there is value for bettors to take a flyer on the Rockets winning the championship at +1500 odds.
- The truncated season works to the Rockets’ advantage. The challenge with the Rockets’ small-ball approach is that their players tire out through the course of a long season from having to expend so much energy defending bigger players. This concern should be mitigated by the fact that there are only eight games left in the regular season.
- In the past, former MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook who both have the ability to majorly impact NBA spreads, have struggled in the playoffs after playing so many regular season minutes. Thanks to the four-month layoff, the Rockets should get the best of a fresh and rested duo of Harden and Westbrook.
- The end of the regular season and start of the playoffs may resemble scrimmages without fans in attendance. This environment should help a team like the Rockets that relies heavily on the three-point shot.
- The Rockets are currently the sixth seed in the Western Conference. The team that ended Houston’s championship aspirations the two previous seasons, the Golden State Warriors, have been eliminated from playoff contention.
It is tough to think of a team that benefited more from the season’s suspension and the shortened regular season than the Rockets. D’Antoni’s small-ball approach has plenty of critics. D’Antoni plays a short rotation where the tallest player on the court for Houston most of the time is 6’7 forward Robert Covington. Even supporters of D’Antoni’s approach worried that the Rockets’ smaller players would simply run out of gas by playoff time from having to play undersized through a long season.
With only eight games left in the regular season, these concerns should be alleviated. D’Antoni is free to run his short rotation as hard as possible without having to worry about exhausting the energy of his players. Houston’s opponents will have less time to adjust to the Rockets’ unique approach before the playoffs with the season almost completed.
Harden and Westbrook
The Rockets’ championship hopes rest on the shoulders of the two former MVPs on their roster, Harden and Westbrook. Last season, Harden and Westbrook both played on average over 36 minutes per game, which makes them a favorite for NBA public betting and daily fantasy players.. They played so many regular season minutes that it negatively impacted their playoff performances. In the 2018-2019 regular season, Harden averaged 36.1 points per game for the Rockets while Russell Westbrook shot 42.8% from the field for the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the 2019 playoffs, Harden’s scoring average dipped to 31.6 points per game while Westbrook’s field goal percentage fell off a cliff to 36%.
The Rockets will be getting a rested Harden and Westbrook for the stretch run. Houston should be hopeful that the four-month layoff provided Harden and Westbrook with enough rest so that their playoff performances will not decline like they have previously.
The NBA season will resume in Orlando without arenas filled with fans. The environment at these games will resemble scrimmages more so than professional basketball games. A scrimmage-type game should favor teams with an offensive arsenal that relies heavily on three-pointers. The Rockets led the NBA in three-point field goals made per game at the time of the season’s suspension. If you are a betting man keep your eye on the Rockets over under line for three pointers. This may be an easy way to make some cash during the NBA playoffs.
The Rockets are a clear underdog to win the NBA championship. However, bettors should remember that the only team that has beaten the Rockets the last two seasons was the Stephen Curry-Kevin Durant led Golden State Warriors. The Rockets are worth a small investment at +1500 odds to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Clutch City.
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