Every-Thing Sports

How playoff seeding in the bubble could cause an unexpected twist for Rockets

Composite image by Jack Brame.

Remember a couple of years ago when the Rockets went 65-17, secured the number one overall seed in the West, made it to the conference finals, but were "a hamstring away" from an NBA Finals appearance and perhaps a title? Remember when homecourt advantage meant starting and potentially ending a seven-game series on your home floor, sleeping in your own bed, shooting on your own baskets? Well, the Orlando bubble has changed that in my opinion.

Playing in the same arenas, not traveling, sleeping in the same rooms and having a routine has its advantages. The whole playing without an audience is a separate dynamic. Players have reacted to it differently. Some guys are having breakout performances, others are passengers on the struggle bus. Last week, I posed the question if small ball would be sustainable in the bubble.

I left a hanging chad because while I believe the bubble is conducive to their style of play, they still need things to go their way. Currently, the Rockets are the fourth seed in the West. It's looking like they will play the Jazz or Thunder in the first round. They may even face the Mavs if they get to the second seed.

But is their seeding that important this year?


They have to play whoever is in front of them

It doesn't matter who's in front of you. All you need is 16 wins once the playoffs start. Choosing this mentality will help the Rockets. The consistency in where they're playing and whatnot will help with their shooting percentage. They'll have to beat four teams to win a ring, so why does the order matter? There won't be fans in the stands or travel schedules so who cares? Line them up and knock them off!

Familiarity

The coziness of the bubble and its surroundings should definitely help. Players are notorious for having bad shooting nights with opposing fans, courts, and unfamiliar territory. No travel, fans, and the same gyms should truly help them in the playoffs. This is huge for them because James Harden has been known to fluctuate in the playoffs. Giving him familiar surroundings will help his consistency. The same can be said for Russell Westbrook.

The road won't be any easier

This season will be the Rockets' easiest chance to win a title. The Lakers and Clippers aren't going away in the next couple of years. The Warriors will be a stronger threat once healthy. The Mavs will be better and have flexibility to improve. That's just the Western Conference! Seizing the opportunity now is their best chance. Harden and Westbrook are on the wrong side of 30. Eric Gordon has too big of a contract and is injury-prone. Outside of those guys, they don't have any "assets" worth trading. Striking while the iron is hot in this shortened season is their best chance.


I'm looking at this from an outsider's perspective. Erasing the fan eyes, this could be their best shot at winning a ring. People need to realize how precious this opportunity is right now. Dan Marino went to a Super Bowl in his second season and never went back. Karl Malone chased rings late in his career, but never won one. If Harden and Westbrook want to validate their legacies, winning this year will help cement that. Nobody takes away from the Spurs for winning in the strike-shortened 1999 season, so why should the title from this season be looked upon any differently? Every team in the bubble was there because they had a shot to make the playoffs. Any team in the playoffs has a shot to win a title. Line them up and knock them down!


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Should Watson be in the MVP conversation? Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2020 NFL season has a lot going on. Even if we take the coronavirus out of it, there's still a lot to digest. There are so many great performances being put up, one can make an argument for several players to win league MVP. The quarterback position typically gets more credit than others. If I restrict the argument to quarterbacks only, we're looking at Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers. Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Derrick Henry are the leading contenders at running back. On defense, there really isn't a standout defender. The defense gets no love, but there are several guys in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Deshaun Watson has been putting up numbers that have matched or rivaled some of the top MVP candidates over his last seven games. That stretch has coincided with the firing of head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien. Coincidence? I think not. Taking the reigns off a wild horse can often lead to said horse running free and flourishing! So question: Should Watson be getting league MVP considerations? I think so.

For starters, he's been one of the best players in the league over the course of the last seven games. 18 passing touchdowns and only two interceptions. The only quarterback with a better touchdown to interception ratio over that same span is Mahomes (19 and 2, as opposed to Watson's 18 & 2). Factoring in total season stats, of course Mahomes is doing much better. He's on a better team with a much better coach and general manager. The same could be said for Wilson and Rodgers. Put Watson on any of those teams and their records wouldn't be any worse than what they are now.

The Texans are 4-3 since firing O'Brien. While that isn't a great record, consider the fact they started the season 0-4 and looked like a total disaster. Watson looked like he was caged and couldn't wait to be freed. The team's record could be even better if the defense had a pulse. The proper supporting cast has a lot to do with a player's MVP candidate's chances. Now that one of his favorite weapons, Will Fuller, and the team's best corner, Bradley Roby, are both suspended for the rest of the season by the league for violating the substance abuse/PED policy, things will get much tougher for Watson.

If he continues to put up these cartoon like numbers, I don't see why he wouldn't be in the MVP conversation. He's currently fopurth in passing yards, sixth in completion percentage, tied for fifth in passing touchdowns, eighth in QBR, and third in quarterback rating. Watson is emerging as the star he was projected to be coming into the 2017 draft. I'm not saying Watson deserves to be the league MVP, but he deserves to be in the conversation. His MVP candidacy should be treated like the family gathering hierarchy: once you reach a certain age and/or status, you're no longer resigned to the kiddie table. Now you get to sit with all the adults, engage in their conversations, and gain access to things you couldn't previously. Watson won't win the MVP award, but I strongly believe he could finish top five. Especially if he keeps making lemonade with the lemons he's been given.

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