The Houston Rockets are in the midst of a phenomenal offseason in which their most notable additions include star point guard Chris Paul and three-and-D wing PJ Tucker — moves made to help narrow the gap between themselves and the Golden State Warriors at the top of the Western Conference.
But as far as former Rockets coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy is concerned, the additions won't make Houston a better team offensively.
“I think they have a lot on their plate integrating Paul and (James) Harden,” Van Gundy told the New York Post over the weekend. “They’re not going to be better offensively than they were last year. They were the second-best team in the league offensively. I thought they had defined roles everyone knew. (Coach) Mike D’Antoni did a fabulous job getting them to play on a consistent basis."
The Rockets, who finished with a 55-27 regular season record, boasted one of the most high-octane offenses in recent history, scoring 111.8 points per 100 possessions while knocking down an NBA record 1,181 three-pointers. Harden thrived in D'Antoni's system, putting together a career season as the team's primary ballhandler.
But things fell apart in the Western Conference semifinals, where Harden disappeared in Game 6 and the Rockets were sent home by the Kawhi Leonard-less San Antonio Spurs.
"The Chris Paul trade, there’s going to be some ups and downs, but they’re better equipped to win in the playoffs," Van Gundy said. "Particularly if Harden has a bad night, they still have a superior player to play through."
Seventeen days into free agency, the Rockets might not be finished making moves. Though the talks have stalled, they're at the front of the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes — a potential addition that Van Gundy doesn't see as a "natural fit."
“He’s a very good player, yet they don’t need help offensively,” Van Gundy said. “They were a fabulous offensive team. I’m interested to see if it happens and who’s involved if it does happen. I don’t necessarily see the fit.
“Unfortunately, what they need to combat Golden State is a two-way Hall of Fame-caliber player, and they got one in Paul. So Anthony certainly is a Hall of Fame player, but whether he gives them great defensive versatility. … It is where Ryan Anderson struggled, in pick-and-rolls. So maybe Anthony will be more versatile defensively than Anderson, and maybe that’s the upgrade there.”
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