The Rockets are, in many ways, the people's champions of the NBA. They aren't going to be contending for a championship this year, but they play hard every day and they can beat anyone in the NBA on a given night. There is also the sympathy aspect, because lord knows that if they were healthy they would be much more competitive than they are now. I'll explain what that means after we take a look.
SB Nation: 13 (13)
It's a shame that this weird, lovable Rockets team likely won't make the playoffs. If Yao Ming were playing even 25 minutes a game, Houston would be right in the mix with the Jazz, Blazers, Nuggets and Grizzlies. Alas ...
ESPN: 18 (18)
Walking off the floor with time still left on the clock is about as far away from MIP standards as Aaron Brooks could have strayed, but the Rockets insist they won't surrender Brooks in a trade unless it's part of a megadeal.
Hollinger: 14 (12)
Pro Basketball Talk: 21 (22)
They want to move Aaron Brooks, and to pick up the scoring slack there is… Chuck Hayes? He’s been a scoring machine lately.
I think they have such a big difference in some of the polls because the services are measuring two different things. How competitive a team can be in the regular season, and how much of a shot they have to compete for a championship. There is no other way to justify the discrepancy in some of these rankings. But they certainly seemed to have won some of the organizers over.