Last season not a lot of people picked the Golden State Warriors to win it all, largely because there were questions about a first-time head coach taking over. The potential was there — this had been a 51-win team with an elite defense the season before. If they stayed healthy, and Kerr could channel Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson (two pretty good coaches he played for), they could be dangerous. But nobody was sure.
They stayed healthy, Kerr hit all the right notes, and Golden State won its first title in 40 years.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey said he believes his team can follow that same model to a title, he told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
“You go back a year and look at Golden State,” Morey said. “They pretty much brought their same group back, plus a point guard, Shaun Livingston. They weren’t the favorites of a lot of people. They came together quickly. They had a great season. A lot of their improvement was just in everyone being together for another year.
“That plus (the addition of) Ty (Lawson) and good health are the main areas for us.”
Houston was a top 10 defensive team in the NBA last season, and the addition of Ty Lawson gives them a much-needed second playmaker behind the overworked James Harden. This is a team that won 56 games and made it to the conference finals, and then went out and got better. Morey likes the team he has put together.
“This is the first time I feel like, without any changes, we’re good enough to win it,” he said.
If your reaction to the Rockets is “but so many things need to go right for them to contend” well, yes. That’s true. It’s also true of the Warriors (who caught a lot of breaks in terms of health last season), Spurs, Clippers, Cavaliers, Thunder, and anyone else you want to consider a contender. It takes some luck to win a title. That’s especially true in the West, where the margins between the top teams are miniscule.
The Rockets may have a couple more questions than other contenders, but discount them at your own risk.