Although the Houston Rockets possess one of the greatest scoring duos in NBA history, how much longer will they be title contenders?
The Houston Rockets have made the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons and have finished inside the top four in the Western Conference in five of the last seven seasons. All in all, the Rockets have made it past the first round in each of their last three seasons, and they appear primed to do the same this season if/when the playoffs start.
But how much longer will they have the window of opportunity, if they don’t win the title this season? Many don’t view the Rockets as legitimate contenders this season due to their sixth place finish in the West, even though they’ve had a great season in many respects.
Although the Houston Rockets have come very close to winning a championship fairly recently, it’s fair to raise the question of how much longer they’ll be viewed as contenders. James Harden is set to turn 31 in August and Russell Westbrook is already 31, even though neither player has shown any signs of slowing down.
But despite the fact that we’re still in the prime of The Beard and The Brodie’s career, we can’t expect this to continue much longer, as father time is undefeated. And with the Los Angeles Lakers and the LA Clippers having added young superstars to the fold, how much longer will the Rockets be able to compete in the West?
It’s something that Daryl Morey even spoke about during a recent appearance with ESPN’s Zach Lowe.
Frankly we’ve talked about this, like how long can our run last, where we are a legitimate title contender. Which I still believe we are and will be going forward. But the question often becomes, what’s going to be our best chance.
I always answer the same, and hopefully I’m wrong, but it’s always that moment that’s our best chance. In 2018 I said ‘I think this is our best moment.’ Last year we get to Game 6 with the Warriors, I think that was our best moment. Right now is our best moment.
This is alot to unpack but Morey’s point is valid: when it comes to assessing title chances, the best moment is in the present, as nothing in the future is guaranteed. There’s never any way of knowing whether a player will continue to perform at a high level in the future, especially as it pertains to Harden, as we’ve gotten nearly a decade of great play from The Beard.
And with the current landscape of the NBA, superstar players change uniforms more rapidly than ever before, which could make all the difference on a new team emerging and becoming a title contender. This is best explained by how the Lakers and Clippers weren’t even in the playoffs in recent memory and turned into the top two seeds in the Western Conference during the 2019-20 season.
And with the superteam Golden State Warriors being disbanded, this season was viewed as a golden opportunity (no pun intended) for the Rockets to snatch the reigns in the West. Speaking of the Warriors, they’ll certainly be back next season, as Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry will be fully healthy, and they’ll also have a top draft pick due to their 15-50 record this season.
In talking with Lowe, Morey later stated:
You get so many swings. I still think we have lots of good hacks at it, and lots of good solid opportunities at winning a title, but the moments you’re in right now are the most likely.
If we’re assessing how much longer the Houston Rockets’ window of opportunity will exist, it’s worth noting that Harden and Westbrook are under contract for three more years and they’ll be 34 and 35 years-old when their contracts are up. So if the Rockets expect to win a title with their current core, they’ll likely need to get it done within the next three years at least.
But no need to look ahead, Morey is right. The best moment is right now.