Heading into game 1 in the Orlando bubble the Houston Rockets take on the Dallas Mavericks. The I-45 rival goes back decades and with only eight games until the playoffs, this game will be more intense than most regular-season games.
I will be ranking the top 10 players from this game. It is based on their level of importance and possible impact in this game. Each week I will rank the Rockets and their opponent to determine who is number 1.
The second year forward for the Mavericks has improved on his rookie season shooting 37.4 percent from the 3-point line. At 6ft 10in Kleber size could provide issues for the Rockets and at the same time Kleber still provides floor spacing.
In 10 games since coming to the Rockets, Jeff Green is shooting over 40 percent from the field. He is second on the team in offensive rating and effective field goal percentage in that span. Green has been the perfect fit for the Rockets and with the Mavericks size upfront he may be the counter that Mike D ‘Antoni chooses down the stretch.
Dorian Finney Smith
The third year forward has played great basketball against the Rockets in the other two meetings this year. In two game Smith is averaging 12 points on 44.4 percent shooting from downtown. His 6 ‘7” 220 frame is the perfect fit vs the Rockets small ball lineup and has given the Rockets problems in previous matchups.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has been a serviceable player since being drafted in 2013 but not spectacular. Since coming to the Mavericks his play has improved and he seems to have found a home having one of his better years. In the two previous games vs the Rockets, he has probably been the Mavs second-best player. Averaging 23 points on 45 percent shooting from deep.
I know Rockets fans why is Tucker so low? It’s really nothing to do with Tucker himself and more about the players above him. Tucker is and will be the Rockets captain on defense. He is the player that does all the dirty work but won’t wow you in the box score. Tucker shot disappeared the last two months but hopefully, with the time to heal his injured shoulder, his shot will come back.
Number 5 Rockets Robert Covington
Since coming to the Rockets in a trade right before the deadline Covington is averaging 12.8 points on .357 shooting from 3-point range. But that is not the best part he is averaging 2.5 blocks per game in 14 games that is remarkable for any player but a small ball four that is defensive player of the year numbers.
Number 4 Mavericks Kristaps Porzingis
Porzingis has battle injuries for most of his career. This is part of the reason the New York Knicks ( along with being inept) traded him away for what many considered not much in return. Porzingis of course presents plenty of matchup issues for the Rockets. Standing 7’3″ and able to spread the floor will pose a challenge for Tucker and Green. The Rockets will have to get out on the break and keep Porzingis off the boards. Two games vs the Rockets 29 points a game and 12.5 rebounds.
Number 3 Rockets Russell Westbrook
Its been a tale of two different seasons in one for Westbrook. Starting the 2019-20 season Westbrook was coming off off season surgery that put him back in his training. Along with taking way too many 3-pointers his play was uneven at best. Once the calendar flipped to 2020 Westbrook has been a top 10 player in the league. His 3-point attempts have dropped and his efficiency has been great. In two games vs the Mavs 29.5 points 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assist.
Number 2 Mavericks Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic missed the Rockets and Mavs last matchup but was dominant in the first game. Doncic scored 41 points 10 assist and 6 rebounds as he helped the Mavs close out the Rockets. Doncic of course is the number one option and will likely be shadowed by Covington most of the game. On the season Doncic is averaging 28.7 points 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists.
Number 1 Rockets James Harden
The former MVP and king of the step back had a great start to the season putting up historic numbers. The first few months of 2020 still saw Harden putting up great numbers but his shot was definitely off. Entering the bubble Harden form is back to how it was earlier in the season. Harden finished the scrimmage game with a 30 point first half and 35 for the game. In two games vs the Mavs, Harden put up ridiculous numbers 33.5 points a game 8.5 assist and 12.5 rebounds. These numbers and Harden’s overall importance makes him the number one player in this game.