The Houston Rockets roster is pretty much set for Training Camp with possibly a few more tweaks to come. But how does this current roster stack up against two of the biggest foes in the Western Conference?
The Los Angeles Lakers were the team with the most buzz when NBA Free Agency began. Of course, the reason for this buzz was because they signed the best basketball player in the world, LeBron James.
But what do the Lakers free agency moves mean for the Rockets?
A more interesting regular season match up and a potential Conference Semifinals opponent.
The Lakers played the Rockets really well last season, and they only added LeBron James. They really should not be a huge threat to knock out the Rockets, at least not yet.
Yes the Lakers have LeBron James, and the Rockets do not have a lockdown defender who will guard LeBron on every play, but that is fine because the Rockets have a multitude of bodies. Carmelo Anthony, James Ennis and P.J. Tucker will all get their crack at guarding LeBron, and while not one individual player can stop him, the cycle of defenders could be enough to slow LeBron down, or at very least make him work harder to score when he is constantly being guarded by different defenders.
The Rockets have a reigning MVP, a top 3 guard, an up and coming young center, a future Hall of Fame elite scorer, and a former Sixth Man of the Year.
And to add to all that, these Rockets as a collective unit have something that these Lakers will not have this entire season, experience.
The Lakers are talented and their young players will improve, but the Rockets are too talented and have too deep of a roster to fall to them.
The Lakers will be a legitimate threat, just not this season.
As for the Golden State Warriors. They too had the NBA world buzzing with excitement, disbelief, and anger this off-season. The Warriors shook up their roster by signing All Star Center DeMarcus Cousins.
What does this mean for the Rockets?
Well, no one knows.
DeMarcus Cousins is coming off an Achilles injury, which he suffered in January in a game against the Rockets.
This same injury cost Kobe Bryant a few more elite years that he had left in his career as he was never the same player after he returned. There have been many other players that have had that injury and were never able to return to the level of play they were at before.
So in theory, yes the Warriors did get better, but the reality is that it is not guaranteed.
What the Warriors acquisition means for the Rockets is that they could potentially have an advantage against Golden State.
If Cousins is a shell of his former self before the injury, that bodes well for Houston.
And even if Cousins comes back and plays at a similar level to how he was before his injury, there are still questions of whether he will fit in the Warriors offense, which is more of a fast paced offense that revolves around ball movement, in which Cousins will not be one of the primary focuses. Cousins has always been the first or second option throughout his entire career, so he will have to adjust to taking a backseat to other stars.
Now of course, the Warriors still have their “Big Four”, and the Rockets still have most of their lineup from last year.
When these two teams meet again in the regular season, and possibly again in the postseason, not much will change in how the teams play.
The Rockets will continue to switch everything on defense, and on offense will continue to isolate and try to expose mismatches to score.
Golden State of course will stick to their system, and similar to the Rockets will switch everything on defense.
There is no doubt that the biggest X-factors are Carmelo Anthony and DeMarcus Cousins.
Similar to how no one knows how Cousins will fit with Golden State when he returns, Carmelo Anthony has yet to take a dribble with the Rockets in a meaningful game, and therefore no one knows how he will fit. His last appearance on an NBA court was not one to remember, but as Carmelo has said himself, the whole situation in OKC was never right from the beginning.
This Rockets team is already looking ahead as seen in their recent trip to the Bahamas. They are certainly going to be very focused coming into the season after being so close in the Conference Finals. Houston has only one goal in mind; they want to run it back.