After being only one game from the NBA finals, the Houston Rockets return ready for action with some old and new faces. Led by MVP James Harden, and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul the Rockets will look to repeat their success. While they may have lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, they added the prolific scorer Carmelo Anthony and some other young pieces. The biggest question for the Rockets will be can they remain one of the top defensive teams after losing some key players from last year. This could be a make or break for the Rockets in their quest to win an NBA championship. Here’s the Houston Rockets Season Preview.
The Rockets were a powerhouse on offense last year with Harden and Paul running the show. The Rockets were second in points per game at 112.4 and first in three-pointers made per game at 15.3. Harden dazzled crowds all year long en route to the first MVP trophy he earned while averaging 30.4 points, 8.8 assist, and 5.4 rebounds per game. The addition of Paul gave Houston elite point guard play on offense always. This enabled guys like P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon to get open three-point shots at a high rate and easy alley-oops for Clint Capela.
While impressive offensively, as usual, the real surprise is how well the defense played all year. Houston was ranked 6th in defensive efficiency last year. This helped them take the reigning champion Golden State Warriors to the wire. Anchored by vastly improved Capela, the Rockets were able to switch at multiple positions and play physical with teams. Tucker and Ariza manned the perimeter and funneled everything to Capela who was a shot blocking machine last year averaging 2.1 per game. Overall the Rockets were one of the most well-rounded teams in the league last year and look to build upon that this year.
The Rockets ultimately succumbed to their own strength: the three-pointers. While the Rockets were extraordinary at hitting the three ball the ended up missing 27 straight threes in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Mike D’Antoni should incorporate other methods of scoring opportunities when the three balls aren’t falling. While Harden and Paul can both achieve their own shot, players like Tucker and Ariza were left to spectate in those moments taking them out of the flow of the game
It’s hard to say that injuries need improvement. The Rockets were up 3-2 on the Warriors when Paul went down with a hamstring injury. The Rockets should do everything in their power to ensure that Paul is healthy throughout the season and playoffs. Which leads to the Rockets need to improve on time management for their top players. There were too many times throughout the season when the Rockets would be blowing out an opponent while Paul and Harden would still be on the court. Preserving these players for the playoffs will go a long way in helping the Rockets win this year.
The Rockets saw quite a bit of change happen to their roster this offseason. While they saw Ariza and Mbah a Moute depart, they gained some interesting pieces. The most important piece was done immediately in the re-signing of Paul. Another notable piece was, of course, Anthony. He is coming off what might be his worst season for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Anthony will be asked to try and fit into this system in place and be a knockdown shooter. The Rockets also traded away Ryan Anderson and their draft pick De’Anthony Melton away for Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss. Michael Carter-Williams was added to the roster for size and point guard depth.
While the Rockets may have lost some defense, they are still one of the top teams to beat in the league. With Paul, Harden, and Capela as your core, they should have no problem winning around 55 games this year. If the Rockets can remain a top defensive team they should find themselves in the Western Conference Finals again at the least. Let’s see if the Rockets can do what it takes to take that next step this year.
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