No. 2: 2019-20 Houston Rockets
This season is still ongoing due to the long hiatus, but the team that the Rockets have built this year looks very promising. The Rockets were able to trade Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for another star point guard in Russell Westbrook in the offseason. They started the season off with a big three of Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Clint Capela.
The Rockets, however, broke up that core when they made a drastic switch midseason to small-ball by trading Capela to the Atlanta Hawks in a three-team trade to acquire Robert Covington.
The Rockets playstyle then changed overnight into a fast-paced, 3-point shooting style with wing defenders that can be thrown around anywhere on the floor. They gave up size for speed and shooting, and it looked like the switch was working to perfection.
Best assist of the year so far, Y or N? pic.twitter.com/tncKkdrlah
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) July 11, 2020
Before the hiatus, the Rockets hit a rough patch but still ended up with a 40-24 record and tied for the fifth seed. Due to the small sample size and the season not being finished, this team is currently ranked number two on this list, but this very well could change if the Rockets can make the Finals when the NBA restarts.
No. 1: 2017-18 Houston Rockets
This team was the one that was so close but just couldn’t get the job done. Unfortunate events stopped this team from becoming, potentially, the NBA champions.
The Rockets started the offseason by making a blockbuster deal to the LA Clippers, acquiring star point guard Chris Paul in exchange for a package deal of players and picks. The Rockets then had a strong core of James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela.
Houston seemed unstoppable in the regular season. When Chris Paul, James Harden, and Clint Capela all played together and were healthy, the Rockets went 50-5 with a +11.1 point differential. It looked as if no one would be able to beat this squad, including the Warriors.
— NBA (@NBA) December 16, 2017
The Rockets ended the year with a 65-17 record and obtained the number one seed in the West. Houston steamrolled past the first two rounds of the playoffs and ended up reaching the Conference Finals. They were then matched up against their biggest rivals, the Warriors.
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Through the first five games of the series, it looked like the Rockets were going to take it all, but then disaster struck. Chris Paul hurt his hamstring at the end of Game 5, but the Rockets still ended up winning.
The Rockets were then up 3-2 in the series and needed to win of the last two games in the series to finally make it back to the NBA Finals.
Losing Chris Paul was huge because he was the guy who would keep the Rockets grounded when the had a big lead and would make a pivotal bucket to end the Warriors’ many runs.
Even without Paul, the Rockets still had their chances. In fact, they were up double digits in Game 7 at halftime, but not having Chris Paul out there to close games out and to stop the Warriors’ runs made it difficult for the Rockets to pull away completely.
The Rockets then went on to lose the series in seven games, and just missed out on facing the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA crown. To this day, Rockets fans and NBA fans in general strongly believe that the Rockets were a hamstring injury away from a Finals appearance and potential NBA title.