The start of training camp has arrived for the Houston Rockets, and for the first time in a long time the team has big aspirations. No more “just make the playoffs” or “potential 8th seed” coming from the lips of the media now; instead, it’s “Finals or Bust” for the franchise. So how did we get here? Well just add the biggest name in the free agent market since Lebron James in Dwight Howard to your team, along with superstar James Harden and there you have it. The Rockets were a 45-win team last season without Howard, and now with him being added to the equation, the question becomes: is the western conference for the Rockets to take?
Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Jeremy Lin pose for Houston Rockets media day (9-27-13)
While Houston did get better, so did other teams. The Los Angeles Clippers added shooting guard J.J. Redick, who quietly averaged 14.1 points and 3.8 assists for the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic last season, and veteran Jared Dudley, who averaged 10.9 points and 2.6 assists for the Phoenix Suns last season. Also let’s not forget about the moves that the Golden State Warriors made this off-season. The already stacked team were able to dump two over-payed veterans in Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedriņš to the Utah Jazz, and made cap room to sign covenant free agent Andre Igoudala.
Finals or Bust:
Is it “Finals or Bust” for the Rockets though? We have seen teams (Miami Heat) who have come together over a summer, commit to unselfishness and be successful their first season. Can the Rockets follow that same path though? Realistically, they have a legitimate chance to be a top 4 seed in the western conference this year (if they stay healthy), but where exactly do they finish? In the west, we’ve seen that seeding does not necessarily matter (ask last years 3rd seeded Denver Nuggets), anything can happen in the playoffs. However, you can not ignore the talent aspect that the Rockets have on their team, and with the spotlight from the national media now shining bright on Houston, the Rockets have to answer the bell.
The Western Conference Finals is a realistic ending for the Rockets. As stacked as the west is and has been for the last decade, the acquisition of Howard in the off-season simply is too big to ignore. The way he fits the system, the way he has gotten healthy, and the way he wants to prove everyone wrong is simply something you can not over look. The only team in the west that legitimately has a shot of taking the Rockets down are the Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 7 game series. Other than that, the team controls their own destiny.