Three Bold Predictions for the 2018-2019 Houston Rockets

By Jorge Flores on July 11, 2018
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The NBA season is finally upon us and that means that it’s time to wildly speculate about the happenings around the league. The Houston Rockets are poised to have another good year, but it feels as though most expect them to take a significant step back. I don’t think that will be the case at all. In fact, I have some bold predictions about just how good the Rockets will be.

Let’s start with a fun one.

1) Carmelo Anthony will hit 200 threes

There’s been much said about Houston’s offseason, primarily surrounding the long overdue signing of Carmelo Anthony. For the 2018-2019 campaign, Melo finds himself on his third team in as many years; all with questions about how he’d be willing (if at all) to sacrifice his game for the betterment of the team. Joining a championship-contending team that houses the reigning MVP and his All-NBA friend, it seems like the ideal of Olympic Melo has a chance to become reality in Houston.

The short sample size and doesn’t-tell-us-anything nature of the NBA preseason makes this a little tenuous, but Anthony appears to fit right in to Mike D’Antoni’s offense. He’s taking (and making) open spot-up baskets and figures to be a favorite target on the receiving end of the high-volume assists James Harden and Chris Paul generate on a nightly basis. In the preseason, Melo shot 50% from beyond the arc. Surely, this is unsustainable, but what’s more intriguing is he took six attempts per game – making three. 

Last season, only James Harden and Eric Gordon managed to hit the 200 Threes Made mark for the Rockets. The next closest was Trevor Ariza with 170 threes made. Playing far less minutes for Oklahoma City last year, Melo hit 169 threes. Considering how disastrous Melo’s time in OKC seemed and how integral Trevor Ariza was to the Rockets success last season, making basically the same number of threes should tell you something about Melo’s scoring efficiency. 

The more I think about it, the less bold I think this prediction is.

2) Don’t rule out James Harden for MVP

Around this time last year I was going to write a column about how I thought James Harden had a legit shot at finally winning the MVP – and boy, do I regret not writing it! It wasn’t a very popular position to take at the time, and it’s definitely not going to be popular now but the MVP race is just so wide open this year that it kind of still makes sense.

Per the Bovada betting odds, James Harden currently has the fourth-best odds at winning the 2019 MVP Award. The reigning MVP was finally awarded the trophy last season and it’s not likely voters will want to reward him again, especially after last season felt like a make-up call for the 2017 award. 

However, there’s not a clear favorite in my mind to win the award. There’s no obvious narrative that triumphs over the narratives surrounding other players. The Warriors MVP duo of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are sure to cancel each other out again, Kyrie Irving will be sharing the wealth within Brad Stevens’ system that’s sure to lead Boston to a ton of wins, and not even Showtime LeBron can fully bring the Lakers back to championship contention this quickly. Will another season of averaging a triple-double matter for Russell Westbrook? Will the Pelicans or Bucks win enough games to warrant giving the trophy to Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo, respectively? Will Kawhi Leonard return to his former two-way dominance? 

James Harden will have to battle voter fatigue and perhaps the lack of a compelling narrative. However, his numbers are not likely to dip in any significant way while the Rockets continue to pile up wins on their way to another championship bid.

3) The Rockets will have a Top 10 Defense

There’s no doubt that the Rockets' defense has taken a few big hits this offseason. From the free agency departures of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah A Moute to the sudden retirement of defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik, it seems many are quick to write off Houston’s defense as championship caliber and I'm not sure that's wise.

General Manager Daryl Morey has always stressed needing both a Top-10 Offense and a Top-10 Defense to win a championship. Historically, those are the teams that are perennial contenders (and winners) for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Obviously, the Rockets will have no issue putting the ball in the basket. Mike D’Antoni is an offensive mastermind, after all. But I’m confident that the Rockets will still have a good defensive foundation, built upon from the switch-everything principles “Coach Buzz” implemented.

As much as Rockets fans love to downplay Trevor Ariza’s importance to the team (reacting to the exaggerations of Houston’s downfall with his departure), Ariza was the prototypical 3-and-D wing all great teams seem to want. However, his length and switching ability should be easily replaced with the additions of James Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams. Throwing Ennis into the starting lineup will round out an already exceptional first unit defense that includes PJ Tucker and Clint Capela – two guys who I think have a shot at All Team Defense this season.

Considering that Chris Paul – an absolute pest defensively – is sure to play a lot of minutes with a second unit group of MCW and Eric Gordon (an underrated defender in his own right), inserting Carmelo Anthony into the rotation shouldn’t hurt the overall team defense too much.

Houston will have a better defense than most people think, which leads to…

Bonus Prediction: The Houston Rockets will win the 2018-2019 NBA Championship

Okay, so this one is pretty bold, right?

I’m a firm believer that great teams with all-time great players always have a chance to win a championship – even when the Warriors exist. There are just too many variables over a very long season that affect the fate of the NBA.

Maybe Houston had a one-year window that slammed shut via a bum hamstring and unbelievable shooting debacle… but maybe it didn’t.

The Houston Rockets will win the 2018-2019 NBA Championship.

Speak it into existence. Why not?

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