When Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors, it was presumed that the organization would stay on top of the NBA for years to come. The Houston Rockets, however, have done a noble job building a contender.
In fact, the Rockets currently have the best record in the league.
The playoffs are a different animal, but here are five reasons why they can unseat the Warriors and head to the NBA Finals:
5. Clint Capela’s emergence
Clint Capela has mainly been known for his defense, as the rangy big man with a long wingspan can cover a lot of ground. However, he’s become a reliable scorer in the paint and has even improved his free-throw shooting. His presence is critical, especially with long rebounds emanating from missed three-pointers.
4. Chris Paul in halfcourt sets
Mike D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns squads notoriously struggled in the playoffs when the game slowed down and they had to abandon the run-and-gun style offense. Chris Paul is perfect for the half-court game, serving as one of the league’s best floor generals. In addition, James Harden can score inside the paint–and doesn’t need to rely on the three-pointer. Clint Capela has also been a reliable outlet, as well.
For all the offensive weapons the Rockets possess, they went out and added P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, two of the better perimeter defenders in the league. They will both serve Houston well in switching on pick-and-rolls, guarding anyone from Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant to Draymond Green. Even James Harden has been vastly improved on defense.
2. Prolific offense
Not even the Warriors are averaging the offensive efficiency numbers of these Houston Rockets. They shoot a lot of three-pointers, but also make a lot of them. The ability to shoot the three, while allowing Harden and Chris Paul to get to the rim, makes this team a tough guard.
1. James Harden, MVP winner
James Harden is going to win the 2018 MVP Award. For all the great accomplishments the Warriors have had, none of them is playing as well as Harden. General manager Daryl Morey said Harden might be the best isolation player to ever play the game, and it’s hard to argue watching “The Beard” play this season. He’s averaging 31.5 PPG, 9 APG, and 5.1 RPG.