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How Rockets Could Contend for Title in 2019

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The Houston Rockets have made the playoffs every year since acquiring James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012. Though they have yet to make an NBA Finals appearance, the Rockets are once again in the mix as contenders in the Western Conference.

Much like the other Western Conference teams, the Rockets kept running into the Golden State Warriors, blowing another 3-2 lead in last June’s Western Semifinals. While most teams throw away the coach, star player and gameplan, Houston GM Daryl Morey managed to move pieces around to find that perfect fit.

Throughout Morey’s tender as Rockets GM, “perfect fit” has not always been the culture surrounding the Rockets roster compilation. The Rockets made another move this past offseason by dealing Chris Paul to Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook, to change the alleged tension between Paul and Harden seen during the playoffs.

In the summer of 2018, the Rockets allowed Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute to walk in free agency. Though Ariza struggled on losing teams with the Phoenix Suns and the Washington Wizards, he was a key contributor for the Rockets. Likewise, Mbah a Moute did not see much of the court as he struggled with knee injuries. Shelling out extensions to veteran role players over 30 had not been the mantra of Morey, but under new owner Tillman Fertitta, he needed to adapt.

With the four-year extension of Eric Gordon, totaling $54M over three years and a heavy incentive laden fourth year, the Rockets have decided to keep their older core together. Gordon was outstanding in last year’s playoffs and was seemingly their second-best player next to Harden. His shooting and ability to either come off the bench or start was invaluable to the team’s success. Some could say this is an overpay by the Rockets for a player going on 31 in December, but having a player of Gordon’s stature and dependability is similar to the Los Angeles Clippers holding onto Lou Williams.

Keeping with consistency, the Rockets have also elected to retain Mike D’Antoni on as head coach for this upcoming season. Can the Rockets evolve their offensive strategy with the addition of Russell Westbrook? No matter what players the Rockets front office have added, D’Antoni and his staff have implored offensive and defensive strategies that have brought them success during the regular and postseasons.

We don’t know if they will stay iso-heavy with Harden and Westbrook. However, we do know they will continue to shoot threes, layups, and continue to switch on defense. The West has improved, but the Rockets are looking to stay consistent with their own process. This could be the season when everything falls in favor for the Houston Rockets.

Photo Credit: JCF PHOTOS

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