2018-19 Season Preview: Houston Rockets

James Harden and the Rockets are looking to take the next step in the playoffs after finishing with the best regular-season record.

Coach: Mike D’Antoni (entering his third season with Houston, 120-44, .732, his 15th overall, 575-470, .550).

Last Season: 65-17, lost in Western Conference Finals to Golden State, 4-0.

Key Returnees: James Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green, Nene Hilario.

Key Additions: Carmelo Anthony (Oklahoma City), Michael Carter-Williams (Charlotte), Marquese Chriss (Phoenix), Brandon Knight (Phoenix).

Key Losses: Trevor Ariza (Phoenix), Luc Mbah a Moute (LA Clippers).

Outlook: The Rockets came this close to knocking off defending champion Golden State in the Western Conference Finals, only to see their visions of the Finals and a possible championship be hamstrung, literally. When point guard Chris Paul suffered an injured right hamstring in the last minute of a Game 5 win that put Houston ahead in the series, 3-2, it proved to be their undoing. However, that injury and eventual elimination in seven games didn’t take away from the Rockets posting the best regular-season record in the league (not to mention, in franchise history) and James Harden (30.4 points, 8.8 assists) winning NBA MVP honors. Most of the key contributors are back, save for free-agent defectors Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, and general manger Daryl Morey continued his trend of landing big fish, this time in the form of Carmelo Anthony, who cost the Rockets only cash after being traded to and subsequently bought out by Atlanta. Morey also dealt for Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight from Phoenix and signed guard Michael Carter-Williams as a free agent. Anthony isn’t in the same universe as Ariza and Mbah a Moute, but he is light years ahead of them, offensively. How that tradeoff plays out could very well be the determining factor of whether Houston can take another shot at dethroning Golden State or takes a step back in the rugged, shark-infested waters of the Western Conference.