The Houston Rockets might be imploding with both James Harden and Russell Westbrook requesting trades, but they still have a great squad intact. The Rockets don't have to trade James Harden at all, even if The Beard wants out. He will have to suit up for the team and go out there barring injury, so Houston might have enough to convince him to be happy there.
The Rockets made some big moves in the offseason with the acquisition of two centers, clearly making it a priority to diversify their offense and not rely on the small ball all the time. With the new signings in place and the management changes taking effect very soon, the Rockets are actually better than last year. While many have written off Houston as contenders in the West, they are not going anywhere and are just as deadly if not more.
Here are the reasons the Rockets will shock everyone and win the NBA championship next season.
5. Head Coach Stephen Silas Is An Offensive Genius
Mike D'Antoni is no longer there, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. D'Antoni was stubborn with his philosophies and didn't want to diversify things depending on the opponent. Whether they played a large team or a smaller team, he wanted the Rockets to play fast all the time. To D'Antoni's credit, this actually worked for a few years, as the Rockets made it to the Western Conference Finals in 2018 and should have made the Finals if not for Chris Paul's injury. D'Antoni helped Houston become a title contender but not quite an NBA champion.
Stephen Silas is a rookie head coach and not as big of a name as Mike D'Antoni, although he is well experienced as an assistant coach. Silas is a younger version of D'Antoni and doesn't mind switching up the lineup at times depending on their opponent. He was part of a historically great Dallas Mavericks offense last season and can do the same for the Rockets. Houston also hired a cast of excellent assistant coaches including John Lucas and Jeff Hornacek as well, meaning Houston want to continue to win and factor in the West.
4. The Offseason Acquisitions Of Chris Wood And DeMarcus Cousins
The Rockets are not going small ball all the time, which is a blessing for the franchise. Small-ball worked at times, but not all the time. Houston was hell-bent on employing a micro lineup that would get destroyed by bigger teams such as the Lakers. We saw how Houston even struggled against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of last year's Playoffs, barely scraping by. Commitment to fielding smaller players in the NBA doesn't make sense all the time because it is a tall person's league after all.
The Rockets regroup with Chris Wood and DeMarcus Cousins. Wood is a budding star who is one of the most promising forwards in the NBA, while Cousins was a former All-Star in his own right. These types of talented and skilled bigs mean Houston can diversify their offense with quality big men, who can actually score better than the likes of former starting center Clint Capela.
3. The Supporting Cast Are Still There
Much has been made of the Houston Rockets imploding, but the core of the team is still intact. P.J. Tucker is one of the best 3-and-D forwards in the NBA who loves being in Houston, although his contract situation needs to be sorted out. Danuel House is a large forward who is very athletic and can shoot the ball well from deep (36.9%). Eric Gordon, a former 6th Man of the Year, is still on the squad also and averaged 14.4 PPG as the third option for the Rockets last season.
Houston aren't going to blow it up completely just yet, even with the loss of backup point guard Austin Rivers. Ben McLemore and Gerald Green can come in for instant offense, and the additions of Chris Wood and DeMarcus Cousins boosts the depth chart tremendously. It remains to be seen what Houston does with Russell Westbrook, but if he stays or if they trade him for assets, the Rockets can have even more depth on their team.
2. The Beard Is Still The Best Scorer In The League
As it stands, James Harden is going nowhere. He declined a 2-year, $103 million extension which is an unbelievable amount of money. But Harden is still under contract for the Rockets and there is no reason for him to pull an "Anthony Davis" to sulk his way to a trade elsewhere. The Rockets have done everything to help Harden win, and the least he can do is suit up and get on the court. When Harden does play, he is the best scorer in the NBA.
The Beard won his 3rd scoring title last season after averaging 34.3 PPG for the Rockets. We saw how teams scrambled to throw multiple defenders at James to slow him down. As long as Harden is on the court, the Rockets are title contenders and that bodes well for Houston who have Chris Wood and DeMarcus Cousins to help him as well.
1. The Los Angeles Lakers Are There For The Challenge
The Western Conference has a scary team for sure, and that is the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest of the West...is there for the taking. The Clippers are a great team of course thanks to Kawhi Leonard, and the Nuggets have two All-Stars and a great supporting cast. But there is no reason why the Rockets should blow it up when they have a superstar like James Harden, a young intelligent coach, and two excellent big men on the roster. Houston can be right in the mix because anything can happen.
LeBron James is also getting older and just might start to slow down (even though he continues to defy human nature) so the window is also open for Houston and James Harden. The Rockets can legitimately field one of the best 4 teams in the West yet again and anything can happen in the postseason. Championships always need a bit of luck and it might just fall Houston's way if they continue fighting to build a championship squad.