The Houston Rockets have been as successful as any team in basketball outside of the Golden State Warriors over the past three seasons. They won 55 games in 2016-17, pushed the Warriors to a deciding seventh game in the Western Conference Finals one year later, and were tied 2-2 with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and company in the second round of last year’s playoffs before being dispatched by Golden State yet again.
The Warriors’ juggernaut doesn’t exist anymore, after Durant left in free agency and Klay Thompson is poised to miss most of 2019-20 while recovering from a torn ACL. The Rockets made one of the most shocking moves of a wild summer, too, trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, reuniting James Harden with his fellow MVP and former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate while retaining the core of a team that has just missed out on winning the West.
As the newly-extended Eric Gordon sees it, there’s only one thing left for Houston to do – win championships.
“It’s a clear understanding that when you have the kind of core that we have, it’s really locking in to win,” he said, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “I think this is the best point of most of the guys’ careers, so we have to get to that point where we just start winning championships. We have a clear vision, and we’re going to be good for quite a while. We just want to put a championship behind it.”
Achieving Gordon’s goal, one clearly shared by the rest of the organization, won’t be easy for the Rockets.
Many consider the LA Clippers title favorites, with the Los Angeles Lakers hot on their heels. The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers both have the talent it takes to hoist Larry O’Brien Trophies. The Denver Nuggets will only get better, and the Utah Jazz made a series of win-now moves this summer. The Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers will surely be heard from.
But if Houston coalesces, its top-tier talent and continuity of core players could ultimately lead to the franchise’s first championship since the mid-1990s regardless.