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Houston Rockets: 2nd Half Preview

What awaits the Rockets in the 2nd half?

The Houston Rockets start the 2nd half of the season in the playoffs as of now, but nowhere near a lock to remain there at seasons end. Currently the Rockets are the 6th seed, but are just 1 1/2 games behind the 3rd seeded Clippers for home-court advantage. On the other hand, they're also only 2 1/2 games up on the 9th seeded Nuggets, to avoid entering the lottery for a 3rd straight season. After tonight's game at Toyota Center against the Raptors, the Rockets next 4 games are at the Jazz, home for the Nuggets and Clippers, and then at the Celtics; teams that have a combined .523 winning percentage. A tough stretch, but they just went 3-0 against the Raptors, Jazz, and Grizzlies who have a .540 winning percentage; so they're capable of extending their winning streak. If the Rockets survive the next 5 games, the following 5 games include the Raptors, Nets, Cavaliers, and Bobcats; so they'll have a chance to pad their place in the standings.

These projections are of course, based on the team as currently constructed. With the trade deadline just a couple weeks away, things could change quickly. Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Kyle Lowry have all been mentioned in trade rumors, one that may send back Pau Gasol who was nearly a Rocket back in December. I'm 99% sure they'll make a move, what that move will be is the hard part to figure out.

Regardless of trades, for this team to take the next step this season, they need consistency from the young bench players. Lowry and Martin will have a slump from time to time, but for the most part, you know what you'll get out of your veterans. If Patrick Patterson, Chase Budinger, and Goran Dragic can begin to produce on a regular basis, it'll change the outlook of this team. I'm especially hopeful for Patrick Patterson; his play recently makes Scola the most expendable asset they have. He's proved himself as a very good shooter within 15 feet, and a capable rebounder and defender. If it were up to me, I'd look to move Martin and Scola for an upgrade at the 2 or 3 positions, allowing Patterson to be put into the starting rotation.

If they stand pat, I expect them to be between the 5th-7th seed for the playoffs. Mark down March 15th on your calender, it'll not only affect this season for the Rockets, but likely set the table for the future.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.