2017-18 Kia Season Preview
2017-18 Kia Season Preview

2017-18 Season Preview: Houston Rockets

Paul, Harden must gel quickly if Rockets are to challenge Warriors out West

Fran Blinebury

Fran Blinebury NBA.com

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Oct 6, 2017 11:31 AM ET

 

Chris Paul's skillset will add a new wrinkle to the Rockets' gameplan.

The thing about the Houston Rockets is they’ll never bore you by staying the same for very long. A year after concluding that Dwight Howard wasn’t the answer, they brought in coach Mike D’Antoni, put the ball in James Harden’s hands and took off to a sizzling 55 wins and No. 3 seed in the West. Now another upgrade keeps them among the elite.

> One Team, One Stat: Can mid-range Paul thrive in Houston?
> 30 Teams in 30 Days: Rockets hoping for better title shot with Paul
> DA's Offseason Rankings: Houston is No. 15
> Even after getting Paul, Rockets seek improvements

ICYMI

The Rockets wasted no time dropping a bombshell on the league when they dealt a handful of journeyman and draft picks for All-Star point guard Chris Paul. ... A high-powered offensive unit that needed defense backbone signed free agents P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah A Moute and now should be able to stop opponents. ... Second-round pick from 2016 Zhou Qi has skills, but is a long-term project and signed a four-year deal. ... Leslie Alexander, who has owned the Rockets since 1994, has sold the team.

THREE POINTS

1. Following a season when he was made the full-time point guard with the ball in his hands and became first player ever to average 29 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, James Harden (the Kia MVP runner-up) now has to share with a ball-dominant point guard in Paul.

2. Coach Mike D’Antoni will have to change his offense that was built around 3s, dunks, layups and free throws to allow for the excellent mid-range game of CP3. The answer will likely come in Paul playing off the ball much of the time.

3. While they picked up a couple of perimeter defenders in Tucker and Mbah A Moute, the Rockets will have to replace the in-your-face, pit bull attitude of feisty Patrick Beverley, who was traded to the Clippers for Paul.

MAN ON THE SPOT

James Harden has been an All-Star in five seasons in Houston. But he can’t win a championship as a solo star and the previous pairing with Howard turned sour. Harden has to show he can excel working with Paul if the Rockets are to truly contend.

STARTING FIVE

Chris Paul | 18.1 ppg | 5.0 rpg | 9.2 apg
The best pure point guard in the league joins a super-charged offense.

James Harden | 29.1 ppg | 8.1 rpg | 11.2 apg
Two-time runner-up for Kia MVP award might just be hitting his stride at 28.

Clint Capela | 12.6 ppg | 8.1 rpg | 1.0 apg
The pogo stick defender is putting together some nice low post moves on offense.

Trevor Ariza | 11.7 ppg | 5.7 rpg | 2.2 apg
Vet is starting to slow, but still has a knack for hitting big clutch shots.

Ryan Anderson | 13.6 ppg | 4.6 rpg | 0.9 apg
The perfect fit in a perfect offensive system for mad bomber who lets it fly.

KEY RESERVES

Eric Gordon | 16.2 ppg | 2.7 rpg | 2.5 apg
Reigning Kia Sixth Man of Year in heaven getting open shots off Harden and Paul.

Nene | 9.1 ppg | 4.2 rpg | 1.0 apg
At 35, he still brings energy, enthusiasm and strength off the bench.

P.J. Tucker | 6.7 ppg | 5.8 rpg | 1.2 apg
The game has evolved where his defensive skills on perimeter are appreciated, valued.

THE BOTTOM LINE

General manager Daryl Morey has never made any secret of his desire to acquire as much top flight talent as possible. Adding Paul to Harden gives the Rockets potentially the best backcourt in the league and a weapon to challenge Golden State. They are for real.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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