A panel of ESPN experts picked the Houston Rockets to be the team with the most turmoil this season. Here’s why they were entirely wrong in making this prediction!
Every year there are pre-season projections, some of which are understandable and some of them will cause you to do a double take. The Rockets are always on the end of the national hate, and are either overlooked or are picked to be the favorites in a not so good way. The recent ESPN panel predictions was definitely the latter, as they wrongly picked James Harden to be ninth most likely player to win the MVP.
What got lost in those pre-season rankings was the other pick involving the Rockets, as ESPN picked them to be the team with the most turmoil. This is not to say the Rockets won’t have turmoil, because any championship contender will face turmoil. But the MOST turmoil in the league? I’m not sure I follow that prediction at all. I don’t see how the Lakers, Knicks and Wizards aren’t ranked higher than the Rockets in this department.
For starters, the Rockets have 2 unaddressed situations going into the season, which are coach Mike D’Antoni‘s contract situation and P.J. Tucker‘s desire for a contract extension (subscription required).
D’Antoni’s negotiations are going to continue, which is why I think his extension is likely to happen before the end of the season, but either way he’s not going to allow that to impact the team this year. That could obviously hinder the team’s success if he allows it to become a distraction, and that would prevent his new deal from taking place, which is also why he won’t let it affect the team.
P.J. Tucker’s extension I think has a greater chance to become a bigger problem than D’Antoni’s, and I don’t even think that will become a distraction. Tucker is a team player and also won’t allow that to become a distraction in the locker room either, as he knows the Rockets will need him this year and have a golden opportunity to win a championship.
Aside from that, there isn’t anything else that could become turmoil going into the season. ESPN made mention of the Westbrook acquisition when listing the Rockets as the favorite in this category, but that is certainly not going to be cause for turmoil. Westbrook knows this Rockets team is likely his best/last opportunity for a legitimate championship and he is the ultimate team player, not to mention the fact that he actually wanted to join forces with James Harden. This is why I think ESPN is completely wrong in picking the Rockets as the favorite in this category.
The Knicks are a dumpster fire who just swung and missed on all of the big stars they were after and were forced to settle for B-level players despite playing in the biggest media market in America. When they hired coach David Fizdale, it was believed that his reputation as a player’s coach would help increase their chances of landing a star player. Will they keep him despite missing out on EVERY star player?
This will be their first full season after trading away their recent All-Star in Kristaps Porzingis, who could have helped them land more starpower had they have kept him. They didn’t even get back an All-Star in return for Porzingis, making the trade even more questionable! They also missed out on Zion Williamson in the draft lottery, leaving many fans unhappy, although the Knicks couldn’t control this. Speaking of the fans, they are even clamoring for owner James Dolan to sell the team!
Considering all that the Knicks have going on, how could they not be listed higher than the Rockets?
The Lakers play in the other largest media market and have superstar LeBron James, who always naturally brings the cameras and the limelight. While the media can provide great press, they will oftentimes turn on you as well.
The Lakers’ front office issues came to surface with the departure of Magic Johnson and even more so with his tell all interview with Stephen A. Smith of First Take. The team decided not to replace Magic but to instead expand Rob Pelinka’s responsibility’s into Johnson’s old role, who was the cause of the issues according to Magic. Not only that, but the newly acquired Anthony Davis hasn’t been willing to commit long-term to the team either, which has to be concerning considering how much they gave up for him.
Then there’s the coach situation, as the Lakers ended up hiring Frank Vogel who they didn’t really want. They weren’t able to come to terms with Tyronn Lue and missed out on Monty Williams, who they were also pursuing. They even hired Jason Kidd to be Vogel’s lead assistant, without allowing Vogel to hire his own lead assistant. How will Vogel feel about having a guy he didn’t want?
Then there are the Wizards, who ended up having to settle for Tommy Sheppard as their General Manager, as they were turned down by Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors, despite making a prolific offer to Ujiri.
Not only did they miss out on Ujiri, but they also missed out on Tim Connelly of the Denver Nuggets, who was also one of their top targets. Maybe it’s just me, but I interpret this to mean they ended up hiring a guy they didn’t actually want. On top of that, they will have questions on All-Star Bradley Beal, who has yet to commit to signing an extension with the team. This will lead to speculation all year on whether they should trade him or not and if he will leave or not. Not only that, but what will they do about John Wall? Wall is likely to miss the entire season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon (subscription required), but is signed to a super-max deal. How will Wall be upon returning, considering the fact that his quickness and speed has been his biggest strength? Will they try to trade him? If so, what will they get back?
Then there’s the question of whether Wall and Beal would even be enough to win the Eastern Conference, if they had them both long-term.
This is why I think ESPN was entirely wrong in picking the Rockets as the team with the most turmoil, as the Knicks, Wizards AND the Lakers are in much worse shape than the Rockets are already and the season hasn’t even started yet!