I wrote earlier this week about what I consider the Rockets’ biggest strength entering the season: the durability of their best players. That’s the advantage they have over their two main competitors in the Lakers and Clippers. But their other advantage over the Lakers is that they actually have a complete rotation entering the season, with essentially all of the major spots filled.
It’s funny because the Rockets basically are in the opposite situation as they were in last season before the opener. Last year, all of their best players were back, but they had to recreate their depth after losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. This year, they’ve swapped out #2 options after trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, but have maintained continuity in their supporting cast after resigning Danuel House Jr., Austin Rivers, and Gerald Green. I actually feel like the Rockets are in a much better place this year in that regard though you may recall that I didn’t think the team would really miss a beat after losing Ariza.
I had started writing this like a month ago and then decided I didn’t feel like finishing it and haven’t written anything since. But Kevin Pelton’s latest projections at ESPN.com, which have the Rockets finishing first in the West next season, reminded me that I had wanted to finish this particular post.
The reader raises an interesting point which I plan to address. But first, the matter of season predictions where we’ve, in recent weeks, seen betting and statistical models almost across the board hold the Rockets in very high regard while conventional wisdom has sort of treated them as an afterthought in the euphoria over the imminent relevance of both L.A. teams. Its interesting to me because Houston finishing first in the West should not really be a hot take. I personally have serious questions and concerns over what they can accomplish in the postseason but I’m expecting a pretty dominant regular season output. Really, the main barrier to 2017-2018’s glorious ceiling is the ridiculous parity out West. But the Rockets have depth, the return of their core components (with just Paul swapped out for Westbrook, of course), and most importantly, the expected health and availability of both superstars. None of the other contenders in the West can say the same.
In 2013, a young sharp shooting power forward
named Anthony Bennett from The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) was
drafted first by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After playing in 35 games for UNLV, he averaged 16.1 points per game on 53.3% shooting and 37.5% from deep. While he did suffer from a nagging shoulder injury during his lone collegiate year, there was solid belief among NBA scouts that he could be a very strong player in the professional league.