Heading into our discussion about the Western Conference, our first team is a doozy. The Houston Rockets had what can only be described as a tumultuous off-season and it looks that will carry on into the season. Still, the team does have James Harden, so they cannot be overlooked whatsoever.
Things got off to a rocky start in Houston when Daryl Morey decided to skip town alongside Mike D’Antoni. The franchise decision-makers wanted to shake things up and it led to plenty of changes. With the departure of the head coach and general manager, Russell Westbrook and James Harden both showed a desire to leave as well. Westbrook ultimately got dealt while Harden remains a member of the Rockets. Russell landed in Washington as John Wall and a first-round pick was the best Houston could get for the former MVP. The trade raises serious concerns about the team and how competitive they will be. A lot of the Rocket’s success this season will depend on how healthy Wall is. He’s looked good in preseason, but there is a long way to go.
Other roster moves that should help Houston this season additions of Demarcus Cousins and Christian Wood. Wood has looked great in preseason and looks like he could be worth the money he got. What these two moves allow more so than anything is for P.J. Tucker to play his normal position. Tucker worked hard at being able to play the center spot last season, but he just can’t do it for a full season. Having these two big bodies brought in help give the Rockets a more well-rounded roster. One move that doesn’t look to be all that helpful was moving Robert Covington. He’s an excellent defender who can spread the floor; exactly what Houston relishes. They were able to extract a pair of first-round picks from Portland in the deal, which is good. The Rockets have very few draft assets, so being able to replenish that somewhat it helpful going forward.
There were a couple of other moves around the edges that could end up being impactful. Veteran journey-man Jeff Green parted ways with the team and landed in Brooklyn. Green doesn’t scream “major impact”, but he was a solid contributor last season and would’ve helped with the depth of the team. The other move worth mentioning is Houston’s draft selection. The team drafted son of former longtime NBA player Kenyon Martin, Kenyon Martin Jr.. Martin Jr. was eligible for the draft even though his most recent season was in high school, so there is plenty of intrigue given his young age. Kenyon is a superb athlete who has a long ways to go before being able to contribute. It was a second-round selection, so a swing-and-a-miss won’t be too bothersome.
This team looks very different from what it did a year ago, but there is one common denominator: James Harden. Harden is one of the most talented offensive players ever to play the game. No matter the roster built around him, he should be able to carry the team to a playoff berth. He has voiced how he wants out and there is some indication a deal could get done some time this season. That is why it is so hard to predict where this team finishes this season. If James remains on the team all season, they could be a shoe-in for the playoffs. If he ends up getting dealt, the team will more than likely not see the postseason. This year for the Rockets feel like it’ll be a disaster, but one you can’t help but watch it unfold.