How many opportunities did the Rockets have to win championships?
The Rockets have squandered plenty of opportunities to win championships this past decade. They have had three teams that were worthy of a championship. Those three teams were star studded but what happened?
Those three teams were the 2008-2009, 2017-2018, 2018-2019 Rockets. Three capable teams to win a championship.
The 2008-2009 Rockets had a lot of potential on the court. They had Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest, Rafer Alston, and Shane Battier. The key role players for the team were Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, Carl Landry, Luther Head, Von Wafer, and Dikembe Mutombo. Even though the Rockets finished in fifth place that year, the Western Conference was tough. They were one spot out of third and fourth place in the conference. Two dramatic injuries that hurt the Rockets were McGrady and Yao. McGrady went down earlier that season. This caused the Rockets to lose creativity at the guard position. McGrady always struggled with injuries in his Rocket's tenure. Yao suffered an injury during semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers. That was a huge loss because the Rockets lost a superstar, presence inside the paint, and their best player. Other players like Artest, Wafer, Brooks, and Landry had stepped up their play against the Lakers. It just was not enough against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
The Rockets had a legitimate chance to win a title that year. They matched up well against the Lakers in 2009 without injuries. Having T-Mac and Yao together would have been lethal. Including having Artest and Battier who were great defenders. The role players that stepped up in the playoffs were unexpected. They were still able to take the Lakers seven games. Just imagine if the Rockets had Yao and T-Mac during the playoffs.
The next team that had a great opportunity was the 2017-2018 Rockets. This team consisted of James Harden, Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon, and Clint Capela. That year the Rockets went 65-17, which was first in the Western Conference. This team lead the league in three-point attempts, 13th in the three-point percentage, and number two points. Harden and Paul looked impressive together. Individuals were worried about the combination before the season started; Bringing Paul to Houston allowed Harden to get more rest. The Rockets struggled defensively in the beginning of the season despite winning games. Even though the Rockets could score a lot, they needed to defend. The assistant coach, Jeff Bzdelik, found defensive schemes so the Rockets could perform better. This teams favorite thing to do was to attempt three-point shots every game. They were electric and fun to watch against the Golden St Warriors. At the end of the season Harden won the 2017-2018 MVP.
The Rockets were troubled because of Paul's injury, and the 22 missed three-point attempts in game seven. When Paul went down in game six, the Rockets were in disarray for game seven. Fans in Houston will always have the "What if" factor when it comes to game seven. This was another blown opportunity for the Rocket's franchise. That Western Conference Finals lost was very hurtful to the team and city.
The very last team that had an opportunity was the 2018-2019 Rockets. This team started off very slowly in the beginning of the season. It was very questionable because of Carmelo Anthony and the struggles on defense. During their 11-14 start, the Rockets released Anthony and Paul was dealing with another injury. While Paul was out, Harden was able to rally the Rockets during tough games. This was able to keep the Rockets alive in the Western Conference while Paul was out. Harden also reminded the league why he was the 2017-2018 MVP that season. Other players who helped the Rockets out that season was Danuel House and Austin Rivers. They were very helpful coming off the bench.
Fast forwarding to semifinals of the playoffs, the Rockets went against the Golden St. Warriors again. In game five, Kevin Durant suffered a leg injury that kept him sidelined throughout the rest of the series. Surprisingly, the Rockets could not take advantage of Durant's injuries in both games, as they lost to the Warriors again in the playoffs. It was a confusing time for fans on why the Rockets lost. They were supposed to jump on the opportunity when Durant went down. The communication between Paul and Harden was off as well, frustrating the thousands of fans watching.
Hopefully one day the Rockets pull it together.