The Houston Rockets have enjoyed plenty of success over the past few seasons, including making the playoffs seven straight seasons. Despite all the recent wins and highscoring victories, the Rockets haven’t been able to get over the hump and reach the NBA Finals since the 1994-1995 season, when they were crowned NBA Champions. With a powerful enemy, the Golden State Warriors, now weakened, and many teams shifting and changing dramatically, could this be the Rockets’ season to hoist the Larry O’ Brien Championship Trophy? I interviewed Adam Kermally, a long-time Rockets fan and contributor for @Rockets_Insider on Twitter. Here’s what he thinks about the franchise and its direction.
Eric: The Rockets run an offense based primarily on 3-point shooting and dunks. There is a lot more isolation basketball and less movement than most NBA teams. What’s your stance on the offensive dynamic? Should it be more spread out, or are you fine with one player taking the majority of the shots? Are you content with living and dying by the 3-point shot?
Adam: The new dynamic of the NBA has both its pros and cons. Getting to watch a player like James Harden run an offense is in a way a blessing, and every game there is something he does that you’re amazed by. My stance on isolation basketball is that it is player directed. If you have a player that can score at will and can beat a defender one on one, you live with the isolation. But there are also ways in which isolation players make other players better. In the case of Harden, he requires a lot of attention on the offensive end. You can play him up tight, but he’ll blow right past you, making an easy lay up or a kick out pass if the defense collapses. But if you give him space, he’ll knock down the shot in your face, which is why spacing on the floor when you have an isolation dominant player thus becomes very important.
Eric: Giannis Antetokounmpo eventually was named the MVP last season for the NBA over your pick, James Harden. Give me your take on why Harden should have been the MVP.
Adam: James Harden should have been MVP because of the ridiculous offensive numbers he put up this past season. His 30 point scoring streak, willing the Rockets from the bottom of the Western Conference and ranking amongst the best guards defensively, he certainly deserved the MVP. That takes nothing against Giannas, but James was MVP this past season.
Eric: This NBA offseason has been crazy. The Houston Rockets added more fuel to the fire trading Chris Paul and 2 first-round picks for Westbrook. What was your reaction to the trade when it first happened, and which team do you think won the trade?
Adam: I was in utter shock. I couldn’t believe it. I had to sit and pinch myself that the Houston Rockets actually traded for Russell Westbrook. My phone was blowing up, Twitter was going crazy; it was a crazy night. I certainly think the Rockets won the trade. We got younger, got rid of Chris Paul’s contract, and reunited James Harden with Russell Westbrook- two MVPs. We were also able to keep our entire core together in trading for a superstar.
Eric: With all the guard lay of the Rockets, one talented player that flies somewhat under the radar is Clint Capela. How vital is he to this team? Do you believe the rumors that he could be the next piece to go via trade?
Adam: It can be argued that Clint Capela is the most important member of the Rockets. His rim attacking ability opens up the offense so much. The ability to screen and roll to the basket as effectively as he does makes the defense question what to guard for: a Harden lay up or Capela alley oop. I think we saw these past playoffs that when Clint Capela is going, the Rockets are going. And he’s an absolute unit on the defensive end of the court as well. Capela will be here to stay.
Eric: Who is the biggest key to the team not named Westbrook, Harden or Capela? Why?
Adam: There are a couple guys. PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon, and Danuel House Jr come to mind first. Tucker is the engine of the Rockets defense, and his ability to knock down the corner three is super important for the Rockets, especially when defenders help on Harden’s drives. Gordon is important cause he is there to provide an offensive lift to the team, but also will guard the opponent’s best guard. No one talks about it, but Gordon locked up Donovan Mitchell the past two postseasons; what he does on the defensive side of the ball is really underrated. Danuel House Jr is important because in his sample size before being sent to the G-League, he proved he belonged in this league and deserved minutes.
Eric: What is the ceiling for the Houston Rockets this season? In a loaded Western Conference, are the Rockets a title force?
Adam: The ceiling is the same; it’s a championship. I think the Rockets are better than they were last year. I think the new look will be beneficial to the Rockets and can give other teams issues when it comes to guarding Russell Westbrook and James Harden on the floor together.
You can follow Adam Kermally on Twitter here: @AdamKermally