If you kept an eye on the latest NBA news, you know that the offseason has been one of the craziest yet. Plenty of shocking free agency moves were made and the rookies have announced their arrival in the Summer League. However, the Golden State Warriors are still king of the basketball world, and that fact won’t likely change any time soon.
The Houston Rockets were once the biggest team to come out of the West and actually give the Dubs a proper challenge. However, Chris Paul went down with an injury and missed the important two games, which the Warriors easily won on the way to a third NBA title in four years.
H-Town could still add a third banner to their haul with the help of Paul and James Harden, but the West just got a lot tougher. I’m not saying that the Rockets won’t make it back to the Promised Land, but they got to have some things go their way.
Rivals got a boost
Many of the teams surrounding them went through a lot of offseason changes that has an immediate effect on their rosters. However, it would be criminal not to talk about the elephant in the room.
DeMarcus Cousins is a Warrior.
The league’s best center is only getting paid $5,337,000 to be able to play for the Dubs. The man who averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds per game in only 48 appearances is getting less dough than Shaun Livingston.
Let that sink in for a minute. All done? Good. Now let’s talk about the Dubs again.
Cousins claimed that only one other team gave him an offer sheet before he decided to chase a ring with the Warriors. Sure, an Achilles injury ended many a great career, but this is Boogie Cousins we’re talking about. It’s a foolish play for everyone (the Rockets included) to not even give him a one-year loan spell.
Everyone will rue letting a beast like Cousins go to the Warriors. However, the Dubs aren’t the only ones the Rockets should worry about.
The Los Angeles Lakers are suddenly back to contention status after getting the best player on the planet in LeBron James to leave the Eastern Conference and settle in Hollywood. The mere presence of James quickly halted the rebuilding process of the Lakers and put them in the championship conversation.
They are reportedly chasing after Kawhi Leonard, but it is still unsure if the Spurs would even want to send their franchise star to a conference rival. LeBron is not rushing things, so it’s highly possible that they will not get their co-star until the next offseason.
Then there’s the Dallas Mavericks. Not only did they finally get their big man in DeAndre Jordan, they also have a future star. Luka Doncic is a supreme player who could take them to the Finals in the next ten years or so. The Rockets don’t have that much time with their star duo.
Houston, we have a roster problem
Aside from the opposition around them retooling and upgrading, the Rockets experienced a talent drain of their own.
Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, two important pieces to the Rockets’ defensive schemes and three-point shooting, have blasted off Toyota Center for Phoenix and Los Angeles, respectively. With two three-and-D players gone, Mike D’Antoni needs to find suitable replacements quick.
Another issue would is the center position. Houston fans are browsing through many basketball portals, hoping to see one positive Clint Capela news story. The man they drafted with the 25th pick in the 2014 Draft developed into an important cog of their machine and is a constant part of Houston Rockets highlights with his athletic dunks. He is now demanding a fat pay raise from his employers or he will pack up and leave.
Of course, many are confident that he will re-sign with the team that drafted him. However, the inability of the Rockets to seal the deal with their center has become a huge source of frustration for die-hard Rockets fans. The lack of progress in their negotiations give teams like the Lakers, the Spurs and the Pelicans opportunities to poach him away.
What should the Rockets do?
If the Rockets want to finally get over the hurdle that is the Golden State Warriors, they need to look beyond scoring. The Lakers believe that they should not fight fire with fire, and that’s something the Rockets should look into.
It may sound blasphemous to D’Antoni, but he really needs to improve their defensive efficiency for the coming season. While he is slowly getting better at organizing defensive plans, he needs to become able to guard the very fluid basketball of the Warriors. This is especially true today that they finally got a big that can stretch the floor.
Of course, they need to find replacements for Ariza and Mbah a Moute. They need to find superb wing defenders to stop Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson from scoring. They have something good going for them if they can grab Marcus Smart and Rodney Hood from the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers. Yogi Ferrell is also a solid option.
They need to clamp down Capela with a long-term contract. I don’t care if they have to shell out big bucks as long as they tie him down. He is an important piece for their campaign, and losing him would derail their plans, probably for good.
They can also get another cannon to join their ranks. There have been talks of Anthony coming over from Oklahoma City, and that is a viable option to take.
Finally, they need to have both of their stars healthy and ready to play for most of the playoffs. They were on their way to the Finals if it weren’t for Paul’s hamstring issues. If they can manage to keep their stars fit, then they have a great shot at the championship.
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