Can Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets challenge the Warriors?

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 25: Chris Paul
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 25: Chris Paul /

The Houston Rockets sent shock waves throughout the NBA after acquiring star point guard Chris Paul, but will he be enough to overcome the mighty Golden State Warriors?

The Houston Rockets took a massive step in the right direction last season.

James Harden finished second in MVP voting and led the NBA in assists. Eric Gordon won the Sixth Man of the Year Award and finished fourth in three-pointers made. Finally, the Rockets set a record for the most three pointers made in a season, with 1,181 triples in total.

In the offseason, Houston made moves for 9-time All-Star Chris Paul and defensive specialist P.J. Tucker. Adding more star power to a 55-win team puts Houston at eye-level with the San Antonio Spurs.

What about the Golden State Warriors? They’ve won two of the last three NBA championships and are the clear favorites heading into the 2017-18 season. Rockets GM Daryl Morey feels that Houston has closed the gap on Golden State, per the Houston Chronicle.

“They’re one of the best teams ever. We obviously felt we needed to close the gap. We felt we have closed the gap. They’re the ones with two rings in the last three years. You have to say they’re going to be the favorites going in.

Then Morey took it a step farther.

Our rotation … I’ll put that group up against anyone in the league.”

Indeed, the Rockets have definitely closed the gap on Golden State. They’ve added one of the best point guards to ever play the game of basketball in Chris Paul. He can score, facilitate, defend and is arguable the best leader in the NBA.

Can the the Rockets knock off Golden State?

Houston has closed the gap on Golden State, but they haven’t erased it. Not only do the Warriors possess the most star power in the NBA with four All-Stars, they’re also one of the deeper teams as well.

Kevin Durant took a $10 million pay-cut so that Golden State could keep its role players. The Warriors were able to re-sign Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston and add Nick Young and Omri Casspi to their already stacked roster. The Warriors are likely to duplicate or exceed their 67 wins from last season.

The Rockets are also likely to be a better team than last season, but I don’t think they can eliminate Golden State in the playoffs with their current roster. The Warriors have two of the top five players in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, and an additional two All-Stars behind them.

To win a championship in today’s NBA, three All-Stars are nearly a requirement, and so are talented wing players. With all of the other star wings around the league already signed or traded to a new team, the Rockets are left with Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo has said that he is willing to waive his no-trade clause to join either Houston or Cleveland. Anthony has the ability to score at will and the versatility to play either forward position. Acquiring Melo could put the Rockets firmly in the same category as Golden State and Cleveland.

Also, Houston needs to improve on their defense from last season. While Golden State finished second in the NBA in defensive rating, Houston lagged behind at 18th. Morey is aware of Houston’s biggest deficiency, and he hopes the acquisitions of Paul and Tucker can make a difference, per the Houston Chronicle.

“We’re trying to get our defense into the top 10. Obviously, our offense was historic. Getting Nene back, getting P.J. are two huge steps in that direction.”

The postseason is where great defense really shines. The pace of the game slows down, and they’re more half court possessions and less transition opportunities. The Rockets will have to commit themselves as a team to dig in defensively, because the old adage still reigns true. Defense wins championships.

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For the Rockets to win their first championship in over two decades, they will have to a third option and lock-in defensively.