By Matt Ferris
Going into the 2018-19 NBA season, it was obvious that the Golden State Warriors were again the favorites to win the championship.
But it was also obvious that the Houston Rockets would be the Warriors’ biggest obstacle to getting back to the Finals for their third win in a row.
Almost a fifth of the way through the NBA season, the Warriors have not disappointed. They have the best record in the NBA and have been completely dominant in all their wins.
However, the Rockets have not lived up to their expectations. So far through 13 games, the Rockets are just 6-7 and have not looked at all like the same team they were last year.
Last season, the Rockets finished with the best record in the league at 65-17.
They were one of the best offensive teams in NBA history, averaging 112 points on 46-percent shooting with almost 22 assists per game.
However their defense wasn’t great. Besides big name defenders like Clint Capella, PJ Tucker, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Trevor Ariza, the Rockets struggled on defense, allowing 103 points per game.
The Rockets rolled through much of the playoffs but were eventually defeated in seven games in the Western Conference Finals by the Warriors.
After the devastating loss, the Rockets focused on getting better in the offseason. They went after one of the biggest names in the NBA, Carmelo Anthony, and signed him to a one-year contract.
In the process of acquiring Anthony, the Rockets had to part ways with two of their best defenders – Ariza and Mbah a Moute.
Anthony is one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, but his biggest knocks over the course of his career are his defense and his inability to be a team player.
And so far this season, Anthony’s scoring has not been nearly enough to counteract his downside.
Anthony is averaging just 13 points a game this season and has not performed well on the defensive side of the court.
This is showing on the stat sheet as well.
Through 13 games, the Rockets are significantly down in points per game and up in points allowed per game.
In 2018-19, the Rockets are only scoring 103 points per game, which is 28th in the NBA, and allowing 106 points per game on defense.
Though early, it is time for the Rockets to hit the panic button.
If they continue at this pace, they will be a .500 team and will most likely not make the playoffs.
However, Houston is taking steps in the right direction. They announced on Thursday, Nov. 15 that they will be parting ways with Anthony.
This move will definitely help them in the long run and allow them to be more efficient on offense, as well as improve on defense.
If the Rockets want to get back to the level they played at last year, a couple more roster changes are necessary.
Houston is still very weak defensively and needs to bring in a lockdown perimeter defender – something they haven’t had since they parted ways with Ariza.
Also, for a team that predominately shoots the 3-pointer, they are only shooting 31 percent. This is a terrible percentage for a team that shoots nearly 45 per game. Bringing in a veteran sharp shooter, like Kyle Korver, could go a long way to getting the Rockets’ offense back on track.
If the Rockets are serious about contending this season and want to challenge the Warriors, then some serious changes are necessary or the future is looking pretty dim for Houston.