James Harden and the Houston Rockets entered the 2019-20 NBA season with the goal of fully dominating the Western Conference and winning the NBA championship title. Unfortunately, though the Golden State Warriors have weakened after losing Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson, the Rockets' road to the 2020 NBA Finals still won't be an easy one. The emergence of new Western Conference powerhouse teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers present early obstacles. However, former NBA player Kendrick Perkins believes that the improvements Harden made during the NBA's two-month hiatus could give the Rockets a realistic chance of ending their decades-long title drought this season.
On the recent episode of ESPN's The Jump, hosted via YouTube, Perkins talked about Harden and the things he has done during the season suspension. While many NBA players were worried about being infected by COVID-19, Harden grabbed the opportunity to make positive changes with his fitness level. After seeing Harden slim down, Perkins confidently said that the Rockets are now the "heavy favorite" to bring home the Larry O'Brien trophy this season.
"James is in the lab and going to be dangerous... You're talking about a guy who's one of the most prolific scorers there to ever touch the basketball and he done lost weight and he's dedicated?! It's going to be dangerous. It puts the Rockets up there as a heavy favorite to win the title if the season resumes," Perkins said, as transcribed by Essentially Sports.Former NBA player Richard Jefferson, who also appeared in the same episode, was surprised after hearing Perkins' statements. Jefferson seemed to wonder if there was any real connection between Harden's weight loss and the Rockets' chances of winning in 2020. Perkins explained that as Harden had become more physically fit, he would have more energy for crunch time in the fourth quarter.
Aside from making his body more resilient, the development in Harden's physique could also improve his mobility, making him harder to guard on the offensive end of the floor. Before the NBA suspension, Harden was already the league's No. 1 scorer, averaging 34.4 points while shooting 43.5 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from beyond the arc. Those numbers are expected to further improve once Harden returns to the court this season.
However, it may take more than an improved Harden to help the Rockets achieve their goals this season. If they are determined to win the 2020 NBA championship title, other Rockets players should step up and give Harden all the support he needs.