2018-2019 Off the Glass Team Preview Series: Houston Rockets
The 2018-2019 NBA season starts October 16th and to get you ready for tip-off, Off the Glass is previewing all 30 teams. Today we look at the Houston Rockets.
65-17, 1st in Southwest Division. Lost 3-4 in Western Conference Finals.
James Harden earned regular season MVP honors with his league-high 36 percent usage rate averaging 30.4 points per game, 5.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists in Houston’s iso-heavy spread offense. Twice the Rockets won the battle but lost the war against the Warriors with wins in both the season opener and game 5 of the Western Conference but lost Chris Paul to injury in the process. The first injury left the Harden Paul backcourt question up in the air longer than ended up needing justification and the second cost them a genuine shot at a Finals berth. Their 65 wins and maniacal fifty percent of attempts coming from three point land spelt further change for a copycat league.
Trevor Ariza, F. Luc Mbah a Moute, F.
James Ennis, F. Carmelo Anthony, F. Marquese Chriss, C. Brandon Knight, G.
Player to Watch:
When the Ryan Anderson trade was made it felt as if a second Daryl Morey genius move was imminent. Anderson, while a complete negative against the Warriors, has become vastly underrated and can still stretch the floor well behind the three-point line and can eat up minutes over the course of a regular season. Carmelo will inherit his role with the option of expanding and continuing it into the postseason or face the same unplayable fate.
A tiny drop off on either Harden or Paul’s part could be compensated by Capela taking a step forward. Already a decent passer for a big and if he is able to make reads from the middle of the floor after catching the ball on the pick and roll then Houston’s percentages will take care of the rest. Houston is smartly not buying into the ‘everyone and anyone can shoot three-pointers’ idea that has been tossed around this preseason with surprising players like Andre Drummond and Javale McGee letting it fly from deep.
It is my belief that adding James Ennis will turn out to be one of the bigger steals of the offseason. The Rockets went 14-1 last year without Ariza, the lone loss being a last day throwaway game against the Kings. He was important to what the Rockets attempt to do each game but let’s not get carried away. As long as you have a crunch time lineup of Paul, Harden, Gordon, Tucker, and Capela you should feel confident down the stretch of any game.
Still, they simply may have not added enough and could run into some trouble attaining the same win total as teams catch up to their philosophy and less decide to tank. Sometimes being out that far ahead of the curve works against you as other teams learn from your mistakes while you live with them.
Worst Case Scenario:
The curve comes crashing down on them like a wave; the injury prone are injured, older veterans look old, and Harden makes up with Khloe. AAAAHHHHH!!
Best Case Scenario:
Harden improves for back to back MVPs. Morey navigates the buyout and trade market settling his championship roster in March instead of July. And just when everyone thought the Warriors were making basketball boring the Rockets math their way to a title.
63-19, 1st in the Southwest Division.