Rockets 2018-19 Season Win Total: Can the Rockets Win the West’s Top Seed Again?
Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA. Pictured: Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul (3) and James Harden (13) during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum.
- The pick: Under 56 wins
- Confidence: 0 out of 10
The case for the under: It’s not just the loss of that defensive personnel, it’s the disruption of chemistry, continuity and the additions (Carmelo Anthony and Michael Carter-Williams whoo boy is that a duo of names) that may act as negatives.
The continuity factor looms largest. Last season’s Rockets team was a genuinely great team, it had a special combination. The Rockets disrupted that, in pursuit of taking longer shots at finding a formula to get past Golden State.
That approach may prove prescient, but it also opens up a wider range of outcomes. Had Houston returned the same core, 60 wins would seem a near-lock; that’s how incredible last season’s team was.
But you need defenders who can cover for James Harden. Going back and watching the instances where Houston struggled, it was often when teammates were unaware of lapses by Harden, who remains a solid-on-ball defender.
The replacements for Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute will only exacerbate those issues. The Rockets also lost defensive coordinator Jeff Bdzelik, who retired this week. That’s a huge blow to a team that needs to be middle of the pack defensively to get where it wants to go.
Finally, teams that know how good they are tend to prove it one year and then take their foot off the gas the next. Houston knows it has a formula to challenge Golden State if executed properly. Will the Rockets have the energy to push for homecourt again? The variance means this is too close for comfort.
The case for the over: This was a lot easier at the open of 54.5. The argument comes down to this very simple formula: Chris Paul plus James Harden plus Clint Capela plus Mike D’Antoni equals 57 wins.
You would have to think that the Rockets losing role players and retaining key members of their core results in a full nine-game drop from last year’s 65-win mark.
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There was talk from Houston fans that they were not done, that the team would package Ryan Anderson and (insert unknown asset here) for a wing upgrade. Instead, they dealt Anderson for Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss.
Now, the going narrative is those players will be the ones to be dealt for the upgrade. Maybe that happens, though. Daryl Morey does run the GM game.
And if Morey works his magic again, it could push them over.
You can argue the losses weren’t that dramatic.
After all, Ariza was part of the disastrous Game 7 shooting performance in the Western Conference Finals, and Mbah a Moute’s shoulder injury may be one that lingers and makes him nearly unplayable this year.
Under that paradigm, this team returns the most important parts of a roster that finished with the league’s best record last season.
The kicker? Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets have gone 20-7 in the second game of a back-to-back the past two season. That’s a huge edge in a typical schedule-loss scenario.
No touchy. Too many concerns vs. too much talent vs. a number right in the sweet spot.