James Houston's Houston Rockets were never in a better position to win an NBA championship. That's not to say that the Rockets are actually in position to win a championship: the epic Golden State Warriors are at least in the way. But after Houston's masterful regular season and a convincing opening two rounds of the NBA playoffs, this is as close as the Rockets have arrived in the promised land since Harden.
The question is, if, when the Rockets go down, they & # 39; I will be back for more.
The Offseason presents a series of major dilemmas for Houston. Chris Paul, 33 years old, will be an unrestricted free agent. Clint Capela will be a limited freelance agent, which means that Houston can comply with any offer sheet he signs. It is expected that another team will make a big contract in their own way. Trevor Ariza will be launched.
In the meantime, Ryan Anderson will be on the books for $ 41
That said, Houston's front office has shown a remarkable ability to recreate the Rockets on the fly around Harden. This gives you the confidence that this team will be knocking on the championship door in the coming years, even if it does not work this season.
The core's WM window is wide open, just because there is no core of the Rockets. The core is just Harden.
Consider that CP3 is a brand new one for this team, the newest super-co-star that Daryl Morey has been able to add to Harden's quest to strengthen his squad every year. It was an inspired choice and a great achievement to persuade Paul to postpone the agency for a year and force a trade to Houston.
The presence of CP3 has spawned a new era of Rocket basketball, but Houston was really good a year ago with shooters and defenders in Harden. Only because Kawhi Leonard knocked out The Beard in the play-offs did they lag behind the postseason goals.
The core was Dwight Howard, who was a big miss for Morey. But the miss could easily be solved by leaving D-12 as a free agent.
The Rockets are constantly changing, with Harden as the only constant.
Harden is now 28 – exactly in his expected prime – and he has signed with Houston for another five years. What an advantage for Morey to know that he has an all-NBA scorer and playmaker for so long in the books. He has half a decade to master the best player he has ever met. With such a talent at the heart of the team, Morey can rebuild the cast around him until he finds a configuration that will get Houston where he wants to be.
This version could be. We will find out in the next two weeks if they fight against the warriors.
If not, trust Morey as he gets an improved version out of this roster.
When he took over the Rockets in 2007, he inherited a good but aging team. While Houston had a few years outside the playoffs, they have never bottomed out. Morey continued to adjust the roster until Harden 2012 ended in a blockbuster, league-altering trade.
The Rockets have gone through two cycles since then: One focused on the Kevin McHale Harden Howard pairing – this issue exploded in a catastrophic 41-41 season in 2016 – under Mike D & # 39; Antoni, now centered on Harden and Paul.
The best version of this McHale cycle (the Rockets 2014-15) was dominated by the Warriors in the West End round. A repeat of it is obviously the fear this year. Should that happen this month, skeptics might believe that the Rockets are cursed by timing and grow up with Harden just as the Warriors were unstoppable.
The story is littered with epic teams with terrible timing. In fact, the sheer number of these downed contenders belies the idea that there might be a class of teams that would be champions in another era. If you add them all, we have more would-be champion teams than available years to win titles!
If the Rockets do not win a title with Harden – in this or the next cycle – they will not be good enough to do it, as will the 90s Sonics and Jazz, and the Kings and Suns will not be good enough ,
But this story is not written yet.
Even though Harden and the Rockets are short this season, Morey has proved that he can quickly retool and give Houston a new look he can take to battle. As long as Harden is an MVP-caliber player and as long as Morey Talent is around, the Rockets stay in the mix, whether with CP3 or Capela or not.
The World Cup window is wide open for the Rockets. The only question is whether Houston can bypass the Warriors and climb through them.