The Rockets made one of the biggest off-season trades. This article looks at how their lineups will look on opening night.
The Houston Rockets were one of the teams to make a big splash during the off-season. After trading multiple valuable pieces in order to land arguably the biggest free agent in Chris Paul, the roster will have a few changes this season. They gave up a lot of depth by trading Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, and Sam Dekker among other pieces. On top of that, the Rockets are still looking to make another splash by trying to trade for the New York Knicks' star Forward, Carmelo Anthony. However, the Rockets have done a good job of keeping their core intact. Barring any other moves, their starting lineup should remain largely the same when the season starts. With opening night a little under a month away, let's take a look at who Coach Mike D'Antoni will deploy as the starting unit.
PG: Chris Paul
The only major change that should come to the starting lineup is Chris Paul slotting in at point guard. This will be an obvious transition due to the number of assets that the Rockets gave up in order to land him. Even if they signed CP in free agency, none of those players would have started over him. At age 32, CP is still as good as ever. He's coming off a season where he made the top 10 in All-Time Assists and First Team All-Defense. He would have also made the All-Star team and an All-NBA Team if he didn't get injured.
SG: James Harden
Barring any trades, the rest of the team should remain the same. James Harden is a top-five player in the league and would start on any team he plays for. After coming in second place for MVP for the second time in three years, Harden might come into next season with even more motivation to win. A lot of people are questioning how his play will be affected next to CP. My answer to that, he will just go back to being the James Harden of old. He may have made history last season after becoming the first player in league history to have 2,000 points, 900 assists, and 600 rebounds, but no mistake, the James Harden of old was no slouch.
SF: Trevor Ariza
Trevor Ariza should remain a lock to slot in at the three even with the acquisition of P.J. Tucker. Why? Simply because Ariza is a much better 3-point shooter. Ariza had been the prototypical 3 and D player and has been playing that role very well ever since he got to the Rockets. He is always tasked with guarding the best wings in the game. He hasn't been able to shut down guys like Lebron James or Kevin Durant because let's be real, no one will be able to shut those guys down. However, his defense is still solid. Unless P.J. Tucker has improved offensively, this spot will be Ariza's.
PF: Ryan Anderson
Ryan Anderson's name has been moved around plenty in trade rumors, but unless a transaction actually happens, he will remain the Rockets' starting power forward. Anderson played a huge role in forcing Kawhi Leonard off James Harden during their playoff matchup against the San Antonio Spurs and that is precisely why he has so much value to this team. With his deep range accuracy, he was able to force Kawhi to play up on him on any switches. This allowed Harden to go to work without having to worry about the best defensive player hounding him. Anderson should continue to play this role with even more open looks coming his way as CP will be a much higher offensive threat than Patrick Beverly is.
C: Clint Capela
Easily the Rockets' big breakout player last year, there will be plenty of lobs for Clint Capela to throw down at the center position. He plays the same role that Deandre Jordan did when CP was on the Los Angeles Clippers, so he should easily get acclimated to playing with him. Capela should only get better as he has the best pure point guard setting him up either in pick and roll situations or driving and dishing it out to him. The only thing he needs to work on is his free throws to avoid the "hack a Shaq."
Overall the Rockets are in a very good position to make the Western Conference Finals and possibly the NBA finals. On top of their starters, their bench unit will continue to be led by reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Eric Gordon. Although their bench won't be as deep as it was, the Rockets did a decent job of keeping their second unit competitive by re-signing Nene and signing P.J. Tucker on team friendly deals. Coach D'Antoni can also use CP or Harden with the bench unit if he wants to make sure a playmaker is on the floor at all times. However, let's hope that he won't do that too much because watching those two work together will be a sight to behold.