The Houston Rockets are coming off of another short-lived season. They were eliminated in the playoffs in the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year. So it’s time for a change and that change is getting rid of Chris Paul and trading him to the Oklahoma City Thunder for another dominant player in Russell Westbrook. This wouldn’t be the first time we have seen Westbrook and James Harden team up together in the backcourt. They both started their careers with the Thunder along Kevin Durant and if you remember their tremendous run their rookie and sophomore years, they made it to the NBA Finals and unfortunately lost to the dominate LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Many people thought, including the organization, that this was the start of many championships being brought to the team. But we all know eventually Harden was shipped out to Houston and then eventually KD signed with the Warriors and then left for the Brooklyn Nets, and the Thunders dreams of winning an NBA title slowly started to fade away.

Harden and Westbrook are both coming off a tremendous season, with Westbrook averaging a triple double three years in a row and Harden just always being in his bag every game and putting up numbers that are not normal for another all-star. With both Harden and Westbrook leading their own teams to the playoffs and both setting different bench marks for themselves and for the NBA, it’s going to be interesting to see how both players can combine their skills to help their team finally get over that hump and win an NBA title.

I am very curious to see how this duo is going to work after being on two different teams for so long and developing a different style of play with their previous teams, with both players being ball dominant and controlling the flow of the game. They both control the flow of the game differently, with Harden more of an ISO player, he’ll slow the game down once crossing the half court mark and trying to take him man off the dribble to do one of three things; either a dribble move then drive the paint, dribble move with a step back three (which apparently isn’t a travel), or he’ll do a dribble move, drive the paint then has a lob to Clint Capela or a kick out three to Gordon. But the down fall to this style of play when it comes to playing against good teams, it allows the defense to rest and be more explosive on the offensive end for them or as I like to do as a coach/player is run and gun, which we have seen before against the Warriors, which led to them losing in the Western Conference Finals.

Point Guards

Credit: Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images
  • Chris Clemons
  • Shamorie Ponds
  • Austin Rivers
  • Russell Westbrook

With the new comer Westbrook coming into the mix, I expect him and Harden to carry a majority of the at the point guard position. We will see both of them on the court at the same time at the beginning and at the end of the game, and them both being ball dominate when one of them sits to rest during the game. I expect Westbrook to bring up the ball during games when both of them are on the floor together, and we shall see if Harden can get back to the shooting guard role that he played while the two previous and now teammates try to work together again.

Rivers makes a good back up, he knows his role coming off the bench, which is to keep the team relevant while the starters rest. Play good defense and facilitate the offense and creating a little spark if the team is down and is trying to make a comeback. Clemons and Ponds are both Rookies who may not be getting the possibilities they would expect right out the gate with a lot of veteran presence in front of them at both guard spots.

Shooting Guards

Credit: Noah K. Murray
  • Michael Frazier
  • Eric Gordon
  • Gerald Green
  • James Harden
  • Danuel House
  • Ben McLemore

Gordon is quietly one of the best shooters in the league and a lot of people forget about that. He can fire from all over all cylinders and is a great on the defensive end. Green is another explosive player who is also a benefit on the defensive end. Even though he is a player that has been bounced around from team to team he still gives the team he’s on the depth they need to help out their starting players without being too much of a reliability on the floor. McLemore is a quiet player who spent most of his time with the Sacramento Kings. He had a breakout year his sophomore year in the 2014-15 season, and then after that, he’s been an okay player. Hopefully being on a new team with a roster who has the potential of going far in the playoffs can get him encouraged to make a difference compared to his previous team. Frazier is a rookie out of Florida who had a quiet college career.

Small Forwards

Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
  • Jaron Blossomgame
  • Thabo Sefolosha
  • P. J. Tucker

Tucker is known for playing scrappy defense and could be a floor general on the offensive end. Sefolosha is another player who has been bounced around from different teams but is known for being a corner specialist and can put solid minutes in off the bench. Blossomgame is coming off his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers and looking to make a good impact on his new team.

Power Forwards

Credit: Thomas B. Shea/USA Today Sports
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Gary Clark
  • Isaiah Hartenstein
  • Nene
  • Ryan Spalding

Anderson is a player who is on the back half of his career. He is a nice spark off the bench and is able to spread the floor with size for not only his ability but also to give the big man down low the ability to work in the inside. He is a player that can quietly make an impact from beyond the arc and even in the inside. Nene is more of a big man than anything but if for some reason him and Capela are on the floor at the same time he would be taking the Power Forward position. Clark and Spalding are both coming off their rookie seasons, hoping to make an impact in their second season and hopefully learning a lot from last year this previous offseason.

Centers

Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
  • Clint Capela
  • Tyson Chandler

Capela would be on the floor the majority of the time during the season with Nene as his backup. Capela is a player that will average a double double with rebounds and points along with two to three blocks a game. Majority of his game is based off the pick n roll and with the same as Nene. Capela is known as one of the best big man in the league and he proves it every night on the floor. Chandler is a good back up to have as well, even though he is towards the back end of his career he can still give you solid 5-10 minutes off the bench.

The only problem for this team at the big man position is when Capela or Nene are not on the floor it leaves them hopeless underneath the basket. I look for them to try and find another back up the big man before the their final push for the finals.

Coach

Credit: Erik Williams

Coach Mike D’Antoni is coming back for his fourth season, and to me, his game plan probably isn’t going to change, but the only thing that will change is the players on the floor. I believe is on the hot seat for this season. He is coming off back-to-back years losing in the Western Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors, both years they dragged out the series to Game 7 and losing in heart breaking fashion. With a new explosive player in Westbrook, hopefully, Coach can draw up more plays that could benefit for both Harden and Westbrook, while keeping the same ISO plays for Harden and scheming up new explosive plays for Westbrook.

Projected Lineup/Roster Cuts

  • PG: Russell Westbrook
  • SG: James Harden
  • SF: Danuel House
  • SF/PF: P.J. Tucker
  • C: Clint Capela
  • Sixth Man: Eric Gordon
  • Key Role Players: Nene, Ryan Anderson, Thabo Sefolosha, Gerald Green
  • Rest of the Bench: Ben McLemore, Tyson Chandler, Michael Frazier, Ryan Spalding, Chris Clemons
  • Roster Cuts: Jaron Blossomgame, Shamorie Ponds, Gary Clark, Isaiah Hartenstein

An overall solid lineup here, with Westbrook and Harden leading the charge. Eric Gordon will be their third scorer with Capela as their fourth. The bench is solid as well but could be better, as long as they know their roles they could go far in the playoffs.

I believe this team could be in the top five in the Western Conference, my only real concern is to see if both Westbrook and Harden who are both ball dominate players can work together to make a solid back court. Their only weakness is both of them lack a good skill on the defensive end.

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