NBA Futures: Can the Rockets fly ahead in the Western Conference?

NBA Futures: Can the Rockets fly ahead in the Western Conference? article feature image

If there’s one thing Warriors fans don’t want to see, it’s Steph Curry rolling his ankle. Issues early in his career send hearts into the mouths of anybody associated with the Warriors whenever his ankle turns, but the good news (unless you’re one of the other 29 teams in the NBA) is the MRI has come back negative for structural damage.

Nevertheless, Curry is out for a minimum of two weeks, which could have some bearing on how we value some of the futures markets.

With Curry in street clothes, the Warriors are 9-7. They struggle without him more than any other player on the roster, but coach Steve Kerr has managed to twist this injury into a positive, telling The Mercury News:

“In a weird way, it’s a good thing for our team… We have great players, but Steph is the engine. Everything we do revolves around him. We’re going to have to adapt and have to execute better.”

Where this might not be such a good thing for Kerr and his Warriors is home-court advantage in the Western Conference Finals.

Houston is half a game ahead, but given how poorly Golden State has performed without Curry historically, they could build quite a lead at the top of the Western Conference.

The 18-4 Rockets have announced themselves as contenders winning 13 of their last 14, and seven in a row since Chris Paul returned. Houston has been so dominant with Paul in the lineup that they’ve not only won all seven games, but done so by double digits every time.

Issues around two ball-dominant guards never arose and are unlikely to pop up anytime soon. It’s time to take them seriously, and if they can get three or four games ahead of the Warriors in the next two weeks, their futures odds will drop to reflect that.

The Warriors remain heavy favorites to win the Western Conference (-286) and the championship (-167). A favorable schedule should limit the hurt while Curry is out, with nine of their 12 remaining games before New Year’s Day at home with just five of them against teams currently playing above .500 basketball.

Three all-stars still healthy and in the lineup will ensure Warriors aren’t going to struggle as other teams would, but history suggests they won’t cruise either.

If the Rockets can build the sort of lead that would carry home-court advantage through to the conference finals, we have to start looking at them to win the West at +550.

Their form at home since Paul was reinserted in the lineup has been off the charts. Albeit in a small sample size, these numbers would give even the current NBA champions some sleepless nights as a potential seven-game series approached:

  • 119.3 points per game
  • 42.1 percent 3-point shooting
  • 59.5 percent effective field goal percentage
  • 117 offensive rating
  • 97.2 defensive rating
  • 68.8 assist percentage
  • 2.05 assist/turnover ratio

We’re seeing what Houston can do on their home court. Golden State, meanwhile, with all of their technicals and ejections, is offering up a handful of reasons to doubt them.

It might be too early to anoint the Rockets as Western Conference giant-killers, but it may be worth revisiting the idea in two weeks.

All stats provided by Basketball Reference and NBA Stats as of 12/6

All odds provided by William Hill as of 12/6

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