NBA Futures: Can the Houston Rockets Beat the Warriors?
Rockets' Championship Odds Trending
When NBA championship lines opened a few months ago, Houston was +2500 to win the chip, fifth-best among the league. This was, of course, before all the blockbuster dealings in the offseason, most significantly, All-Star point guard Chris Paul joining the team. Fast forward to today and the Rockets' odds have dropped to +800, third-best and now ahead of squads like the Boston Celtics (+900) and San Antonio Spurs (+1300).
The hot streak combined with a 12-1 road record and significant improvements to defence make Houston a trendy pick to unseat the seemingly unbeatable Warriors.
Houston is red-hot right now but we can only wonder how long this lasts and if clinching the top-seed will even make a difference against the Warriors or Spurs for that matter. One thing is for certain right now, this is the greatest Rockets team in its 50-year history and championship or not, they are a lot of fun to watch...
Rockets Must Overcome Playoff Demons
Houston, as a franchise, has won two NBA titles and became the lowest-seeded team at no. 6 to win a championship. This isn't your dad's Rockets team however and while Houston looks unstoppable right now, the playoffs are a different story especially for the Rockets' core of James Harden, Chris Paul, and head coach Mike D'Antoni.
All three must overcome their playoffs shortcomings.
Harden was arguably robbed of the Most Valuable Player (MVP) last season when he averaged career-highs in scoring (28.8 points) and assists (11.1). He's even more efficient this season averaging more points (32), better shooting percentage (.463), hitting more threes (4.4), and protecting the ball (4.4 turnovers).
But as gaudy as his regular season numbers are, it won't mean jack if and when the Rockets have another disappointing playoff performance. The loss to the Spurs last playoffs when they blew a game five lead and got blown out the next game at home, all but diminished their achievements. Harden was a ghost in game six like he was when his Thunder lost the 2012 NBA Finals.
Paul is a nine-time All-Star and has been a perennial MVP candidate since his third season in the league. With career averages of 18.9 points, 10 assists, and 2.3 steals, "CP3" is a lock in the Hall of Fame. But as great as he has looked in the regular season, like Harden, he has failed to lift his team come the postseason.
In 76 playoff games, Paul has never made it further than the second round. The closest he came was during the 2015 playoffs when his Clippers lost a hard-fought seven-games against Harden's Rockets. But it's also worth noting that Paul's teams have rarely held homecourt advantage past the first round.
Coach D'Antoni likewise is a future Hall of Famer. With over 530 games won (.536 coaching record) and two Coach of the Year awards, D'Antoni is one of the NBA's most efficient coaches. Despite all his teams' success, he's fallen short in the playoffs just as much as his two superstars.
D'Antoni's powerhouse Suns team in the mid-2000s couldn't get over the Conference Finals.His coaching record in the playoffs stands at .457 and before last season, he was 1-12 in his last three playoff appearances.
The Rockets look really good this season but given the repeated playoff failures of their core, it is best to hold off on the hype. Securing the top seed goes a long way but it'll be up to Harden, Paul, and D'Antoni to ensure the ghosts of playoffs past stay buried.
NBA Futures: Three-Horse Race in the West
The NBA Finals odds stands with three of the five top teams from the West: the Warriors (-175), Rockets (+800), and Spurs (+1300). Golden State is still widely favoured to repeat. The Rockets beat them in the season opener and have looked like a new team but they'll have to keep this level of play until the playoffs.
The Spurs have been without MVP-candidate Kawhi Leonard for the start of this season but maintained a distant third-place in the Western Conference. His return could push the Spurs to a winning streak and re-establish themselves as a threat. This team just came off a franchise-best 67-win season two seasons ago and were giving the Warriors a fight until Leonard got hurt.
Golden State remains a step ahead of the Rockets and Spurs but as the injury to Leonard showed, the tide can swing quickly if a key player or two gets hurt. As it stands, the Rockets and Spurs remain lucrative options for those willing to take that big shot.
Betting On NBA Basketball
Canada loves its NBA not just the Toronto Raptors. The fast-paced back-and-forth on the hardwood is an exciting alternative to the NHL or NFL. Fans head to online sportsbooks open to Canadians to play while availing of the signup offers.
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