Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni: ‘I think the worst we’re going to be is great’

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The Rockets’ over-under was 41.5 wins in 2016-17. They won 55 games.

The Rockets’ over-under was 55.5 wins in 2017-18. They won 65 games.

Houston outperforming expectations by 23 games during Mike D’Antoni’s two seasons there is the NBA’s best mark in that span – by far. The Pacers were +15, but they went under in 2016-17. The Raptors (+12) had the next-best difference among teams that hit the over both years.

So, it’s understandable D’Antoni is more confident in the Rockets than those of us who believe they’ll take a step back.

D’Antoni, via Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle:

“I think two things. And I don’t want to be snide,” said D’Antoni, who was back in his native state Saturday while attending Texans training camp near The Greenbrier. “They said the same thing when we got Chris (Paul) and James (Harden). And I can see why they said that. (But) they don’t know what goes on, the inner workings of the team. And they don’t know 100 percent what’s important and what isn’t important, and where we can not lose somebody and where we can kind of make it up. And I understand that.

“It’s our job to prove them wrong. And we did it for two years now. ‘James can’t be a point guard’ and now, ‘Those guys can’t play together.’ We’ve got one more big step. If we’re going to beat Golden State – which everybody is searching for – you’ve got to take some chances and you’ve got to hope that things hit out and hit that sweet spot. Doesn’t mean it will happen. But I’m confident and I love our guys. And I think the worst we’re going to be is great and hopefully we can take that last step.”

The Rockets were great last season. But I think their floor is much lower than that next season.

They were the NBA’s second-oldest team last year, and they’ll likely be even older next year. At this stage of his career, Chris Paul could have even worse injury fortune. Trevor Ariza‘s and Luc Mbah a Moute‘s departures invite instability. Carmelo Anthony, while bringing plenty of talent, could struggle to fit in and cause chemistry issues.

Houston’s floor is probably just merely good, and in this Western Conference, merely good teams will likely miss the playoffs.

I’m obviously not picking the Rockets to finish at or even near their floor. But that downside exists.