Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Houston Rockets Season Preview

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 13: James Harden (13) of the Houston Rockets reacts to calls he questioned during the first half against the Denver Nuggets on Monday, November 13, 2018. The Denver Nuggets hosted the Houston Rockets at the Pepsi Center. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Houston Rockets have been the Golden State Warriors‘ biggest threat in the Western Conference for the past couple years. With the Warriors’ dynasty looking to have reached its end, the Rockets see this season as their best chance to jump that biggest hurdle. Let’s take a look at the Rockets season preview.

Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Houston Rockets Season Preview

Recap of last season

Injuries haunted the Rockets in the 2018 playoffs. They had built a team capable of beating the Warriors but just couldn’t stay healthy. The 2019 season offered redemption.

Chris Paul suffered regular-season injuries, but James Harden took over in another MVP-caliber season. He was arguably the biggest threat on offense in the league and willed the Rockets to a four seed in the West.

The Rockets matched up with the Utah Jazz in the first round and made it look easy. The Jazz were an elite defensive team, but once again Harden proved tough to stop. In the second round, the Rockets got their chance at the Warriors.

Houston fell by four games to two, but the highest win point differential in the entire series was just six.

Off-season moves

It was clear that the Harden-Paul era was coming to an end. They just didn’t seem to have enough to make the jump to stardom. Harden was the star, so it was always going to be Paul departing.

In one of the biggest moves of the off-season, the Rockets shipped off Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for former MVP Russell Westbrook. Harden and Westbrook will form an elite back-court duo, and statistically speaking one of the greatest offensive threats the NBA has ever seen. This, of course, depends on their chemistry. Both players are extremely ball-dependent and are now used to be the number one options on their teams. The two are former teammates, however, and should be able to work around whatever issues that may arise.

The Rockets liked Harden’s supporting cast, so also opted to re-sign Austin RiversGerald Green, and Danuel House. Furthermore, they added center depth and experience with Tyson Chandler. Chandler is a former champion and defensive player of the year and should be a solid role player. Lastly, the Rockets took a gamble and signed former lottery busts Anthony Bennett and Ben McLemore.

Season Expectations

Although the Warriors will feature their “weakest” line-up of the last couple seasons, much of the West has improved. The Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers improved greatly, while the Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, and Denver Nuggets remain big threats.

With this being said, the Rockets have improved from last seasons 53-win team as well. At worst, the Rockets should finish as a five or six seed. At best, they are more than capable of being a top-three seed. Another 50-plus win season should be on the cards.

Rockets season prediction

Harden’s stats may take a dip with Westbrook featured as another primary ball-handler and scorer. If the two mesh well, however, this shouldn’t be a problem. The Rockets are a virtual lock to make the playoffs and have what it takes to make a deep run.

The West will run through Los Angeles. Expect the Rockets to be one of the most exciting teams throughout the season and playoffs, but will fall to one of the Clippers or Lakers in the West’s second round.

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