Last season, the Houston Rockets managed to reach the Western Conference finals where they forced a Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors. If Chris Paul didn’t suffer an injury, some people believed that the Rockets would be the one heading to the NBA Finals 2018 and not the Warriors.
Less than a month before the start of the 2018-19 NBA season, Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey admitted that they are still obsessed in dethroning the Warriors. In a recent interview with Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Morey revealed that they made most of their offseason decisions with the back-to-back NBA champions in mind.
“I’d say a lot, a very high percentage. A lot of those decisions work against every team. Same as last year, it’s very likely to win the title we’re going to have to beat the Warriors at some point. We’re doing what we can to prepare for them. To me, that’s what any rational person would do. I’m intrigued by some thinking it’s odd that we say that. Maybe because it’s not a norm. Ask any fan, ‘Who do you have to beat to win the title?’ They’re going to say ‘the Warriors.’ It seems like GM speak or coachspeak to not say that.”
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) September 23, 2018
It is easy to understand why the Rockets still see the Warriors as the team they need to beat in order to win the NBA championship title next season. After a successful title defense, Golden State has succeeded to retain their core of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. They also managed to upgrade their roster with the acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins in the 2018 NBA free agency.
Though Cousins is expected to spend the most of the regular season recovering from an injury, he could join the Warriors when the real battle begins in the Western Conference Playoffs. Meanwhile, the Rockets also have new acquisitions this summer – Carmelo Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams, Marquese Chriss, James Ennis, and Brandon Knight. Unfortunately, they lost two players who played a major role in their success last season.
In the recent free agency, Trevor Ariza signed with the Phoenix Suns, while Luc Mbah a Moute returned to the Los Angeles Clippers. Rockets General Morey admitted that Ariza and Mbah a Moute are huge losses for Houston, but he strongly believes that they can be as strong defensively as they were last season. When the Rockets signed Carmelo Anthony, there were speculations that they are planning to pursue a defensive-minded player on the trade market.
When Jimmy Butler requested a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN named the Rockets as one of the NBA teams who could express interest in acquiring the disgruntled superstar. As of now, it remains questionable if the Rockets have the trade assets that can convince the Timberwolves to make a deal. However, there is no doubt that the acquisition of Butler will increase the Rockets’ chance of beating the Warriors in a best-of-seven series next season.