Additions: Tyson Chandler, Ben McLemore, Thabo Sefolosha, Ryan Anderson, Russell Westbrook
Departures: Chris Paul, Kenneth Faried
The Houston Rockets have tried to convince the NBA and its fans the past few years that they are a legitimate title threat. For the most part, they have proved that during the REGULAR season. However, the built Rockets have not been able to fly past the mighty Golden State Warriors in the past four or five years. The desire to defeat the Warriors has been outspoken, but the Rockets could not ultimately overcome the hump.
After a Chris Paul experiment that cost too much money and led to rumors of disconnect among Paul and MVP James Harden, the Rockets made a blockbuster move to bring back Harden’s old buddy Russell Westbrook. Now, two ball-dominant guards join forces in a new era of duos eyeing the title. With the Warriors significantly weaker than years past, the Rockets remain formidable in a stacked Western Conference and the next couple seasons may be their best chance to contend until a new superteam probably emerges or forms.
The ball distribution between Westbrook and Harden remains to be seen, and either can take the last shot of a game if the other is willing to concede. It will be interesting to see how coach Mike D’Antoni makes schemes with a new superstar on his roster. The former OKC players have matured since 2012 when their young Thunder team fell to the supercharged Miami Heat. Since that appearance in the NBA Finals, Westbrook and Harden have taken separate paths, breaking triple-double and scoring records, while snatching an MVP each. Now, with more experience and skill, which is very important in the NBA, the two hope to lead Houston to a title, the only thing left to add on their distinguished resumes.
Supporting two superstars will be additions such as crisp shooter Ryan Anderson, veteran Thabo Sefolosha, proven center Tyson Chandler, former first pick Anthony Bennett, and former Kings player Ben McLemore. Though these additions may not look as flashy, these players can provide decent contributions to the team, albeit off the bench for some.
Houston did re-sign some key cogs for a championship run, such as effective shooters in Gerald Green, Austin Rivers, and Eric Gordon. The trio has been effective in making James Harden lessen his load. Also returning is key staple P.J. Tucker and big men Clint Capela and Nene. Overall, this team may not look as dominant on paper compared to other Western foes, but it would be foolish to write them off. They have an underrated supporting cast and two studs who can take over a game.
Surely the Rockets are still feeling the sting of the 2017-18 season where they were one win away from a Finals against an underwhelming Cavs team they could have overpowered. But this team must look forward, and though the West competition remains stiff with the emergence of the L.A. squads and Denver, the Rockets have the potential to nag a top seed and make some noise this year. It’s mostly contingent on the chemistry between Westbrook and Harden, along with the effectiveness of the supporting cast. If everything clicks, the Rockets can fly high this season.