May 24th, 2018. Houston was on the verge of pushing Golden State to the brink with every ounce of momentum on their side. Then, with 51.7 seconds to play, we all know what happened. Chris Paul suffered the hamstring injury that kept him from playing the rest of the series. Fans who were betting on Fanduel and immediately removed Paul from their roster and instead starting picking up the stars on Golden State like Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. The Warriors went on to win the series and eventually, the title. Flash forward to today and Houston looks once again like they are on the brink. Not quite the ledge they would like to be on though. Now, they might be on the brink of collapse.
Let me begin by saying it is more than likely Houston gets their act together. They have the reigning MVP for crying out loud, but the train seems to be slowing down and could derail soon if they aren’t careful. Last year, Houston wrecked the league with an offensive rating of 114 and even held the 7th best defensive rating. This cultivated in a league-leading net rating of 8.4. Golden State, for instance, had a net rating of 5.9. This year the Rockets are humming to a different tune. Ranking 10th in offensive rating, 23rd in defensive rating places them at 18th in total net rating. The Nets, Pistons, and Mavericks are all higher and they aren’t exactly teams we would call contenders, right? Houston’s offense has dropped off from their historic pace last season and while still in the upper half of the league hasn’t been elite and their defense has absolutely plummeted.
The depth is atrocious. The Carmelo Anthony experiment was a failure. He couldn’t even last long enough to break bread with the guys for a Thanksgiving feast. CP3, Harden, Capela, Gordon, and Tucker are nice, but after that what do they have? James Ennis is a downgrade from last year and you really want to rely on Gary Clark giving you 17 minutes a game? This team has no reliable backup point guard and the list of wings is uninspiring. Houston didn’t exactly dig deep into their roster last year, but with injuries and suspensions having been major factors into this season already it’s taking a toll.
One last worrisome sign from Houston is Chris Paul. He sat their two recent games against Cleveland and the Wizards. With a few nagging injuries perhaps ailing the 33-year-old point guard this early in the season, it is cause for concern. He has a colorful injury history and age isn’t exactly on his side. I am not campaigning for Houston to sound panic alarms, but this team doesn’t look anything close to the monster we saw last year. They need continuity to regain their mojo and they haven’t gotten that yet this year. The depth on this team is nonexistent and that issue isn’t going away either.
This was a crash course on why Houston could be in trouble. They have some issues that may not be fixable, but I can’t imagine this team missing the playoffs. The climb for home court, however, is going to be a long drawn out battle that I’m not sure they can win.