Houston and Golden State: Can the Rockets Take Off and Ground the Champion Warriors?
This past offseason was huge for the Houston Rockets as they made one of the biggest trades of the year to get Chris Paul, veteran point guard of the Los Angeles Clippers. Paul, having long since decided his time was up with the Clippers (see Twitter for recent news of the Clippers/Paul beef), was traded to the Rockets before going into free agency. The Rockets dealt Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, and a slew of other players for CP3.
This gives the Rockets arguably the best backcourt in the league and shifts them right into gear to challenge the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The question everyone wants answered is if Houston can beat the Warriors in a 7-game series. And the answer is yes — although it won’t be easy. Houston would have to play hard and aggressive every single game. But looking at a few player comparisons, they seem to have the best shot out of any team in the league currently (except for maybe the San Antonio Spurs).
While Patrick Beverley could hold his own against Steph Curry on the defensive end, his offensive talents are nowhere near those of Chris Paul. Not to mention that Chris Paul is himself an amazing defender as well. He can legitimately match up neck-and-neck with Curry every day of the week. Klay Thompson is a great player and will showcase his typically great effort guarding James Harden, but on the offensive side of the ball Harden is unmatched and Thompson will not be able to keep up most nights. With that being said, Houston should have a more effective backcourt come playoffs once their chemistry has reached its full potential.
Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza are not exactly Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, but they have shown that they can be excellent role-players. While not as talented as the forwards of Golden State, they still know how to play their part within Houston’s system alongside the star power of Paul and Harden and should prove to be more effective down the stretch than most people realize, even against a player with the caliber of Durant. We cannot forget about Eric Gordon as well. He’s the reigning 6th Man of the Year for a reason. Having a player with his shooting and playmaking abilities off the bench gives the Rockets an extra, much-needed push for big games in the playoffs.
The one thing a lot of people forget is the big man situation in this matchup. This is the secret weapon Houston can utilize time and time again when facing the Warriors. While the Rockets were finalizing for Chris Paul, the other big piece to their progression comes in the form of Clint Capela. Drafted in 2014, Clint Capela is one of the better big men in the league and to top it off, he’s young. Not many good centers in the league right now are below the age of 25. More importantly Capela can and will prove that a good center gives you a distinct advantage in matchups. There would be no discussion of Golden State winning or losing if they had Clint Capela instead of Zaza Pachulia. That’s the one thing missing that would put the Warriors on another level. With Clint Capela down underneath the basket against Pachulia, the Rockets are likely to have better defense around the rim and better offensive performances from the frontcourt side of things.
One last piece of the puzzle is coaching. Houston coach Mike D’antoni is reigning Coach of the Year and while Steve Kerr is an excellent coach as well, D’Antoni will be smart with making counter adjustments and new lineups and should be able to make good plays for even better results with the players he has on his team.
The Warriors may be the favorites to go to a 4th straight NBA Finals, but I wouldn’t be so quick to count out the Houston Rockets, with the addition of Chris Paul and the progression of their players. As the season goes on the chemistry will come into fruition and Golden State could be looking at some stiff competition come May.