Houston Rockets defense improves dramatically after getting rid of Harden
Harden made life hard for everyone at Houston towards the end of his time there. While there was (and is) no denying the man's incredible talent, no one would ever accuse him of being a defensive powerhouse. That is the only weakness in his play-style... well, other than his bad and diva-like attitude despite being one of the highest paid players of all time.
pic chosen because it looks like Harden is about to get nut shotted
It's hard to believe, but there have been 7 games that have taken place since the Houston Rockets made the surprise (and very lucrative) trade of Harden to the Brooklyn Nets. Houston got a LOT of stuff in return for the singular trade, including a great deal of future draft picks, not to mention the fact that they freed up a ton of money on their balance sheet as well as improving overall team morale.
When Harden was playing briefly for Houston pre Jan 13th, the Rockets were waaaaay back towards the back of the pack as far as defensive statistics are concerned. They were ranked 22nd in the NBA. There are only 30 teams in the entire league.
Since getting Harden off the roster they haven't had as many highlight dunks set up on the offensive side of things but they have improved dramatically on the side of the game that I think many fans don't pay as much attention to as they should: and that is defense.
The Rockets, after a mere seven games sans-Harden have jumped up to being the number 3 defensive team in the NBA. With Harden on their side, they were getting more buckets, as one would expect but now that he is gone, they are allowing dramatically less points to be scored on them. If you allow less points to be scored against you you don't actually need to score as many of them yourself! Imagine that way of thinking?
When Harden was with the Rockets at the start of this season they began with a record of 3-6. Since his departure they are 4-3 and ever since John Wall returned from injury, they have won all of those games.
There are a lot of variables at play here and also, this could just be a coincidence. However, I have been following the Rockets very closely once Harden started to have such a terrible attitude from the very start of the season. It is not quantifiable, but certainly understandable that when the guy on your team that is the center of attention behaves as though he doesn't even want to be at the games, that the rest of the team's morale is going to be shook a bit. Also, since they turned to Harden for leadership, it is pretty difficult to rally behind a guy that has such a terrible attitude about playing for Houston at all in the first place.
Houston is still lacking in offense, and it is a tricky game to get perfect and very few players excel at both O and D. However, I believe that if Houston continues down this path of focusing on disallowing points and showing great patience on offense, they will definitely have a winning season and perhaps make the playoffs.
This will be more than enough to please the owners that made the eventual decision to tell Harden to "get packing" because in the coming years the Rockets have a very advantageous situation as far as team building via drafts are concerned.
This one decision to get rid of their prima-donna player, could result in Houston establishing the franchise that Harden complained continuously was "never going to happen" for the Rockets. I would love the irony if the very reason WHY what Harden was saying was true...... was, in fact, because of Harden.