The Houston Rockets are a little over three months removed from their Western Conference Finals appearance. That roster had the Golden State Warriors on the verge of elimination, yet their team now is very different.
There has been some controversy regarding the moves made by the Houston Rockets this off-season. And in a national sense there has been some agreement that the Rockets have weakened overall this summer. But is that really the case?
Current RosterChris PaulJames HardenClint CapelaP.J. TuckerCarmelo AnthonyEric GordonJames Ennis IIIBrandon KnightMarquese ChrissMichael Carter-WilliamsGerald GreenNeneZhou QiIsaiah HartensteinVincent EdwardsGary Clark
For a team that won 65 games a season ago and was one win away from going to the NBA Finals, not much of the core has changed. Four out of the five starters are still on the team, and not to diminish the role that Trevor Ariza played in the Rockets success a season ago, but if the Rockets had to lose one of their starters from last season, no doubt Ariza would be it.
Luc Mbah a Moute, Joe Johnson and Ryan Anderson have also departed from the team, yet once again the Rockets will certainly not lose any sleep from these losses. Mbah a Moute and Joe Johnson combined for a total of 11 points in the entire Western Conference Finals, and Ryan Anderson added a grand total of 0 points.
To replace these players, the Rockets have brought in Carmelo Anthony and James Ennis III. And turned Ryan Anderson into Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss.
Not to proclaim the Rockets acquisitions as All Stars, but certainly these new players will have the chance to make a bigger impact come playoff time. They certainly do not have a huge wall to climb to be more productive than their predecessors.
The biggest name is Carmelo Anthony, and Anthony has the toughest task when it comes into fitting in with the Rockets. Trevor Ariza was a much more important piece to the Rockets success, and despite having a terrible Game 7, his versatility on defense is what made him the most valuable.
Of course Ariza did not stop Kevin Durant in the Conference Finals, but he certainly did not hinder the Rockets from being able to switch everything on defense (unlike Anderson and Johnson, who were unable to defend smaller guards on the perimeter which made them practically unplayable).
Ariza was a perfect fit, but the Rockets will be counting on Capela and Tucker to be able aid Carmelo when other teams, specifically Golden State, try to switch and take advantage of him.
The additions of Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss also provide Houston with extra depth in positions they did not have last year. Knight coming off the bench, will get a chance to take his time to get back on the court as he is returning from his ACL injury, and when he does return could have a similar role as that of Eric Gordon.
As for Chriss, the Rockets can develop him to become another version of Clint Capela, and utilize him on the pick and roll and have him defend at a high level, which could finally give the Rockets a solid backup center as Nene is no longer an every night player, and even when he does play is much more limited in the things he can do.
The Rockets are certainly not 10 games worse, or even in some cases 18 games worse as being predicted and although getting back to 65 wins, which is now the franchise record in wins for a season by the Rockets, will be difficult, Houston’s new players have a greater chance at having more of an impact when the playoffs roll around.