Houston Rockets Season Preview for 2019 – Will Russell Westbrook Finally Bring Glory to Houston?
Last year, the Rockets made it to the Western Conference semifinals but were again toppled by the Golden State Warriors. It was a disappointing end to a season in which James Harden gave everything he could to try and lead the team to the title.
Harden was practically running the offense all by himself, especially in stretches which Chris Paul and Clint Capela missed due to injury. He carried his form to the first round of the playoffs where he proved too hot to handle for the Jazz.
However, his heroics did take a toll, and Harden was a bit jaded going up against the Warriors, who had injury problems of their own. The Beard did still put up a fight, but the manner in which the Rockets lost the series was a sign that things needed to change.
In this Houston Rockets season preview, I will detail their chances for success this season and how their roster will function this year. I will then examine some of the betting markets on offer and assess whether there’s any value to betting on the Rockets in 2019-20.
Houston Rockets 2019 Offseason Summary
- Notable Players Out: Chris Paul
- Notable Players In: Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler
The Rockets pulled one of the blockbuster deals of the summer by bringing in Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder. They didn’t do too much other business, but this one change is bound to have a significant impact on the team’s system.
Although Harden was always the main guy, the team’s offense was largely designed to favor Paul’s style of play. Now D’Antoni doesn’t have a typical point guard that looks to carve up defenses and likes to hit a mid-range jumper.
Sure, Westbrook is also an elite passer, but he doesn’t bring the same efficiency with his jump shot.
There are plenty of areas in which Russ is superior to CP3, but the coach will need to find a way to implement them without taking away too much from Harden’s iso game.
The other pieces remain pretty much the same. Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker are back to slot into the frontcourt, and the role of starting center will again fall to Clint Capela. The Rockets will also rely on the talents of Gerald Green, Austin Rivers, and Danuel House from the bench.
A decision on Kenneth Faried is yet to be made, but it looks like the Manimal will not be returning this year. He was able to revive his career in Houston and posted some career-high numbers last season.
The Rockets were expected to bring him back, but I suppose the issue was mainly financial.
After such impressive performances, the center was always going to look for higher pay. Looks like the Rockets weren’t prepared to give it, though, as they actively looked for bigs on the market. They finally opted to sign Tyson Chandler, so I believe there won’t be further negotiations to bring Faried back to the roster.
So, overall, the Houston roster remains largely unchanged except for the small matter of welcoming Russell Westbrook to the fold. Let’s have a look at how his arrival will affect their style of play.
Houston Rockets 2019-20 Offense Analysis
The most important thing to note here is that this is still James Harden’s team. He will not easily relinquish his role of the main ball handler.
Westbrook needs to live with that. He did show signs that he can also be a team player by letting Paul George run the offense in certain games last year.
And this is exactly what Mike D’Antoni will be hoping for. The chemistry needs to be right between his two star players, and there isn’t much he can do about it. Players like Harden and Westbrook are on a level where they can’t really be effectively coached.
D’Antoni himself stressed on that and the fact that the players will need to make it work between themselves. It remains to be seen whether Westbrook will sit quietly in isolation plays while Harden is making up space for his step-back three.
I feel Russ has indeed matured on that front, and he realizes that this trade presents him with a real chance of getting to the title. Harden is also desperate for glory, so he might be open to compromising as well.
These guys have been teammates before, they like each other, and although they are both tough characters, I think they will try to stick together and figure out what’s best for the team. If this happens, Rockets fans will be in for a treat.
Harden and Westbrook are among the very top point guards in almost every meaningful offensive stat. An effective combination between the two has the potential to simply decimate opponents.
They can also rely on a very competent three-point shooter in P.J. Tucker, as well as Eric Gordon, who saw his shooting from deep improve massively last season.
Clint Capela will be waiting in the paint as usual, and bench players Gerald Green, Danuel House, and Austin Rivers will provide adequate shooting options in rotation to boost the Huston Rockets’ offense in 2019.
Houston Rockets 2019-20 Defense Analysis
The defense will surely be one of the team’s weakest links again. But at least Russell Westbrook is a better defender than Chris Paul. If he actually wants to defend, that is. Often times, he couldn’t be bothered when playing for OKC, but that was his team.
He is on the Rockets now, and he needs to apply himself if he wants a shot at the title. I actually think that people will be surprised by the defensive effort Westbrook will put in this year. I might be wrong, but it really sounds like Russ means business and is ready to work hard.
New addition Tyson Chandler will most probably have limited time on the court. However, he is another experienced player who can help out with protecting the rim and getting boards.
For me, the team’s best defenders will again be Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker. I actually think that most people severely underestimate Tucker’s defensive contribution. The guy has never made the NBA All-Defensive Team, but he is quite adept at guarding the top players.
If you look at his performances last season, you would be convinced of that. Tucker held Kawhi Leonard to only 15 shots, of which he made five. LeBron was three out of nine, and Jayson Tatum made only one shot out of four.
The guy can definitely defend, and it is high time he gets the praise he deserves.
Houston Rockets 2019-20 Expectations
It comes as no surprise than any meaningful achievement for the Rockets this season goes through a good link-up between Harden and Westbrook. If those two can’t make it work, there’s no point in even discussing their title chances.
Luckily for their fans, I think there are valid reasons to believe that this partnership will click in the right way. Both players have gone through bitter disappointments and are approaching a stage in their respective careers where legacy becomes a big deal.
And I think that the organization can profit immensely from this combination of maturity and MVP-caliber talent. That backcourt alone possesses enough quality to carry the whole team on most nights. It’s just that when those two get their game going, it will be nearly impossible to resist their advances.
Furthermore, Harden and Westbrook have unbelievable endurance and have proved they can shoulder the burden of being the main guys throughout a full season.
All this sounds great for Houston’s prospects of breaking their duck, but there’s also a downside. I don’t think they have quite enough to reach the Finals in a packed Western Conference. Now, don’t get me wrong; nobody will be comfortable playing the Rockets in 2019-20.
That is why I believe they have every chance of getting somewhere around 55 wins, which should allow them to top the Conference in the regular season. It is up to them to prove they can be a force in the postseason as well.
History has taught us that both players can choke pretty hard in the playoffs. It will be tough to turn it all around in the space of a year. Not to mention the fact that there is no shortage of more experienced and balanced teams in the Western Conference.
- Expected Wins During the Regular Season: 55
- Playoffs Prediction: Western Conference Semifinals
- X-Factor: Harden and Westbrook’s Chemistry
Houston Rockets 2019-20 Betting Odds and Predictions
It’s time to have a look at some of the outrights and futures that the NBA betting sites have in store for us. These Houston Rockets odds are courtesy of BetOnline.ag.
Regular Season Total Wins
It seems that the bookmakers agree that Houston has a good chance of going over the 53-win mark. They actually finished with 53 last year in a season where their roster was ravaged by injuries to key players.
Westbrook and Harden have a history of playing a lot in the regular season. Capela and Gordon should also feature more regularly, so the prerequisites are there for the Rockets to do better this time around.
Other Houston Rockets Futures for 2019-20
Claiming the Southwest Division title should be no problem for the Houston Rockets. However, you’ll find it hard to get decent value out of the bet. If you’re looking for the best deal, you should probably focus on the Western Conference winner market.
As I pointed out, I don’t think Harden and Westbrook will find the ingredients to make it to the Finals, but they both perform excellently during the regular season.
They are not the online bookmakers’ clear favorite to win the Conference, but I do recommend backing them as teams like the Clippers will most probably look to keep their players fresh for the postseason.
That opens the door for the Rockets, and if betting on them to win more than 53 games does not sound lucrative enough, you can definitely combine that with the juicy +350 odds for them winning the Western Conference.
We’ll have to wait and see how Houston’s new dynamic duo will fare, but I can definitely understand the fans’ excitement. I don’t quite see them winning the title just yet, but who knows? With that amount of talent, there is always a chance.
If you’re interested in betting on the team this year and staying updated on all the news, make sure you regularly visit our Houston Rockets team guide. On top of our betting tips and often-updated predictions, you will find tons of key information about the franchise and its history in the NBA.