Rockets Have 3rd Best Odds to Win Title
It's a strange situation for the Houston Rockets to be in. Despite finishing with the league’s best record last season, the Rockets find themselves having only the third best odds to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy next season.
According to betmaker Betway, Houston’s odds of winning the 2018-19 NBA title is at 15/2. On the other hand, the Warriors have the best chance to win it all at 4/7 while the Boston Celtics are second at 13/2.
There are several reasons why the Rockets aren’t the favorites of the betting gods this season. For one, the team lost two key contributors from their frontline during the offseason. First to go was starting small forward Trevor Ariza, who signed a $15M deal with the Phoenix Suns in the first week of free agency.
Ariza was a key piece for the Rockets success last season as the 14-year veteran averaged 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game last season. Ariza was the Rockets’ fourth most prolific three-point shooter with 2.5 makes per game. More importantly, he was also Houston’s top perimeter defender so his loss was felt on both ends of the floor.
Not Just Ariza
Unfortunately for the Rockets, it wasn’t just Ariza who left town. Forward Luc Mbah Moute also left Houston in free agency. The 37th pick of the 2008 draft out of UCLA signed a $4.3M deal to return to the Los Angeles Clippers.
His former teammate, Mbah Moute played two seasons for the Clippers before coming over to the Rockets last season. The 31-year-old Mbah Moute was one of Houston’s key bench players last season. He averaged 7.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game while playing 25.6 minutes per game off the Rockets’ bench. Mbah Moute was also part of Mike D’Antoni’s three-point shooting arsenal as the 6-8 forward averaged 1.0 three-pointer per game last season at a .364 accuracy.
While Mbah Moute wasn’t as productive as Ariza, combining the loss of stats from both players has a significant effect on the Houston offense. Ariza and Mbah Moute combined to average 19.2 points per game, including 3.5 three-point baskets per contest. For a team whose offense and three-point shooting are among its main assets, losing these two was definitely a big blow to the Rockets.
But Houston has since made up for those losses after they signed veteran forward Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was traded by the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Atlanta Hawks this summer. After the Hawks waived him, Anthony signed a $2.4M deal to play for the Houston Rockets next season.
While Anthony is expected to come off the bench for the Rockets and to play a meaningful role next season. Everybody knows what Anthony can bring to the table and while that may not include the defense that Ariza provides, Melo’s ability to put the ball in the basket fits well with the Rockets’ high-octane offense.
Sure, Melo is coming off the worst season of his career. But remember that he still averaged 16.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Not to mention that he made 2.2 three-pointers per game on a. 357 accuracy for the Thunder last season. Offensively, Anthony solves Houston’s problem on offense. Defensively, the Rockets made sure they kept their anchor.
Ready For Lift-Off
The Rockets also resolved a major offseason dilemma by keeping center Clint Capela.
Capela was coming off his best season as he averaged 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. No question, Capela is the captain of the Rockets’ defense. And while they may have lost their glue guy in Ariza, keeping their defensive stalwart was a huge sigh of relief.
The addition of an All-Star in Carmelo Anthony looked big on paper but in reality, it only compensated the loss of Ariza and Mbah Moute on offense. Keeping Capela was key though as we know it’s defense which wins championships. Overall, Houston didn’t really make major adjustments during the summer but after a franchise-best season last year, why should they?
Houston was one win away from eliminating the Warriors. Had Chris Paul not been hurt, things could have ended differently. But that's water under the bridge now. The Rockets are right where they left off last season. And with Anthony and Capela in town, they are ready for lift off.