With the Houston Rockets having fallen short of the championship during the 2019-20 season, the national media has already given up on the Rockets’ superstar pairing.
The Houston Rockets entered the 2019-20 season with significant changes, as they parted ways with Chris Paul, who nearly helped spear the Rockets to the NBA Finals during the 2017-18 season. Paul was unable to perform at the same level during the 2018-19 season, and reports of friction between him and James Harden prompted Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Rockets replaced Paul with Russell Westbrook, who isn’t known to be as efficient of a 3-point shooter as Paul, meaning there would surely be an adjustment period. The Rockets got off to a 29-18 start through February 4th, which was Clint Capela’s last game with the team. Capela missed the next three games and was eventually dealt to the Atlanta Hawks, in a deal that brought Robert Covington to the Space City.
During the 2019-20 season, the Rockets went 22-11 in games in which they were without Capela, and they got elite-level play from Russell Westbrook in Capela’s absence. In spite of that, many in the national media believe Westbrook and Harden aren’t capable of co-existing, case in point Mitch Lawrence, who stated his case on Sirius XM’s The Starting Lineup with Frank Isola.
NBA analyst says Houston Rockets are doomed with Westbrook, Harden
“It doesn’t look like a good fit, does it? Russell Westbrook and James Harden? Where is that team going anyways? Too much unsettled stuff within a franchise.
How are they going to make moves with that roster? They’re kind of locked in in alot of ways. Was it really the best idea trading Clint Capela? They don’t have rim protection, they don’t have a defensive rebounder, where are you going?”
Covington, who became the rim protector for the team, as he averaged 2.2 blocks throughout his 22 games with the team. What’s interesting about Lawrence’s remarks is that Covington averaged more blocks than Capela ever posted, which was the irony of the narrative of the Rockets not having a rim protector.
The Rockets certainly regressed in terms of defensive rebounding, as they were essentially dominated on the boards on a nightly basis. But what hasn’t been discussed enough is the fact that Westbrook and Harden were both All-Stars and each made the All-NBA team in their first season together in Houston.
We can only expect them to develop more cohesiveness and team chemistry in year two, as more time will certainly yield better play. In addition, Westbrook battled injuries throughout the postseason, as he suffered from lingering quadriceps issues, which played a part in the Rockets’ postseason fate.
The Rockets are certainly hamstrung financially, which would seem to limit their options as it pertains to adding to the roster, but considering how Westbrook and Harden will be in their second season in Houston, the proposition isn’t exactly all bad. Especially considering how the Rockets finished with the fourth-best record in the Western Conference this past season.