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2018-19 Season Preview Extravaganza | How Much Time Do The Rockets Have?

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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Twenty-nine different opposing NBA teams will walk through the doors of Target Center to play the Wolves this season, and we want you to know as much as you can about all of them. We’re going worst to first in order of last year’s standings and telling you everything you need to know. Next up, Rockets team that doesn’t know how long its window is open.

Notable Players Acquired: G Brandon Knight (trade), F Marquese Chriss (trade), G Michael Carter-Williams (free agency), F Carmelo Anthony (free agency)

Notable Players Lost: F Ryan Anderson (trade), F Trevor Ariza (free agency), F Luc Mbah a Moute

Recapping 2017-18: 

The Rockets finished the 2017-18 season with the best record in the league at 65-17. They advanced to the Western Conference Finals and they were a game (and a Chris Paul hamstring injury) away from advancing to the NBA Finals and (probably) winning the championship.

But this didn’t happen and the Rockets are still looking to end (or at least dent) the dynasty that is the Warriors.

If you’re trying to define the modern NBA, the Rockets are an extreme classification of it. James Harden was named MVP, averaging 30.4 points, 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game. He launched 10(!) 3-pointers per game. As a team, the Rockets made 15.3 3-pointers per game, while attempting 42.3. Both marks led the NBA. 

The fact that this team was able to win 65 games even though Harden missed 10 games and Paul missed 24 speaks to the depth on this team. Guys like Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker were instrumental. Ariza, Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute are all somewhat limited offensively, but defensively is where they shined for Houston, being able to guard multiple positions. This combination led to the Rockets being the No. 1 ranked offense and the No. 6 ranked defense in the league.

Unfortunately, the Rockets weren’t able to bring back Ariza or Mbah a Moute, two integral cogs of this team’s rotation.  

Replacing them in the rotation will be Carmelo Anthony and Brandon Knight, two players who are much more offensive minded than defensive minded. In fact, both of those players have the opposite of defensive flexibility.  

The Big Question:

How will Carmelo Anthony fit in?

The good news for Anthony last season: He played in 78 games, the most he’s played since 2005-06. That’s good!

The bad news: Well, we have a word count here, but Anthony had a miserable season with the Thunder. He averaged 16.2 points (career low), 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists (career low) while shooting (wait for it . . .) a career-low 40.4 percent from the field.

Playing with Russell Westbrook isn’t the easiest thing, sure, but it’s not going to be much easier playing with Harden and Paul, two players who enjoy having the ball in their hands. The fact that it worked out so well last season with those two players is pretty remarkable.

At this point in his career, Anthony is 34 years old, but last year he carried himself like he was still in his prime. He’s not. He’ll be successful if he recognizes that and tries to find success as a role player, not a star. I’m not super optimistic this will happen given history, but for Houston, I think it was worth the risk.

How Do The Wolves Beat Them?

The Wolves were 0-4 against Houston in the regular season and 1-4 against the Rockets in the playoffs.

Like the rest of the league, the Wolves had a problem beating the Rockets. You’d like to see the Wolves slow down Harden, but as we’ve seen, that’s not an easy thing to do.

Karl-Anthony Towns struggled against Clint Capela in the playoffs last season. I’d like to see him take that personally in 2018-19 and maybe go on a bit of a revenge streak against Houston this season. 

Luckily for the Wolves, they play the Rockets just three times instead of four. 

Ratke’s Prediction: 

I think the Rockets take a step back after losing some key defensive players, but that won’t stop them from still winning 60 games and clinching the second seed in the West.

Describe This Team In 15 Words Or Less

With Paul’s age, this could be the last year for a championship run.

So When Can I See Them?  

The Rockets play in Minnesota on Dec. 3 and Feb. 13. The Wolves play in Houston on Mar. 17.