Arrivals: Chris Paul, PJ Tucker, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Zhou Qi, Tim Quarterman, Tarik Black, Demetrius Jackson, Cameron Oliver
Departures: Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, Kyle Wiltjer
Daryl Morey has done it again. The Houston general manager swung a huge deal this offseason to bring in superstar point guard Chris Paul. He needed to sacrifice a handful of key pieces like Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, and Montrezl Harrell in a sign-and-trade with the Clippers, but it was a small price to pay to get a player of CP3’s caliber.
Meanwhile, Morey also helped make the Rockets better-equipped to face the Warriors by adding PJ Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. With those two joining Trevor Ariza, the Rockets now have a trio of versatile and capable defenders to throw at the Warriors’ talented wings in a potential playoff series.
The Rockets were also reportedly the frontrunners for Carmelo Anthony, but they couldn’t get a deal done and Melo eventually went to the Oklahoma City Thunder. But even without Anthony, the Rockets figure to have a team that can fully contend in the Western Conference.
Projected Depth Chart
C – Clint Capela / Nene / Chinanu Onuaku
PF – Ryan Anderson / Luc Richard Mbah a Moute / Tarik Black
SF – Trevor Ariza / PJ Tucker / Troy Williams
SG – James Harden / Eric Gordon
PG – Chris Paul / Isaiah Taylor / Bobby Brown
There may be doubts over how well Paul and Harden will play together, but even if they experience growing pains, it’s hard to see a scenario where the Rockets don’t have top offense.
Houston finished just behind the Warriors in offensive efficiency last season, and with Paul now on board, there’s just too much talent and too much three-point shooting on the roster for this team not to succeed on that end of the court.
One or both of Paul and Harden will be on the court virtually at all times and will be surrounded by capable shooters like Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, as well as a promising roll man in Clint Capela. If there’s a head coach that can make all those pieces work on offense, it’s Mike D’Antoni.
If Paul and Harden make it work, this might be one of the best offensive backcourts in recent memory. Both can do just about everything offensively and should take the pressure off of one another in terms of running the show.
Defense remains the big question mark for this Rockets team. They were a little below average in defensive efficiency last season, and that needs to improve in order for them to become true title contenders.
They were particularly bad at defending around the basket. While Capela is a promising, young shot-blocker, the Rockets still gave up nearly 70 percent shooting to opponents within three feet, the worst mark in the league. The Rockets looked to address the defense by bringing in Tucker and Mbah a Moute, but whether those moves are good enough to get them over the hump remains to be seen.
Backcourt depth could also be a bit of an issue, especially if either Harden or Paul goes down for an extended period. Paul is a particularly real injury risk, and with Isaiah Taylor and Bobby Brown behind them in the depth chart, the Rockets can’t afford to have him missing significant time.
Player to Watch – Chris Paul
Conventional wisdom says that putting together two players who dominate the ball as much as Paul and Harden isn’t an ideal fit. But Paul greenlit this move to the Rockets, and the onus will be just as much on him as it will be on Morey to make this move work.
It’s not as if Paul is incapable of adjusting and playing more off the ball. He’s a terrific shooter and should be able to knock down a fair share of open shots playing next to Harden, who can shred defenses with his drive-and-kick ability.
The question is whether Paul will be willing to give up control of a team for the first time in his career. Even though his legacy is somewhat at stake, it’s still not a surefire lock that he buys in.
Regardless of what happens, though, the Rockets will be one of the more fascinating teams to watch in the league because of that whole dynamic between Paul and Harden.
1 Oct 17, 2017 @ Golden State Warriors
2 Oct 18, 2017 @ Sacramento Kings
3 Oct 21, 2017 vs. Dallas Mavericks
4 Oct 23, 2017 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
5 Oct 25, 2017 @ Philadelphia 76ers
6 Oct 27, 2017 @ Charlotte Hornets
7 Oct 28, 2017 @ Memphis Grizzlies
8 Oct 30, 2017 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
9 Nov 1, 2017 @ New York Knicks
10 Nov 3, 2017 @ Atlanta Hawks
11 Nov 5, 2017 vs. Utah Jazz
12 Nov 9, 2017 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
13 Nov 11, 2017 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
14 Nov 12, 2017 @ Indiana Pacers
15 Nov 14, 2017 vs. Toronto Raptors
16 Nov 16, 2017 @ Phoenix Suns
17 Nov 18, 2017 @ Memphis Grizzlies
18 Nov 22, 2017 vs. Denver Nuggets
19 Nov 25, 2017 vs. New York Knicks
20 Nov 27, 2017 vs. Brooklyn Nets
21 Nov 29, 2017 vs. Indiana Pacers
22 Dec 3, 2017 @ Los Angeles Lakers
23 Dec 7, 2017 @ Utah Jazz
24 Dec 9, 2017 @ Portland Trail Blazers
25 Dec 11, 2017 vs. New Orleans Pelicans
26 Dec 13, 2017 vs. Charlotte Hornets
27 Dec 15, 2017 vs. San Antonio Spurs
28 Dec 16, 2017 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
29 Dec 18, 2017 vs. Utah Jazz
30 Dec 20, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
31 Dec 22, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
32 Dec 25, 2017 @ Oklahoma City Thunder
33 Dec 28, 2017 @ Boston Celtics
34 Dec 29, 2017 @ Washington Wizards
35 Dec 31, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
36 Jan 3, 2018 @ Orlando Magic
37 Jan 4, 2018 vs. Golden State Warriors
38 Jan 6, 2018 @ Detroit Pistons
39 Jan 8, 2018 @ Chicago Bulls
40 Jan 10, 2018 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
41 Jan 12, 2018 @ Phoenix Suns
42 Jan 15, 2018 @ Los Angeles Clippers
43 Jan 18, 2018 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
44 Jan 20, 2018 vs. Golden State Warriors
45 Jan 22, 2018 vs. Miami Heat
46 Jan 24, 2018 @ Dallas Mavericks
47 Jan 26, 2018 @ New Orleans Pelicans
48 Jan 28, 2018 vs. Phoenix Suns
49 Jan 30, 2018 vs. Orlando Magic
50 Feb 1, 2018 @ San Antonio Spurs
51 Feb 3, 2018 @ Cleveland Cavaliers
52 Feb 6, 2018 @ Brooklyn Nets
53 Feb 7, 2018 @ Miami Heat
54 Feb 9, 2018 vs. Denver Nuggets
55 Feb 11, 2018 vs. Dallas Mavericks
56 Feb 13, 2018 @ Minnesota Timberwolves
57 Feb 14, 2018 vs. Sacramento Kings
58 Feb 23, 2018 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
59 Feb 25, 2018 @ Denver Nuggets
60 Feb 26, 2018 @ Utah Jazz
61 Feb 28, 2018 @ Los Angeles Clippers
62 Mar 3, 2018 vs. Boston Celtics
63 Mar 6, 2018 @ Oklahoma City Thunder
64 Mar 7, 2018 @ Milwaukee Bucks
65 Mar 9, 2018 @ Toronto Raptors
66 Mar 11, 2018 @ Dallas Mavericks
67 Mar 12, 2018 vs. San Antonio Spurs
68 Mar 15, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
69 Mar 17, 2018 @ New Orleans Pelicans
70 Mar 18, 2018 @ Minnesota Timberwolves
71 Mar 20, 2018 @ Portland Trail Blazers
72 Mar 22, 2018 vs. Detroit Pistons
73 Mar 24, 2018 vs. New Orleans Pelicans
74 Mar 25, 2018 vs. Atlanta Hawks
75 Mar 27, 2018 vs. Chicago Bulls
76 Mar 30, 2018 vs. Phoenix Suns
77 Apr 1, 2018 @ San Antonio Spurs
78 Apr 3, 2018 vs. Washington Wizards
79 Apr 5, 2018 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
80 Apr 7, 2018 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
81 Apr 10, 2018 @ Los Angeles Lakers
82 Apr 11, 2018 @ Sacramento Kings
With all the talent at their disposal, the Rockets figure to be one of the two top challengers to the Warriors in the West. They clearly have the offensive capabilities, and the added defensive pieces they picked up could prove crucial.
Harden and Paul historically take the regular season seriously, so they likely finish second in the West with a 57-25 record.
However, the playoffs are another matter. If Paul and Harden don’t completely click, there’s still a chance they fall in the second round to the Spurs or Thunder. And even if they do click, the Warriors will be waiting in the conference finals, and they probably still come up short. Either way, a trip to the Finals doesn’t seem to be in the cards for Houston this season.
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