The 2017-18 Regular Season saw the Houston Rockets win 65 games, the most ever in franchise history.
Despite the record wins and deep playoff run, the Rockets made a significant amount of change in the offseason. Despite the change in roster, the goal has remained the same and the Rockets are motivated to run it back.
By now, most people have heard of the changes made by the Rockets.
These new teammates will be joining a group of players who were one win away from the NBA Finals and whom all believe that they were a hamstring away from winning it all.
Success for this year
Now the Rockets from a year ago have certainly set the bar high, but success for this year’s Rockets team does not necessarily mean matching or breaking last year’s total wins record.
It took the Rockets 24 years to break the previous record in most franchise wins in a regular season, which was 58 before last season. Success for this year’s Rockets team means once again finishing the regular season with the number one overall record in the Western Conference.
The Rockets know how critical it is to have home court throughout the playoffs, and of course, ultimately prefer to have any winner take all Game 7’s be in Houston rather than in Oakland or anywhere else if needed.
Next: In the preseason
In the preseason…
So far in the preseason, this Rockets team has shown that they will not struggle to score during games. They have so many offensive weapons that on any given night there will likely be someone who will have the hot hand if not multiple players who have the hot hand.
As for the defensive side of the ball, the Rockets should still be solid against most teams in the NBA. James Ennis has shown exactly why the Rockets brought him in during the summer so far in the preseason as he has excelled in creating turnovers and converting them into fast break points.
Melo and Tucker
Carmelo Anthony has shown that he is not terrible at defense, in fact, he is more than capable of holding his own as in the preseason he has done a good job when matched up against bigs such as Marc Gasol, and he has also been great at rebounding the ball.
P.J. Tucker has only played in a couple of games this preseason, but Tucker has been spectacular shooting 3s in those games (47% 3-pt FG) and has began expanding his range beyond the corners as he has also drained a couple of 3s from the wings as well.
Gordon and Paul
Eric Gordon has been sharp in the few games he has played in too. He has been doing what has always made him a great fit with the Rockets, shoot 3s and drive and slash.
Chris Paul looked to be in Western Conference Finals mode during the first preseason game, and knows that this team is capable of doing something special. He has already made Carmelo Anthony’s life so much easier, setting him up in perfect spots, to the point where Carmelo Anthony already looks to be comfortable with the team. He is always ready to catch and shoot.
Capela and Harden
Clint Capela has suffered an injury in the preseason but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. For the most part, Capela’s role will not change, and the Rockets know what to expect, great defense, and then on the offensive side of the ball, run the pick and roll and catch lobs.
James Harden, last season’s MVP, looks stronger and better than last year, which sounds impossible, but somehow it is true. Harden has been his self: throwing perfect alley-oops, hitting step back 3s, running the transition and has even already broken the internet with a new move he unleashed against the Shanghai Sharks. James Harden is primed once again to make another run at a MVP.
Next: Others in the preseason
Others in the preseason
As for a few of the other Rockets, Brandon Knight has yet to play due to injury, and even when he does get healthy, it will be hard to see him get much playing time barring injury. Marquesse Chriss has struggled in the preseason but would see limited minutes anyway.
Isaiah Hartenstein has looked good on offense and has even outplayed Chriss a little bit, catching alley-oops and even shooting 3s. Hartenstein looks more comfortable playing with the Rockets.
Zhou Qi has put on a bit more muscle but suffered a knee sprain against the Sharks so has not really played much. He will likely play most of his minutes in the G-League for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
The biggest surprise for the Rocket so far, has without a doubt been Michael Carter-Williams. Despite not making a single 3-pointer for Houston in the preseason, Carter-Williams has looked strong coming off the bench as he has really just been a strong slasher and has been getting to the free throw line often.
Carter-Williams’s length also makes him a strong defender, and by his play so far, has likely earned a healthy amount of minutes into the rotation. A good comparison that could be made of Carter-Williams is Shaun Livingston. Livingston does not shoot many 3s but is his length and ability to score in the mid range and drive make him an essential part of the Warriors bench. If Carter-Williams can keep this level of play up, he could play that role for Houston
Next: Cast the doubts aside
Cast the doubt aside
Ultimately, many people are not confident with the Rockets going into the season, but those doubts will quickly be cast aside once the season begins.
Will the Rockets win 65 games again? Likely not, but that is not the goal for this team. The goal for this team is to win the number one seed in the Western Conference. Mike D’antoni is not a coach who often rests his players, and if they are healthy, they will play.
Golden State, whom are who the Rockets will likely be competing for the one seed, has shown that they are more willing to cruise through the regular season and make sure they are prepared for the playoffs.
The predictions for this season are that both Golden State and Houston will win 60 games. Houston edges out the Warriors towards the end of the season because of Golden State’s tendency to rest their stars at the end of the year and as mentioned, D’antoni does not.
The Rockets at worse will win 58 games and at most could tie their franchise record from a year ago. The biggest domino that will determine the final records will be the one seed, once the one seed is settled, the Rockets will begin to rest, so that may take away a few wins towards the end the season if the seeding is determined in early April or sooner.
At the end of the day, barring injury, the Rockets are still better than about 85% of the league based off of raw talent alone, so there will be long stretches when Houston racks up many wins at once, probably when they go on an Eastern Conference road trip.
Prediction: Houston Rockets (62-20) #1 seed.