2018 Houston Rockets Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert Picks
The Rockets came as close as any Western Conference team has to knocking off the Warriors last year. Better shooting in the Game 7 and they probably would have done it. But as close as they came, they know that their window is small and that they had to continue to make changes to try and close the gap further and make the finals. And they did make changes. But it remains to be seen if they accomplished what is most important - getting better through those changes. It's pretty easy to look at where they are right now and wonder if they are the team that they were last year - the team that had home-court advantage through the playoffs. They took some risks, and we won't truly know until next May whether those risks have paid off.
Chris Paul dealt with too many injuries last year in his first season in Houston, but when he did play the experience was largely a success. The team obviously thought so because they locked him down for four more years at the tidy cost of $160 million. The one concern people had when he arrived was that one ball wouldn't be enough for him and James Harden to share, but they both saw the bigger picture, put selfishness aside, and found a rhythm that works. Paul has played a full season just once in the seven seasons since leaving New Orleans. Playing a full year this year, or at least more than the 58 games of last year, would be a big boost for the team.
Clint Capela is another guy who got paid in a big way this offseason. It's easy to forget that he is just 24 years old, so he still has room to improve. He is the team's best defender, and as we will see further down that is a more important role than it has been. He's going to be a very important piece here - the third piece of this core. And the team needs him to continue climbing and growing in a hurry, because him as third piece isn't as good as what Golden State has for a third piece.
2018 Houston Rockets Additions and Departures
It is striking that even at a deeply-discounted price that few people seem particularly excited about the addition of Carmelo Anthony to this roster. His attempt to form a big three last year in Oklahoma City was a total and utter disaster - so much so that few people even view this move to Houston as a marriage of equals. At best it is a low-risk play for the Rockets. If he is hungry and motivated, and he finds chemistry with two guys who he has played with on Team USA multiple times, then it could be a steal. But if he doesn't work out and is more trouble than he is worth then the small contract is easy just to eat and move on. Still, when you put practicality aside, this is a stunning slide for a guy who is a 10-time all-star and is still only 34.
The biggest cause for concern in the offseason is the departures of Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in free agency. Neither guy is young, and the Suns probably paid too much for Ariza, but they were both top-level defenders on what was the best defensive team Mike D'Antoni has ever had. Neither of the two big stars are stellar defensively and replacing Ariza in the starting lineup with Anthony is a major defensive backstep. And newly-added James Ennis III doesn't nearly make up for Mbah a Moute and saves the team only $900,000 from what the latter is making with the Clippers this year. The two departed players caused matchup problems that Golden State struggled with in the playoffs, and now the Rockets don't have that advantage. That alone is a big reason to wonder if this team is as good as last year, never mind any better.
The draft is rarely productive for elite teams in the short term, and that is certain to be true here. The only player they took was point guard De'Anthony Melton from USC with the 46th pick, and they shipped him to Sacramento along with Ryan Anderson for depth players Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight. Knight is the interesting one there because he could be a useful backup point guard, and his contract will be attractive if he doesn't work out and/or Daryl Morey looks to add wing help.
2018 Houston Rockets Futures Odds and Trends
NBA title odds ( from Bovada ) : +850
Western Conference title odds : +550
James Harden MVP Odds : +550 (fourth best)
Chris Paul MVP Odds : +10000
Season win total: 55.5
The Rockets went 50-48-1 ATS through the regular season and the playoffs, so there wasn't a long-term profit to be found no matter where you looked. Where the money was, though, was on the total. The team went "over" 39 times and "under" and impressive 58. That's a 59.8 percent under rate, which is the third-most-profitable number against the total in the league.
2018 Houston Rockets Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
They are probably a top two team in the West in the regular season. And they aren't good enough to beat the Warriors if the defending champs stay healthy. It feels to me like they were standing at the window looking out, but they couldn't figure how to climb over the sill. That being said, the over on the win total is at least mildly playable.
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