The next team on our list was the second highest scoring team in the NBA last season, the Houston Rockets. The Rockets had a great season last year but it ended on a sour note during the postseason when the team lost to the San Antonio Spurs in Western Conference Semifinals game 6, 114-75. That loss sparked the Houston front office to shake things up and make a blockbuster trade for Chris Paul in the offseason. Now, this new look Rockets team feels like it can better compete with the likes of the Spurs and the Golden State Warriors, but will having two ball dominant point guards on Mike D’Antoni’s squad hurt them or help them?
2016-17 Record: 55-27 (Made Playoffs. Eliminated by SAS in Western Conference Semis)
Key Acquistions: Chris Paul (via trade w/ LAC), PJ Tucker (via Free Agency), Zhou Qi (via Fre Agency), Luc Mbah a Moute (via Free Agency)
Key Losses: Louis Williams, Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell (via trade w/ LAC)
What to watch for: Chris Paul’s and James Harden’s chemistry
When I first learned of the Houston trade for Chris Paul, I was shocked, but not for the same reason many fans were. I was shocked because Harden was moved to point guard last offseason and arguably had the best season of his career (29.1 PPG, 11.2 APG, 8.1 RPG). Then the Houston front office decides to trade for a ball-dominant point guard in Paul? It was sort of a head scratcher. The two guards could not have more different styles of play. Paul slows things down, excels from halfcourt sets and is a master of the pick and roll while Harden looks to push the tempo, take a lot of threes and looks to get his shot off plenty times a game. I believe during the beginning of this season there will be a lot of growing pains for this Rockets backcourt and D’Antoni might have his hands full trying to keep everybody happy.
Best-Case Scenario: Rockets advance to Western Conference Finals
Many Rockets fans are hoping for the NBA Finals this year with the addition of Paul, but they should be worried about advancing to the Western Conference finals first, a round they have only been to once in the previous 20 years. The Oklahoma City Thunder have gotten significantly better this offseason as well as the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Denver Nuggets. Then there is still the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors to worry about. The Rockets are going to have a tough road in the Western Coference playoffs no matter which seed they finish with, but if they can reach the Western Conference Finals, I think this organization will consider that a successful season. Anything less will be a failure to them.
2017-18 Projection: 2nd-4th seed playoff team.