As a way of judging the performance of this Rockets team against our expectations, it may help to establish what those expectations really are. Are the Houston Rockets a playoff team? Premise: There are eight available playoff spots in the Western Conference. Barring severe injuries, most of these are already spoken for by the heavy hitters in the conference. Yes, even this early in the new season. In no particular order, these include the following teams in the West: The Oklahoma City Thunder The Los Angeles Clippers The Los Angeles Lakers The San Antonio Spurs We must conclude that the first four spots are already taken. That takes us to the next group of teams, that while not elite in the strictest sense, are so stacked with talent that it's difficult to imagine them not getting into the playoffs somehow. These include the following two teams: The Denver Nuggets The Memphis Grizzlies We must conclude that the next two spots are taken, and a total of six teams already own six of the available eight playoff spots in the Western Conference. Now here's where it gets dicey. There is a group of so-called "bubble teams" who are expected to vie for the remaining two playoff spots as welll, although whether or not they make it remains to be seen. Are the Rockets part of this group? These include the following teams: The Dallas Mavericks The Utah Jazz The Portland Trailblazers The Phoenix Suns The New Orleans Hornets The Minnesota Timberwolves The Golden State Warriors Only two of these teams will make the playoffs, and their fortunes are difficult to predict as of November. Now here's the really critical part; IF YOU FEEL THERE IS ONLY ONE TEAM IN THIS LAST GROUP THAT IS BETTER THAN THE ROCKETS, THEN YOUR EXPECTATION BECOMES THAT THE ROCKETS ARE A PLAYOFF TEAM. --or alternately-- IF YOU FEEL THERE IS MORE THAN ONE TEAM IN THIS LAST GROUP THAT IS BETTER THAN THE ROCKETS, THEN YOU ARE SAYING THAT THE ROCKETS ARE *NOT* A PLAYOFF TEAM, AND YOU MUST THEREFORE ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE SEASON--AND INDEED YOUR CRITICISMS OF THE TEAM AND ITS COACHING STAFF--ACCORDINGLY. ClutchFans: Are the Houston Rockets a playoff team?