Houston, You Have a Problem – Can They Win a Title Next Year?
Yes, Houston! You definitely have a problem. The team consistently throughout the years have made themselves into a formidable opponent for most teams. However, they are 24 years removed from the moniker, known as Clutch City, in which they had the most versatile starting lineup we have ever seen. With Hakeem Olajuwon, this team destroyed the NBA in 1994 and 1995 during the first retirement of Michael Jordan. The ability to create a shot from anywhere on the floor, the rare ability to consistently knockdown threes and the unique team defense allowed this team to be unstoppable. Can Clutch City come up from the doldrums? Let’s review.
James Harden is unquestionably the offensive force that the entire league to this day has faced difficulty guarding one-on-one. Chris Paul is the best floor general in the NBA with his ability to control pace and decipher the opposing team’s offense. Clint Capella is a budding center in this league who plays above the rim and uses key dunks in pick-and-roll scenarios to affect the game. You might be wondering why did I only mention these three players? It is because the Houston Rockets’ salary is mainly consisted of these three players and leaving little room for more players that bail them out of key spots like Eric Gordon, Gerald Green and P.J. Tucker. These three players are especially deadly from the three-point range. P.J. leads all players from the corner threes at an alarming rate of 53 percent from corner three shots, whether open or not. Gordon can deliver a bucket at any moment and provide microwave style offense to the team. Green is an athlete who can shoot. Where is the money for these players?
The salary for the big three players is as follows: Paul $35 million and climbing, Harden $30.4 million and climbing and Capela $15 million. What is the problem with this? These three players make $80 million and the salary cap is currently around $110 million. This leaves only $30 million remaining for the other six or seven players who will definitely see clock on the floor. The bigger problem is that Paul is the second highest paid player in the entire league in which he makes more than LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis. Paul has not made an all-NBA team, all-defensive team or any all-star game since 2016. He will be a hall of fame player, but this current contract demands MVP level statistics and he has not delivered. He signed a four-year max salary contract in which next year, he will make $38 million and in 2020, he clears $41 million. In 2021, he will make $44 million dollars. This is a substantial amount of money for an aging player who has produced mediocre results. This contract could be viewed by many as the worst basketball contract of all time.
This is the same player who stated that he could in fact beat Golden State when they were healthy in the playoffs. The opportunity presented itself when Durant was unfortunately injured during the second round of the playoffs. The results were nowhere near optimal for the Rockets because they allowed the splash brothers to leave the Toyota Center via a hurricane flurry of three pointers that drown the Rockets in which they could never have lift off.
The offense is an isolation style offense in which their head coach, Mike D’Antoni, wants volume three-point shooting to create big runs and space which does not bode well for their defense, which has lapsed in transition and half court. This allowed for teams to gain rhythm. However, when this team is on fire, they are tough to beat. This team is supposed to be the league expert in analytics led by their general manager, Darryl Morey. The owner, Tillman Fertitta, has consistently spent millions of dollars via luxury tax to deliver the city of Houston a title. Many fans believe it is time to blow the team up and rebuild. This will be hard to accomplish, because Paul’s salary is too large for any team for a max salary player who has produced mediocre results. Now, they have a locker room problem. Analytics does not equate to titles in this league. More is simply required. These fans deserve more.
It has leaked into social media that Chris and James’s relationship has become unsalvageable, even though this has been refuted from Chris himself.
The chemistry on the court has deteriorated because of the constant elimination of the playoffs from the Warriors. This essentially means that the team has taken its course and the owner should be aggressive in a rapid rebuild, while Harden is still in MVP form. The team has two primary ballhandlers who play isolation basketball in which will cause the other players on the floor to lose rhythm and become non-useful. Everyone is standing around waiting for action instead of creating movement and flow. James constantly bails them out with step back threes and drawing fouls at an alarming rate. With the reload of the Lakers, Denver remaining roster intact, Utah’s experience and Portland’s dangerous duo, many currently see no path for the Houston Rockets to win a championship from the Western Conference. Yes, Houston, we do have a problem.
Do you think Houston can win a title next year or the foreseeable future? Let us know. We have it here for all the shade…