Before the season began, the Golden State Warriors were considered the team to beat this year in the NBA, and rightfully so. The Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in dominant fashion in the Finals 4-1 and had no major roster changes in the off-season. While some people may still consider the Warriors the team to beat, others have shifted towards the Houston Rockets as the Goliath of the league.
It did not take long for the Rockets to make their presence felt as a serious championship contender. After defeating the Warriors 122-121 in their season opener, fans took notice to the potential within this run-and-gun team.
All Signs Point to Houston Rockets Being the Team to Beat
Run-and-gun is exactly what the Rockets planned on doing this season, and it has worked in their favor up to this point. Houston averages 114 points per game, the second best in the league, including a league leading 15.5 three-pointers made per game. The Rockets offensive ability has helped lead the them to multiple 10+ game winning streaks and first place in the Western Conference with a 47-13 record.
Fans need to not look far to determine why Houston is so successful on the offensive end of the floor. The Rockets have assembled a roster that screams for players to push the ball and play at a fast pace, including James Harden, Chris Paul and more.
Harden gave former teammate Russell Westbrook a run for his money in last year’s MVP race despite Westbrook averaging a triple-double at the end of the season. This year, Harden is considered by many as the clear-cut favorite for league MVP. The Arizona State product is averaging more than 31 points per game and just less than nine assists per game.
While the numbers are a clear representation of just how big of an impact Harden has on the team’s success, watching his games makes you realize how unstoppable he seems on the court. Harden continues to show off his ridiculous ball handling skills and seemingly ‘unguardable’ step-back jump shot.
Harden’s presence on the floor makes more of an impact that his obvious statistics. Harden forces teams to place so much attention on trying to stop him that it opens up the floor for his teammates to succeed. Harden leads the team in assists due to his impressive passing ability and shooters like Paul, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson complementing him on the floor.
Paul has helped make the Rockets one of the best offensive in the league for many reasons. His ball-handling and ability to finish at the rim allows him to seemingly score at will and his vision and passing ability help get other players involved in the action.
The Rockets run a pick-and-roll offense with Paul and center Clint Capela that causes defenses enormous amounts of trouble. Paul has the option to take it himself, pass to a cutting Capela, or swing to an open Harden or Gordon. Paul’s unlimited options in the game have helped him average nearly 19 points per game and more than eight assists per game.
While Harden and Paul play pivotal roles in the success of the Rockets, the supporting cast is just as impressive. Players like Gordon, Capela, Trevor Ariza, and Anderson provide a major boost for the two stars.
Gordon, who averages nearly 15 points per game flourishes off of the drive-and-kick ability of Harden and Paul.
Capela’s defensive rebounding ability helps guards like Paul and Harden get out and push the pace of the game while his offensive rebounds give shooters second chances. His finishing ability at the rim also makes him a serious offensive threat. The Switzerland native has notched career highs this season averaging 14.5 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Ariza and Anderson are in the same boat as Gordon. The two are effective from long range and thrive off the open looks they get from Harden and Paul. Anderson averages 10 points per game while Ariza averages 12.
It is easy to simply say the Rockets might be the best team in the NBA, but proof helps support the claim. To find proof, one only needs to look at the schedule to far this season. The Rockets have a league-best 47-13 record and are 7-3 against the top three teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences.
The Rockets are also 2-1 against the Warriors, with the only loss coming with James Harden not available to play. Houston is also 2-0 against the LeBron James-led Cavaliers.
Take It or Leave It
Everyone will not agree that the Rockets are the best team in the NBA. The claim can be argued. There are many other teams that could be considered for the title including the Warriors, Raptors, Celtics and others. One thing for sure is that the Rockets have the personnel and talent to be best team in the league.