Ready for Takeoff

The Houston Rockets are off to their best start in years but are they the team to beat in the NBA?

By Jordan Py Contributor

With confetti still in the streets from the Astros’ World Series championship parade, the city of Houston continues to have a lot to cheer for. The Houston Rockets are off to their third best start in the last 30 years and have been at the top of the power rankings for the last couple of weeks.

The Rockets are 18-4 through the first quarter of the season and have won seven straight games since Chris Paul has returned from a knee injury. They are averaging 114 points per game and have led by 20 points or more in each of the seven games during their winning streak. The question still remains: are they the best team in the NBA?

The NBA has suffered a lack of parity with the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers meeting in the NBA Finals the last three seasons. In the so-called “super team era,” many organizations are trying to keep pace with Golden State and Cleveland in order to make their own push for a championship.

This offseason was no different with the Oklahoma City Thunder acquiring superstars Paul George from the Indiana Pacers and Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks to support the NBA’s most valuable player, Russell Westbrook.

It seems that the thought process for each team in the offseason has been to get their own version of “the big three,” reminiscent of the ‘08 Celtics when they won the championship with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.

The Houston Rockets don’t necessarily have a “big three” but they have managed to create a “gigantic two” when they signed point guard Chris Paul in the offseason. The Paul signing has looked good so far as the Rockets are 8-0 when Paul and James Harden are on the floor together.

There was some concern surrounding Paul’s return and how the Rockets would use him, considering they have been the hottest team in the NBA with Harden playing point guard. Since Paul’s rejoined the team, he is only sharing the floor with Harden for 18.6 minutes per game, which is odd, seeing as they’re both considered the best players on the team.

Nonetheless, Harden is averaging 29 minutes with Trevor Ariza and 22 minutes with Eric Gordon, which allows him to keep the ball in his hands the majority of the time, making him an enormous offensive threat. The Rockets have continued to roll and are first in 3-point shots made, averaging 17 per game while shooting 47 percent from deep, and that’s without their two big stars sharing the floor often.

The Rockets have answered and even surprised critics with the way they have been dominating teams and mostly without Paul in the lineup. They still have a lot to prove considering Paul, Harden and head coach Mike D’Antoni have yet to win an NBA championship.

This year’s Rockets team may be different if its superstars and supporting cast can stay healthy and make a deep playoff run. To say they are the best team in the NBA is a little premature because, like they always say, “You’ve got to beat the best to be the best.” And right now, the best are still the reigning champions—the Golden State Warriors.