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ESPN projects Rockets for NBA’s second-best record

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The projections have the Rockets to finish with 55 wins this season, and just like last year, ESPN’s prediction may be a little low.

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The yearly NBA preseason projections from ESPN are now out, and they have the Rockets pegged for the second-best record in the NBA.

ESPN has Houston predicted at 55 wins, which was exactly their win total from this past season. The team has gotten better on paper, so that total might seem just a little bit low. Though it’s important to note that ESPN had the Rockets down for just 47 wins last season, and they obviously out-performed that projection in the 2016-2017 season.

Here’s what ESPN had to say:

Although RPM was much higher on the Rockets than conventional wisdom, Houston still easily outperformed a 47-win projection. After adding Chris Paul, RPM now likes the Rockets as the greatest threat to Golden State. Remarkably, the additions of Paul and defensive-minded Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker mean Houston projects as slightly better defensively (fourth) than offensively (fifth). We'll see if that plays out as projected.

The Rockets were squarely in the bottom half of the league last season in defensive rating (ranked 18), so jumping up to 4 would be an incredible leap. And if it does, in fact, come to fruition, then 55 wins really does seem on the low side.

If the Rockets can become an elite defending squad, all the while maintaining their offensive firepower — and maintaining is not out of the question considering they added Chris Paul while returning numerous other key pieces from last year’s second-rated offense — then this is much better than a 55-win team.

If the Rockets finish in the top 5 in both the offensive and defensive categories, this Houston team could very well set the all-time Rockets record for regular season wins. That mark currently stands at 58, set by the Hakeem Olajuwon-led 1994 championship team.

I’ve felt all along that if this team can get its defense into the top 10 — a real possibility with the Paul, Tucker and Mbah a Moute additions — that they would be a force and a legitimate challenge in the West to the Golden State Warriors.

But get them into the top 5 in both offense and defense as ESPN is projecting? This team could realistically be a 60-win threat.

For the record, I have the Rockets improving into the top 10 of defense this year, but not making the top 5, while still dropping a buck twenty per night on the opposition. I think they finish right at that 58-win mark that the ‘94 team achieved.

Tell us in the comments below how you feel about ESPN’s projection and where you have the Rockets set to finish in record this year.

You can see the full list of NBA projections here.