67RIEFNS No. 23: Dwight Howard and James Harden doing it alone

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The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

James Harden said he considered himself and Dwight Howard the cornerstones of the Rockets and that everyone else is just a role player.

Though that’s pretty much true, nobody likes to hear a star describe his teammates that way.

Harden will have a chance to prove just how right he is this season without Chandler Parsons (the only player who challenged the veracity of Harden’s statement), Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Omri Casspi.

More than ever, the Rockets are just Harden and Howard.

Fortunately for them, that’s not so bad.

Here’s how each team’s top two ranked in win shares last season:

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Harden and Howard represent 58 percent of Houston’s returning win shares. Obviously, Trevor Ariza and other role players will eat into that total, but no duo accounted for a higher percentage of their team’s wins last season.

Consider this a comeuppance and a challenge for Harden and Howard.

They talked big and bad when Parsons left, and now they’re (at least close to) on their own. That doesn’t mean the Rockets are in bad shape. To the contrary, they have two excellent players to build around. Not only are Harden and Howard talented, the guard and center balance each other.

But there’s only so much two players, even Harden and Howard, can do.

Whatever that limit is, that’s what Houston needs to win its first playoff series since Hakeem Olajuwon.

The NBA markets its stars, because fans want to see them. And because the NBA markets its stars, fans want to see them. Basketball has become obsessed with its stars to the point one who passes in crunch time faces automatic criticism. Collectively, fans want stars to dominate at all times.

The Rockets will need theirs to carry that load, even more so than last season when they were the team’s unquestioned leaders. Howard and Harden might just be up to the task.