Coming into this season, the NBA world was expecting a fourth straight NBA Finals meeting between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. However, both teams have had issues at different points this season, which has opened the door for competitors to emerge in both the Eastern and Western conferences. Chief among those contenders are the Houston Rockets, who look like they may be a better team than both the Warriors and Cavs.
Through the first half of the season, the Rockets have been the best team in the NBA, riding their dynamic duo of James Harden and Chris Paul to one of the best starts in club history. The team is so much more than just Paul and Harden, though, as their roster has been designed to pair well with what those two stars do well, with three-point shooters and aggressive rim runners flanking The Beard and CP3 to make one of the most dangerous offenses in NBA history.
Analysis of how the Rockets’ offense actually works is fascinating, as the team manages to seamlessly combine the fast-paced style of coach Mike D’Antoni with some flawless pick and roll basketball. With three-point aces like Ryan Anderson there to make sure that defenses can’t pack the paint, James Harden can drive to the basket and get to the free throw line. He can also throw plenty of alley-oops to Clint Capela, with Capela emerging as a very good big in this system.
While the Rockets have been on the ascent, the Warriors and Cavaliers have been having their share of issues. This has led the sports tipsters at Champion Bets and similar sites to show more faith in the Rockets than either of the pre-season favorites, and has led many to question if the NBA Finals rematch we thought was a sure thing is now anything but.
For the Warriors, a combination of championship fatigue and age may be getting in their way. The team has looked simply disinterested at times this season, which has prompted uncharacteristic losses. While that can be remedied with some effort once the playoffs start, the age on the Warriors bench may not be as easy to repair. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston have both played key roles off the bench during Golden State’s championship seasons. This year, though, they look like their games have diminished substantially, which is a major concern.
When it comes to the Cavaliers, they will be dealing with a ton of inexperience when the playoffs roll around. After trading several players to switch up their chemistry situation, they acquired George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. None of those players have played in games with the intensity of the postseason. That can lead to some costly mistakes in the biggest moments of the season for Cleveland.
Thanks to a rapid improvement and issues to the other two best teams in the league, the Houston Rockets may be lifting off to a championship this season.