ESPN has picked the Hoston Rockets to win 53 games and finish third in the Western Conference. Here’s why I think that’s far too low!
I’ve been doing a series on the ESPN NBA pre-season predictions, as I’ve discussed the MVP rankings which don’t include Russell Westbrook at all. That piece was actually a follow up to the story our own Tevin Williams wrote regarding how the same experts disrespected James Harden, listing him as 9th most likely to win the MVP Award. I’ve also discussed how the Houston Rockets were picked as the team most likely to have the most turmoil, and also wrote about how the Rockets have oddly been picked as the 6th most likely to win the title next season.
The next prediction ESPN made is regarding the Houston Rockets’ projected win total and finish in the Western Conference, as they’ve picked the Rockets to win 53 games and finish 3rd in the West. It’s worth noting that the Rockets have gone 173-73 in Mike D’Antoni‘s tenure as head coach, which is an average of 57.6 wins per year. ESPN is obviously picking the Rockets to win less games than that. In addition, they won 53 games last season and DEFINITELY got better in the off-season so doesn’t this number seem a bit low?
Based on the Rockets’ schedule, I’ve got them picked to win 60 games and go 60-22. ESPN’s conference ranking is also interesting, as ESPN picks the Rockets to finish third in the West behind the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers. But the Rockets finished first in the West two seasons ago and were in position to finish second in the West last season entering the last game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
I’m not sure I believe the Denver Nuggets will finish ahead of the Rockets, especially based on each team’s off-season moves. The Nuggets certainly didn’t add any significant pieces, but instead re-signed 34-year-old Paul Millsap. In addition, they were expecting to get former first round pick Michael Porter Jr back from injury this season, however he suffered another setback this off-season, further delaying his return.
I personally don’t expect the Houston Rockets to finish any lower than the second seed and would actually be picking them to finish atop the Western Conference. What I will commend ESPN for however, is their persistent Rockets hate, as they’ve been very consistent in that category, even if each prediction has been flawed and inaccurate.