Rockets Lose Two of Their 7 Best Players, Will Have to Battle the Lakers For 2nd Best in the West


Here’s how things have gone for the Houston Rockets since Chris Paul did this in Stephen Curry’s face in the Western Conference Finals in May:

An hour later, Chris Paul got hurt, and never played in the series again.

The Rockets lost the final two games by double digits.

To start the offseason, Houston signed 33-year old CP3 to a max deal. A guy who, since playing 82 games in 2014-2015, has played 74, then 61, then 58 games, and he’s gotten hurt in the playoffs twice.

Then they lost Trevor Ariza to Phoenix. Yes, he shot 0-of-12 in Game 7 against the Warriors, but he was an above-average defender, and their best two-way wing.

Then they lost their 2nd best two-way wing, Luc Mbah a Moute. So vital during the season as a reserve, he shot 36 percent on 3-pointers (like Ariza did). He got injured late in the regular season and missed the first round of the playoffs. His shoulder injury hampered his offensive use against Utah, and he couldn’t shoot right. The Rockets saw that continue early vs Golden State and didn’t play him.

What made the Rockets so great this season was the ability to switch defensively on everything. We wrote about that at length here. Yes, MVP James Harden was vital, and Clint Capela improved, but the perimeter defense was the key to forcing the Warriors to seven games. Since Golden State got Kevin Durant, nobody had won two playoff games against them. The Rockets won three.

The Rockets wing rotation is … 33-year old PJ Tucker (not really a wing), 32-year old Gerald Green (mostly a shooting guard), and maybe rookie Vincent Edwards (who had a nice career at Purdue).

This isn’t a 65-win team. Now you’re going to bring in Carmelo Anthony, a 34-year old who has never played a whiff of defense, and couldn’t shoot in the playoffs last year vs Utah (24 percent on 3’s)?

This smells like a disaster for Mike D'Antoni, who preferred to quit in New York than coach Anthony.

Unless Daryl Morey pulls off a miracle – Kawhi Leonard or someone of that caliber – this team is going to take a significant step back. Like maybe 13-15 wins fewer than last year. Short of a Kawhi addition in H-Town, the Lakers, 1-9, will have a better lineup by the time training camp rolls around.