Are The Houston Rockets Legitimate NBA Title Contenders?

Houston Rockets 2014-2015 Record: 57-25

2016 Free Agent Targets:
1. Jeff Green
2. Terrence Ross
3. Marvin Williams

X-Factor – Ty Lawson

Fun Fact – James Harden will be making more money (contract + endorsement deals) than the rest of the Rockets team in 2016.

Offseason Recap
Fresh off the most shocking comeback in the 2015 playoffs, the Rockets head into this season with plenty of confidence. Daryl Morey’s vision finally came together last year when his team rallied back from a 3-1 deficit to knock out the Los Angeles Clippers. Although Houston lost to Golden State in the Western Conference Finals, they surprised many by putting up a good fight. The Rockets will look to build off last year’s success by relying heavily on their bombastic duo.

It’s hard to believe it has already been two full years since Dwight Howard escaped Los Angeles to team up with Harden in Houston. Morey has been savvy with his cap management each summer, allowing him to acquire specific role players to team up with these two franchise cornerstones.

Trevor Ariza takes pressure off of Harden by locking down the opposing team’s better wing player, and can shoot the hell out of the ball on offense. Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones are ideal complements to Howard in the post, as they prefer the pace-and-space basketball that Houston has become notorious for.

Their point guard situation has been the weak spot in the last few years, especially when Patrick Beverley got hurt before the playoffs. But, as he has become accustomed to doing, Morey bought low on guard Ty Lawson and was able to trade for him without giving up any significant assets. Coming off his second DUI in less than a year, Lawson is in a prove-yourself contract, and is hoping to thrive in what appears to be an ideal situation.

The bench is flourishing with new talent from the past two drafts, and they shouldn’t face the same depth issues they did in 2015. The Rockets have a plethora of assets because of their clever negotiation tactics, and their general manager continues to pioneer the NBA’s ever-growing analytics movement. ‘Dork’ Morey has a title in mind with these moves, and this team appears all in for 2015-2016.

Best Case Scenario
The Beard establishes himself as the perfect combination of Allen Iverson and Manu Ginobili, which allows him to easily capture his first regular season MVP. Ty ‘Dolla$$’ Lawson fits in seamlessly with both Harden and the culture in Houston, enabling him to avoid any criminal charges throughout the season. The Rockets decide to sponsor the app, Uber, and provide their players with free transportation back from H-Town nightlife.

Howard continues to escape media headlines and refuses to fart until Houston makes the Finals in 2016. But with such a talented Western Conference, even in the best case scenario, Howard has to hold it in for another season.

Worst Case Scenario
Even though the roster looks great on paper, chemistry and health issues plague the Rockets all season. Harden proves to be ineffective without the ball in his hands, and is unable to coexist with Lawson. Howard starts complaining that he doesn’t get the ball enough, and asks for more opportunities to forcefully throw the ball at the basket. Head coach Kevin McHale obliges, torpedoing the Rockets season. In an act of defiance, Harden begins wearing Nikes and asks to go back to Oklahoma City. Morey claims that this is all part of the master plan, and Houston somehow enters next season with an even more intimidating roster.

Prediction: 53-29 (5th in the West)

Photo Credit: Fansided