ESPN Picks the Houston Rockets as 6th Most Likely Team to Win Title

Houston Rockets (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

What is the likelihood that the Rockets win the championship this season? According to ESPN, they are sixth most likely team to bring home the title. Here’s why I disagree with this prediction!

With the NBA season set to officially begin this month, ESPN has been compiling their pre-season predictions. In unsurprising fashion, the Rockets don’t have any favorable picks, despite being on several lists. For starters, James Harden was picked 9th most likely to win the MVP, which was a list that didn’t include former MVP Russell Westbrook. In addition, the Rockets were oddly picked as the team with the most turmoil. The disrespect didn’t stop there, however.

The Rockets were ranked by ESPN as the 6th most likely team to win the title this season, ranking them behind the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, LA Lakers and Golden State Warriors. The Rockets placement on this list is quite amusing, especially considering the teams ranked ahead of them. What’s interesting is ESPN picks the Rockets to actually have a better record than the Lakers and Warriors during the regular season, so how can ESPN predict them to leapfrog the Rockets in the post-season? And what about the Denver Nuggets, who they pick to finish first in the West but leave off this title list entirely?

Even more, if the Bucks are the overwhelming favorite to win the East, why are the Sixers ranked one spot after them at third? Not only that, but the Sixers are surely going to have a worse record than the Rockets, as they’ve done in each of the last 2 seasons. Also, how could any reasonable mind pick the Warriors ahead of the Rockets THIS season? The Warriors obviously will be without sharpshooter Klay Thompson for a significant amount of the season and may very well end up having to shut him down depending on how the recovery goes. They’ve lost more depth with the departure of DeMarcus Cousins, who unfortunately sustained the same ACL tear as Thompson just months after playing in the NBA Finals.

The Rockets are fully healthy going into the season and made the necessary moves in hopes of beating the Warriors, which Daryl Morey once famously said was the ultimate goal.

I’m also not in agreement with the Lakers being ahead of the Rockets in this category, as they’ve proven themselves likely to self implode with the dysfunction in their front office. But even on the court, the Lakers don’t have much behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and due to the injury to the newly acquired DeMarcus Cousins, the Lakers may very well need Davis to play center, which he’s said he isn’t interested in doing. This leaves them with the newly signed Dwight Howard and the incumbent JaVale McGee as their only bigs, but Howard has a serious injury history and McGee can’t be counted on to play even 30 minutes per game. This is evidenced by the fact that McGee only played 22.3 minutes last season even without Howard being on the roster.

I personally don’t even agree with picking the Clippers ahead of the Rockets, as they’ll surely need time to learn how to integrate Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, in addition to the fact that each of them have an injury history. In fact, Paul George just had surgery this past off-season to repair a shoulder injury that plagued him last season. But despite these obstacles the Clippers could face, I’ll say it’s not unreasonable for them to win a title.

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In the same way, it’s also not unreasonable for the Rockets to win a title either, which is why I think they are picked significantly too low on ESPN’s list. I could understand them being picked third behind the Clippers and the Bucks (even though I would put them ahead of the Clips), but sixth is far too low.