The Houston Rockets are sitting on top of the NBA.
They’ve won 15 straight games, which comes on top of a 14-game streak earlier this season. They have one of the top two offenses in the league, a top-10 defense, and the presumptive Most Valuable Player on their roster.
The Golden State Warriors shouldn’t be anyone’s shoe in to make the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year. Here are the top three reasons Houston way be the Warrior’s problem.
James Harden Is The League’s MVP
Harden has been the wire-to-wire favorite and he’s only improved his case as the season has rolled along. Having the MVP on your team doesn’t guarantee postseason success, but it’s practically impossible to win a championship without a top-5 player. Harden clearly qualifies.
You may recall that he was more or less in this same position at this same point last season before he started to break down physically in the stretch run. That’s less likely now that Chris Paul is around.
Houston’s Bench Is Fully Loaded
Just look at the talent on hand. Eric Gordon is a Sixth Man supreme, Clint Capela, is a rim-running, shot-blocking monster, and Trevor Ariza is the living definition of a 3-and-D star. Gordon and Ariza were affordable free agent signings, while Capela was a late first rounder.
Beyond the core players, P.J. Tucker, and Nene bring the requisite veteran toughness and moxie. Say what you will about Ryan Anderson’s lack of defense — and it will probably limit his effectiveness in the postseason — but his elite shooting range is a key component of their offense.
Throw in the bucket-getting prowess of Joe Johnson and Gerald Green, who were picked off the waiver wire, and this is an ingeniously constructed team with depth for days.
Chris Paul Doesn’t Have To Be Chris Paul
Paul has thrived as a ruthlessly efficient clutch sidekick with the Rockets after bearing the responsibility of having to create on almost every crunch-time possession with the New Orleans Hornets and LA Clippers. The Rockets are 34-3 when Harden and Paul have both played this season.