Former Houston Rockets star thinks team missed their title window

Could the Houston Rockets have won a title if Chris Paul hadn't been hurt?
Could the Houston Rockets have won a title if Chris Paul hadn't been hurt? / Tim Warner/GettyImages

The 2017-18 Houston Rockets.

Pain. Pleasure. A total of 65 wins and just 17 losses.

Twenty-seven missed threes. Heartbreak. Chris Paul's hamstring. Suffering.

Could the Rockets have won it all if Paul had been healthy?

Former Houston Rockets wing thinks Rockets missed opportunity

Trevor Ariza thinks so.

Let's be honest - Ariza has to say this. He's not going to tell anybody that the Rockets would have lost with a healthy Paul.

With that said, he might have a point.

Houston Rockets had strong title chances before Paul's injury

Let's talk about the 2017-18 Houston Rockets

They had the best Offensive Rating in the NBA (114.7) and the sixth-best Defensive Rating (106.1). That made for the best Net Rating in the NBA (+8.7).

They were the best team in the NBA.

Like the current NBA Finalist Dallas Mavericks, the Rockets built their offense around their backcourt, and their defense around their frontcourt. This team was built to beat the Warriors with a switch-everything defense. Clint Capela could survive in space, and if he was getting cooked, the Rockets could go small.

Offensively, Harden was the system - at least, most of the time. His astronomical usage rates changed basketball, but no man is an island. When Harden needed a rest, Paul took over.

It changes the Rockets' entire dynamic. When Harden was running the offense, the Rockets were a metrics-driven marvel. Almost every field goal attempt was a dunk or a three.

That was an offensive system with a tremendously high ceiling. It also, at times, hit a low floor. When those threes weren't dropping, the Rockets' system tended to collapse.

That's why Paul was the perfect fit. When Harden's approach was faltering, Paul would run a throw-back pick-and-roll. By probing the defense until he was able to either find his patented mid-range or an open teammate, Paul was a safety valve.

Without him, the Rockets only had one approach.

Who knows what Houston Rockets could have done

That's not to say the Rockets would have won with Paul.

Sure, they were up 3-2 against the Warriors when Paul got injured. They still had to vanquish LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Finals if they got to the Finals. We'll never know what might have happened.

Still, Ariza has a pretty good feeling.