All Houston Rockets fans want to forget about last year. Hopes were high despite all experts saying that they overperformed in 2015. Then the beginning of the season came. So did Kevin McHale's firing, the stretches below .500, and the constant drama in the Rockets' locker room; ranging from in between James Harden and Dwight Howard, to that between Howard and Daryl Morey, and even that between Harden and the rest of his team. They were the NBA's reality show last season, with rumors swirling and tempers boiling.
Yes, it didn't end well at all last season. But to counteract this, the Rockets opted for a new look: an offensive team that owner Leslie Alexander will finally be satisfied with. The Rockets have focused on that side of the ball since Harden first donned the red and white, but it never seemed to be to Alexander's liking.
Now, he's got longtime target Ryan Anderson under contract, as well as the mad genius behind the "7 seconds or less" offense in Mike D'Antoni under center. The Rockets might be one of the most intriguing teams this year as nobody knows how they'll do. Whether they surprise or lay an egg is up to many factors, and literally anything can happen this season with them.
Before this summer, the Rockets were notorious for being in every top free agent's top 8 list but never actually getting anybody. They were desperate for anybody that would give them the light of day, but nearly every time fans would wake up to the news that the team's number one priority went somewhere else. The only success was Howard, and look at how that turned out.
However, this offseason was different. The first step was firing J.B. Bickerstaff, which they did quickly. Then, they hired D'Antoni to try to improve the fourth highest scoring offense last season. What happened next did not go according to the Rockets' plans, but was definitely for the better. Despite their best efforts to retain Howard, he opted to leave.
The reconstruction continued with the addition of both Anderson and Eric Gordon in free agency. Anderson is a stretch four that the Rockets have desired to improve their surprisingly low three-point efficiency. Gordon at first looked like a bad pickup since the Rockets already have an offensive shooting guard. But now with Harden playing point, Gordon is looking to start and be yet another scoring option.
In the draft, the Rockets selected Chinanu Onuaku, most famous for his free throws, check the video below and Zhou Qi, a Chinese player that shows some promise but might not be coming anytime soon. They also signed Gary Payton II, probably the most coveted undrafted free agent. To round out the already busy offseason, the Rockets inexplicably traded possibly their second scoring option last year and possible great sixth man this year in Michael Beasley for reserve point guard Tyler Ennis and are currently pursuing Sergio Llull, a rookie in the 2009 NBA Draft whom the Rockets got the rights to but still hasn't left Spain.
As you can see, the Rockets made so many moves that it is extremely hard to predict how they'll do. The results in preseason have been solid, as they are 4-1 so far. Harden is averaging more than 10 assists per game, and the scoring is more spread out, as five Rockets are averaging double digits in points: Harden, Anderson, Gordon, Sam Dekker and Kyle Wiltjer. Harden no longer has to worry about being quite literally the team. The offense is so good (well, in preseason), that they're averaging 125 points per game so far.
However, there are a lot of negatives too, the main one being Harden averaging 5.2 turnovers per game, an insane amount that will prove deadly if it continues in the regular season. They're also allowing 110.4 points per game and while it is far less than how much they average, it is still a high amount, proving the worst kept secret in the league that the Rockets have a horrible defense. Trevor Ariza and K.J. McDaniels have been shooting pretty poorly from deep, and they both look like they'll have big roles this upcoming season.
Obviously, preseason is not a good enough basis for how the regular season will go. Defenses are laxer, teams rest their star players, and everybody is coming back from a long rest. Therefore, don't expect a great season from the Rockets. Remember, D'Antoni offense only worked with the Phoenix Suns, and that's because Steve Nash was literally the best possible player ever to run it. Harden is a great scorer and can pass, but tends to get selfish late and has had poor relationships with both McHale and Bickerstaff. For this offense to work, there needs to be great trust between Harden and D'Antoni, and based on Harden's past, there isn't much hope that that will be the case.
In a conference where the middle of the standings are steadily improving (both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz look to prove their worth, while the Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks, and Oklahoma City Thunder all have solid teams), the Rockets will have a tough time making it to the playoffs, narrowly missing a complete butt-whupping at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.
Regular season record: 42-40
Conference standing: 9th