After being eliminated from the playoffs by the Warriors in back-to-back seasons, the Houston Rockets are gearing up to take advantage of a newly wide-open western conference. With Kevin Durant heading east and Klay Thompson injured, the Rockets will no longer have to face the Golden State juggernaut, but that doesn’t mean reaching the Finals will be much easier. Every contender in the west has seemingly gone all in this offseason to improve their roster as much as they can to make a championship run, and the Rockets weren’t going to miss out on all the fun.
|Point Guard PG|
|Shooting Guard SG|
|Small Forward SF|
|Power Forward PF|
|Point Guard PG|
|Shooting Guard SG||
|Small Forward SF||
|Power Forward PF||
The Rockets were able to land Russell Westbrook from the Thunder in exchange for Chris Paul and some future first round picks and pick swaps. The move reunites Westbrook with James Harden, who is coming off of the best individual season of his career as he averaged an absurd 36.1 points per game. The talent in this backcourt is undeniable, but questions remain on how these two ball-dominant guards will play with one another. Westbrook doesn’t have the 3-point shot to be a floor spacer and tends to disappear when the ball isn’t in his hands, but he will certainly have to learn how to become effective off the ball with Harden not showing any signs of regression. That being said, the duo’s ability to coexist will probably determine how far this team goes, and in the deep western conference the margin for error is minimal.
Despite the swirling trade rumors this summer, the Rockets will be bringing back rotation mainstays Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, and Clint Capela back into the fold. Gordon will be the squads third scoring punch behind Harden and Westbrook, as his combination of efficient shooting and aggression attacking the basket makes him a very viable offensive option, but it remains to be seen if his role will diminish after the Westbrook addition. Tucker is an ideal role player in today’s NBA, as he can knock down the 3-ball consistently while also being able to defend multiple positions on the other end. Capela will continue to do what he does and serve as an elite rim protector and lob threat.
While the Rockets will be boasting one of the more productive starting lineups in the NBA, the quality of their bench will undoubtedly be a weakness yet again. Bringing back Gerald Green and Austin Rivers makes sense, as both are effective scoring contributors when their shot is on. Additionally, they were able to sign veteran free agent center Tyson Chandler, who will be able to give Capela some rest while bringing defensive intensity and rebounding. That being said, you can’t expect these guys to have their best stuff every night, which will put heavy pressure on the starting five to get things done all season long. This is nothing new for the top-heavy Rockets, but it’s an issue that won’t go away.