Preseason Preview #3: Houston Rockets

Season Goal: Beat the Warriors

Despite coming within 1 game the Rockets failed their ultimate goal of last season, beating the Warriors. This team has been specifically created for the sole purpose of beating the Warriors. Although they lost some of their wing depth this offseason they managed to retain Chris Paul and Clint Capela, two huge factors of their success last year. Their loss of depth is concerning, but the Rockets still have the second best backcourt in the NBA and a very effective system. If Chris Paul stays healthy the entire postseason they will still have a great chance to be the team that takes down the Warriors. But, Paul’s postseason injuries are well documented and he is now 34, making that lofty goal look more like an elusive dream.

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Storylines:

The D’Antoni System

As the creator of the 7 seconds or less offense, Mike D’Antoni has proven himself as a skilled offensive-minded coach. This last season, the Rockets managed to snag the best record in the NBA and the highest offensive rating. Even though their defense was very good, their offense is what carried them to new heights. D’Antoni has instilled the belief that the only acceptable shots are 3-pointers and layups. The reason for his ideology is simple. Mid Range jump shots and post-ups are highly inefficient, so they should not be used. While this obviously isn’t true for every player, for example, LaMarcus Aldridge is highly efficient in the post, it is generally accurate. Although many people doubted it before, the Rockets success has proven that this offense can be effective.

The Rockets’ front office has worked very hard to build a perfect roster for D’Antoni’s system. Filling the roster with switchable guards and forwards along with an athletic rim running center like Capela is a great strategy. Generally, on offense Paul or Harden will get a screen from Capela, forcing a switch, then isolate on the opposing team’s center. Being two of the best ball handlers in the league, almost nobody can stay in front of Paul and Harden. Also, if teams decide to double team them, they can simply kick the ball to an open three-point shooter.

This offensive system seemed unbeatable for the majority of the season. Nobody was able to stop their offensive onslaught until Game 7 against Golden State. In case anybody forgot, that was the game where the Rockets infamously missed 27 threes in a row. Now, the coaching staff has to question was that a one-time anomaly or will this problem come up again? Given they kept together the core of the roster, it seems as if D’Antoni is sticking to his system and will try to dethrone the Warriors again this season.

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Depth Chart:

PG: Chris Paul, Brandon Knight, Michael Carter-Williams

SG: James Harden, Eric Gordon, Gerald Green

SF: PJ Tucker, James Ennis, Bruno Caboclo

PF: Carmelo Anthony, Marquese Chriss, Zhou Qi

C: Clint Capela, Nene, Isaiah Hartenstein

Salary Cap Situation:

~137M of ~101M cap committed

Expiring Deals: Carmelo Anthony, Gerald Green, Michael Carter-Williams, Bruno Caboclo

Bad Contracts: Brandon Knight (2 yrs, $30M)

*All salary data via sportrac*

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