All hail the Houston Rockets—especially next year

I thought the Rockets were great in last night’s game—and say that as a Warriors fan. (I even had season tickets back in the Run TMC era, when tickets were still affordable).

The Rockets’ problem was that the Warriors were greater, and it wasn’t just because SuperSteph showed up in the second half. Basketball is a team game, and the difference was the Warriors’ bench.

The Warriors have been getting shit for their bench all season; but the bench played great. They showed why the Warriors are in fact a great team, and not just the Splash Brothers + KD.

Look at the stats, not the highlight reel. The whole bench was +14 for the game. Two of the five players scoring in double-figures came off the bench. (Three of the five if you count Andre Iguodala, filling in for the injured KD.) The leading bench scorer was Kevon Looney. (Yes, that’s his name. And he’s actually good.) Shawn Livingston was terrific.

Here’s how to tell how good the Rockets really are: Nearly every other franchise in the league, other than the Warriors, would gladly trade their whole team for the Rockets. And maybe every team. Even Milwaukee. And hell, maybe even the Warriors.

I say that because the Rockets best strategy in the offseason is to wait for the Warriors to break up. The chance that both Klay and KD will stay is small, though it’s possible. Steph is still great, but he’s passing the top of his career arc. Draymond isn’t who he was two years ago. Iguodala and Livingston are ready to retire. If the Warriors partially disband this summer, the best team in the West will be the Rockets. Milwaukee will still be the best in the East, though Toronto and Philly will still be excellent, especially if Kawhi stays put. (Boston won’t suck, but needs at least a partial rebuild: something they can easily do.)

Anyway, there’s no shame in what happened to the Rockets this year. A truly great team lost to a slightly greater one that likely won’t stay that way.

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