The 2016-17 regular season was refreshing for the Houston Rockets.
The 55 wins was a far cry from the 41-41 nightmare season the year before. Houston was in desperate need of some inspiration, and in came Mike D’Antoni, The Beard going to full-time point guard, and more threes taken and made than any other team in NBA history. The Rockets were fun, fast, loud and deep.
Then came the second round. But we’re not here to relive that.
Heading into the offseason, Daryl Morey and the front office knew they had to raise their profile if they wanted to truly compete with Golden State. The Warriors are the team to beat, and there’s no beating around the bush.
So Morey swung for the fences. Enter nine-time All-Star and Point God Supreme, Chris Paul. Pairing him with James Harden gives Houston arguably the best backcourt in the league, and defenses will sweat night in and night out. But this deal didn’t come cheap. The Rockets gave up quite a bit.
Source: Terms of Clippers-Rockets deal: For @CP3, Houston sends Williams, Beverley, Dekker, Liggins, Hilliard, Harrell, Wiltjer, FRP + $661K— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 28, 2017
That was basically the whole bench outside of Eric Gordon. I mean damn, they didn’t even let us keep prized asset Cash Considerations.
Nene was a free agent at the time. An odd week of the Rockets offering him a deal, then not being able to pay him due to a CBA technicality, then him turning down the deal, left the Houston front office and fans legitimately worried. Would the Rockets actually be better off in 2017-18?
Naturally, Daryl Morey, wizard, cap enthusiast, magician, wasn’t done working.
In about 10 days, he was able to do the following:
- Re-sign Nene to a three-year, $11 million deal
- Nab P.J Tucker with the mid-level exception
- Use the veteran minimum to grab Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
- Use a bi-annual exception to grab Tarik Black
We all know Houston is entrenched in Carmelo Anthony rumors day by day. He wants to be a Rocket, from reports. The Knicks, who basically used the whole year to run him out of town, now reportedly want him to return. That muddied situation, along with the fact that a third and fourth team will be needed, means that talks could drag on for God knows how long.
Anyhow, Daryl didn’t want to just sit around waiting on a deal with New York. He got to work, and the Rockets are stronger because of it. As it stands, Houston is 11 deep:
- Ryno/Mbah a Moute
Beating the Warriors, or even getting on the same level as them, will require offensive firepower, yes. But more than ever, it will require defense and versatility. In Ariza, Tucker and Mbah a Moute, Houston has three plus defenders who are capable of guarding multiple positions, and who are better than average at shooting from downtown. Mbah a Moute shot 39 percent from three, and Tucker shot 40% once he got into Toronto’s guard-heavy offense.
Along with CP3 (7-time All-Defense) and Capela, a budding rim protector, the Rockets are in great position to improve on their middle-of-the-pack defensive rating from last season.
We already know the Rockets have an elite offense. With this deep and improved roster, their defense may finally catch up. Houston is ready to compete, with or without ‘Melo.