Projected Starting Lineup:
After posting a 55-27 record and attaining the 3rd seed, the Rockets made a huge splash this offseason. Houston made a trade for arguably the best Point Guard of the last ten years and even a top 5 all time PG. A classic Daryl Morey move, shooting for a star, literally and figuratively. In his tenure, Morey’s rosters year to year are top 12 in roster turnover every offseason and this offseason was no different. This trade for Paul is puzzling, to say the least. The Rockets are betting on themselves not only financially, but with scheming as well. CP3’s contract is for only one year forcing the Rockets to either re-sign him or use him as a one-year rental. If Paul makes an All-Pro team, something he has done 8 times, he will receive a “super max”. If the Rockets were to re-sign him at that rate, they would pay him $207 million over 5 seasons, with Paul being 36 in his final contractual season. For a team that just maxed out James Harden to an insane extension, Paul’s age coupled with the money draws the question, will it be worth it?
Schematically, Chris Paul draws comparisons to Steve Nash with his court vision and efficiency with the ball, yet one glaring difference is their pace of play. The stats between the two draw very similar parallels, with Paul being the more efficient floor general but Nash is the better shooter (42% 3PFG). The stats are not what could be problematic, it is the pace of play. Nash is a run the floor type guard, who created looks in a fiasco of speed and penetration kick outs, while shooting the 3 at a crazy clip. At the same time, CP3 is a slower pace of play, pick and roll specialist shooting less 3 point shots than Nash in the D’Antonio system. The system was constructed for a quick guard who loves to run the floor, think the success James Harden had his first year with D’Antonio. Will Chris Paul change his pace of play to better fit the system? Only time will tell.
I predict the Houston Rockets will finish as the 3 seed once again, barely missing the 2 seed for the 2017-2018 season. I believe they will lose in the Western Conference Semifinals, unless Harden can get over his postseason troubles. If they do make it to the Conference Finals, the “Powerhouse from the Bay” will end their season once again for the third time in 4 years. The glaring weakness in the Rockets, is defense, something you must play against the Warriors. Who will guard KD? Ariza is aging and new addition, PJ Tucker, is by no means a defensive stopper. Who will guard Steph? Chris Paul has proven to have issues covering him and the Rockets traded their best defender in Patrick Beverley. The playoff success for the Rockets will be measured by how well they can defend, the Achilles heel of every Mike D’Antonio team.