Tuesday 17 October 2017 / 03:05 PM

BEVERLEY COMPLETES ROCKETS’ IMPRESSIVE PUZZLE

It was a season of drama, followed by an offseason of more drama for the Houston Rockets. Fresh off a Western Conference Finals trip in 2014-15, the Rockets responded with a flop of a season that got longtime head coach Kevin McHale fired, and a roster overhaul with the expel of Dwight Howard and some revamp to the roster.

With new head man Mike D’Antoni coming into town for Houston, we knew the Rockets were going to score points, but then the changes started to come in. The Rockets doubled down on offense-minded players like Eric Gordon and took some chances across the roster. Oh, and they put James Harden at the point.

The Rockets were viewed as a middling team for much of the offseason and went into 2016 projected to score a bunch of points, but maybe not win a bunch of games.

But what we’ve seen to start the season for Houston has been a bunch of points AND a bunch of wins. James Harden has lit up the stat sheet, posting the third-highest points per game in the NBA to this point and leading the league in assists.

It’s safe to say the point guard experiment is working for Harden, and the offense in Houston has taken off. Eric Gordon has seen his career revitalized, and the Rockets are rocking one of the NBA’s most consistent and potent scoring threats.

But the scary part is that they’re even better with the return of Patrick Beverley. The overwhelming expectation was that Bev would make the Rockets rotation more potent, but no one saw just how much he’d add. In his return to the lineup, the Rockets have won 10 of their last 12 games, and are just boat racing opposing teams.

Beverley has added yet another three-point shooter to the lineup, but he’s also lessened the burden on James Harden. Beverley is guarding the best guard on the floor each night, most recently pestering Russell Westbrook to turnover-ridden performance.

He’s ignited the defense and moved them up to 18th in the NBA – which isn’t great, but it’s much better than anticipated for a D’Antoni-coached team. And even better when considering that they ranked 26th in the league before Beverley’s return. Pat’s ability to guard anyone from the 1-3 position has opened the defense up for players like Harden, who’s seen his steals spike while waiting in the man-to-zone defense D’Antoni employs.

And with a slight surprise, Beverley’s addition has made the offense unstoppable. Beverley has added a three-point jumper to his arsenal and is currently shooting close to 40% from beyond the arc. Having a three-and-D guard has transformed the Rockets and they are climbing the standings at an alarming pace.

Of course, James Harden has been the catalyst for the team, but with the growing defensive presence, the Rockets have established themselves as a team to beat in the West. After knocking off Westbrook and the Thunder, the Rockets now sit idly behind the Spurs, Clippers, and Warriors in the West, and have all the tools of giving the top three a test in the postseason.

Harden has made his case for MVP early on in the season, and if the rest of the roster continues the way they have, there’s no reason the Rockets can’t win 50 games this season. If defense was the concern going into the season, Beverley and Harden up top have changed that conversation.

While the Rockets certainly aren’t the Warriors, don’t sleep on them becoming their top challenger going forward with a little bit of defense injected into a potent scoring offense.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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