Nearly halfway through the NBA season, the league appears to be as wide open as it has been in years. With the rapid demise of the Warriors, there are at least six or seven teams that could argue right now they are good enough to win it all. Your Houston Rockets are one of them.
But like all teams, questions loom for the Rockets this season and even into next. We've got some answers.
Will they make a move at the trade deadline?
For GM Daryl Morey, the trade deadline is like Christmas. He rarely goes without making at least a minor deal in season, though the biggest moves the last couple of years have come via signing available players (Austin Rivers, for example). As good at the team is, they could always use help, particularly in the frontcourt where they remain woefully undersized. Don't expect a big move, but a couple of smaller ones to shore up depth is likely.
Are they really better than the Clippers?
The Rockets have gotten the best of the other LA franchise this season, but the Clippers still remain slightly ahead in the standings. Expect that to be a similar refrain for much of the season. These are two teams that don't like each other very much and will clearly be itching to go at it in the playoffs. If they meet, expect a fascinating and exciting series.
Can they secure home court advantage?
Currently in fourth with only two game separating them from the two teams in front of them AND the two teams behind them, it is going to be a dogfight to land one of the top four seeds in the West. The Rockets have as good a shot as anyone to remain in the top four and even move up. Injuries will play a key role as the spring gets closer.
Do they have enough talent to win a championship?
Talent, yes. The problems will come with match ups. Teams with length (Lakers, for example) will give them trouble and they will have to improve defensively if they are going to challenge the best teams in the West. Currently, the Rockets are 17th in defensive rating. That needs to be closer to 10th if they stand a chance against the best of the best.
Will Mike D'Antoni and/or Morey be with the team next season?
Given D'Antoni didn't get a contract extension in the offseason and considering Morey's issues with his Hong Kong tweet, it's reasonable to say neither is safe. If we were putting money on it, we'd bed Morey remains and D'Antoni moves on. Morey is widely considered one of the league's best GM's and his owner appears to agree with that assessment. But, a lot will be riding on how the team does this year for both of them.