Prior to the start of the 2018-2019 NBA season, the Houston Rockets were chosen by many analysts to become the primary challenger of the Golden State Warriors in claiming the Western Conference’s supremacy.
After being one game shy of making it to the NBA Finals, the Rockets engaged in a major revamp last summer and exercised controversial offseason moves, such as, letting key defensive stalwart Trevor Ariza go to the Phoenix Suns and trading away Luc Mbah[tps_footer][/tps_footer] a Moute, Montrezl Harell, and Patrick Beverley to the Los Angeles Clippers, among others.
Furthermore, Houston signed All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony to a one-year deal after he was bought out by the Atlanta Hawks, where the Oklahoma City Thunder shipped him in a three-team trade.
Yet, despite all the efforts that General Manager Daryl Morey did to level with the Warriors’ scorching offense, the Rockets just did not perform at its best.
Houston started off their campaign in an abysmal mode.
Just ten games into the regular season, the Rockets already agreed to part ways with Anthony by trading him to the Chicago Bulls for former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter Williams and a one million dollar cash consideration.
“In the summer we tried to hit a home run and it didn’t work out,” Rockets’ head coach Mike D’Antoni said at that time.
“He (Anthony) tried everything he could. He was great while he was here. It just didn’t work out for whatever reason. I just thank him for his professionalism. It was good. He tried everything he could to make it work and it just didn’t work out,” D’Antoni further expressed.
A few more games later, the Rockets just saw themselves running out of fuel at the 14th spot in the Western Conference with an 11-14 record, before reigning KIA Most Valuable Player James Harden went on a scoring barrage for a streak of 40-plus games to send Houston back to playoff contention.
Harden salvaged the Rockets’ season at the dawn of the new year as he fired on all cylinders and scored 30-plus points in 32 successive games, making it the second longest in NBA history.
Harden’s 40-plus games of averaging 41 points per game in that span also ranked better than anybody else’s in league history, except Wilt Chamberlain’s 515-game record.
While Harden ultimately carried the Rockets to various record-breaking stints last season, skeptics are pretty much very vocal in verbalizing their critics with respect to his game as inconsistencies in his career are a proven area of improvement that he still needs to work on.
In last season’s playoffs alone, Harden was criticized by many as a non-factor in the fourth quarter of the Game 3 against the Utah Jazz as he had the worst shooting performance of his entire post-season career thus far although his team earned the win down the stretch.
And, while his scoring was massively diminished by all the defensive techniques that the Jazz put against him in the first round, minus the guarding-from-behind-scheme, Harden was able to finish the playoffs with an average of 31.6 points: the second most in NBA post-season history.
Yet, albeit Harden’s impeccable heroics for Houston, chances are the next season would be very intriguing for the Rockets as they are presently tied up to over $115-million in just five players—Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and PJ Tucker.
Without any draft pick in last night’s 2019 NBA Draft, the Rockets will move into free agency by making everyone else, except Harden, available in the trading block to ensure competitiveness, according to reports.
All the more, four key rotation players in D’Antoni’s bench–Iman Shumpert, Gerald Green, Kenneth Faried, and Austin Rivers–would be free agents one month from now.
Barring any unwanted offseason moves, the Rockets are expected to go aggressively this summer and having a potential trade to get rid of Paul’s contract, for instance, would surely be inevitable.
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