NBA Western Power Rankings Week 6: Clippers start rising

9 of 16

Dec 9, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts on the court against the Washington Wizards in the fourth quarter quarter at Verizon Center. The Rockets won 109-103. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

8th: Houston Rockets (16 points)

By Tom West

Record: 12-12

December record: 5-1

After making it to the Western Conference Finals just a few months ago, the Rockets now find themselves as the 7th seed with an underperforming superstar and a fired head coach. Kevin McHale has gone, but their problems have not.

Where should we even begin? There’s plenty to critique, although to save time, their positions of 18th in offensive and 27th in defensive efficiency sums it up.

So, what’s one positive amidst the bad shooting and dismal team defense? Dwight Howard has been having a nice season, at least from a numbers standpoint. While he hasn’t been very involved in the offense, he’s still producing 12.7 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Regardless of what he can do at his best, it hasn’t nearly been enough, especially while they’re getting burned away from the basket (allowing 43.3 percent from 15-19 feet, which ranks 27th in the NBA).

Ty Lawson hasn’t been a good fit either so far, their ball movement has been far worse, and they normally only win when James Harden is able to take over.

There simply haven’t been many positives so far, and any high moments have been inconsistent at best. Even with Harden as the NBA’s 2nd leading scorer with 29 points per game, they aren’t getting anywhere if he’s struggling to shoot above 40 percent and continues to play pathetic defense. And that’s before even looking at the rest of the team.

They have an awful long way to go until they look like a contender, but winning six of their last eight games is at least a small step in the right direction.

Next: Utah Jazz