With the schedule release for the 2019-2020 season, the one question that comes to the fore front for many Rockets fans around the country is, “How far can my team go, as currently constructed?”
Can you smell that Rockets fans? Yes, that is correct. With the 2019-2020 NBA schedule release, the season is right around the corner. While a ton of fans start to think about what games they distinguish as “must watch“ for their respective teams, my mind went somewhere else. The question at the forefront of my mind is, “Honestly, how far can this Rockets team go this season?”
I would be lying if I told you that I was not accused of being a “homer” Rockets fan before, and refusing to taking my homer glasses off when discussing various Rockets’ topics. For the duration of this article, my homer glasses will be taken off.
If you examine rosters around the league, the Rockets are one of only a few teams that have multiple (HEALTHY) superstars for this upcoming season. The Rockets have themselves two former MVPs in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. In today’s NBA, and to be a title contender, having multiple super stars is almost a necessity (unless you are the Raptors of 2018-2019 and play in a weak Eastern Conference). Let us not forget emerging Center Clint Capela, one of the toughest defenders in the league in P.J. Tucker, and an intriguing young player in Danuel House Jr. As it pertains to Rockets starting 5, they are certainly talented enough to be in the conversation of having one of the best starting lineups in the league.
What was something that the Toronto Raptors had that helped them win the Championship last season? That thing would be really solid bench play, with multiple guys that they could count on for contributions. One criticism of Coach Mike D’Antoni would be his reluctance to go deep into his bench, due to his lack of confidence in certain players. The Rockets’ bench for the 2019-2020 season would be Eric Gordon, Ben McLemore, Austin Rivers, Tyson Chandler, Gerald Green, Gary Clark, and Isiah Hartenstein. If McLemore can elevate his game, and if Tyson Chandler does not let father time slow him down, this bench has the ability to be one of the better bench units in the league. With Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers in the last year of their respective deals, they will certainly try to play to their best ability, and they could be a game changer for the Rockets and their title aspirations.
One last thing to consider for next season: With the Golden State Warriors losing Kevin Durant and having Klay Thompson out for an extended period of time, the league is considered “wide open” for the first time in a long time. If the Rockets stood pat with their roster from last season, could they have been a contender for the title this season? The answer to that question is: Maybe.
However, when you look at other teams around the league and how they improved their rosters, they simply could not afford to stand pat. The Lakers added Anthony Davis. The Clippers added Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. The Jazz added Mike Conley Jr. I applaud Daryl Morey and company on recognizing these acquisitions, and swinging for the fences with the addition of Russell Westbrook. For this move, the conclusion of the Rockets being a title contender can easily be drawn.
In conclusion, this is going to be heck of a year for the NBA. For the first time in a long time, there are going to be a plethora of regular season games that fans cannot wait to turn into. This interest and intrigue is only going to ramp up come playoff time. In a league driven by superstars, the Rockets should consider themselves lucky that they have two locked up for multiple years moving forward. If Harden and Westbrook can co-exist together on the court, and get their teammates involved consistently, the sky is the limit for this upcoming season. They are every bit of a title contender as any other team in the league.
Now and Forever… GO ROCKETS!!!