Dec 13, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets power forward Dwight Howard (12) on the bench between shooting guard James Harden (13) and point guard Patrick Beverley (2) against the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Houston Rockets defeated the Golden State Warriors 116-112. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets: Championship Odds Could Be In Houston's Favor

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The Houston Rockets have the odds going for them as they’re ranked sixth on the list of championship contending teams in the NBA; however, first on that list is none other than the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had a very auspicious off-season, according to Bovada. LeBron James decided to return to his northeastern Ohio roots earlier this summer, and the Cavaliers successfully recruited Kevin Love to Cleveland shortly thereafter.

Consequently, the Houston Rockets underwent an offseason that was not as rewarding as they had anticipated. Their abortive pursuit of the highly-coveted LeBron James, along with other top-tier free agents, forced them to settle for Trevor Ariza.

Nonetheless, it seems that the acquisition of Ariza was enough to place them in the mix of teams expected to contend for an NBA championship. The Rockets garnered the sixth-best odds (16/1) at winning a title this upcoming season. Here are the top six teams with the best odds of winning it all.

NBA teams with best Championship odds:

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (5/2)
  2. San Antonio Spurs (4/1)
  3. Chicago Bulls (11/2)
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder (6/1)
  5. Los Angeles Clippers (12/1)
  6. Houston Rockets (16/1)

It seems unlikely that the Rockets would hold the sixth-best chance at winning had they not acquired Ariza. So, why is his presence on the Rockets bestowing such relevance upon his new team?

For starters, Ariza’s collaboration with James Harden, Dwight Howard, and Patrick Beverley gives the Rockets a formidable starting lineup, especially defensively. The Rockets displayed the 12th-best defensive rating last season, despite James Harden’s and Chandler Parsons‘ inability to effectively deter opposing wings from penetrating to the hoop.

Trevor Ariza’s length and defensive prowess will serve as a much more capable impediment to the Rockets’ opposition on the perimeter. His ability to defend both shooting guards and small forwards will also help cloak Harden’s lackadaisical defensive effort.

Coach Nick of BBALLBREAKDOWN illustrated in a recent video how teams can maintain a premium defense notwithstanding incapable defenders. The top five defensive teams in the league last season are as follow: the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, and the Charlotte Bobcats.

Most of these teams contained disastrous defensive players (the Bulls’ Carlos Boozer, the Warriors’ David Lee, and the Bobcats’ Josh McRoberts), yet they endured and sustained their noteworthy defensive ranks throughout last season. The key? A solid rim-protector paired with a proficient wing defender.

All five teams encapsulated this simple recipe for an excellent defense, and one of them — the San Antonio Spurs — went on to win the elusive NBA championship last season.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh5eIETc0is]

The defensive trio featuring Dwight Howard, who alters shots at the rim, and Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverley, who exasperate opposing wings in the perimeter, could feasibly catapult the Rockets  to the fifth- to seventh-best defensive rated team in the league next season. The biggest caveat with the Rockets’ team as currently constructed, is its lack of depth.

Houston essentially traded away three of their key contributors — or “role players,” as James Harden likes to call them — in Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, and Chandler Parsons for Trevor Ariza.

…the Rockets could find themselves battling for one of the lower playoff seeds…

The benefit of having adequate substitutes is imperative during the NBA’s grueling 82-game season replete with back-to-back games. Depth may not be as necessary during the playoffs, but a worn out starting five certainly is not conducive to a prosperous postseason.

The Rockets are lacking in viable replacements for James Harden, Dwight Howard, and Patrick Beverley should they be struck by the injury bug. If any of the previously mentioned players (including Trevor Ariza) miss significant time during this upcoming season, the Rockets could find themselves battling for one of the lower playoff seeds — especially since they play in the cutthroat Western Conference.

If Daryl Morey can find a way to add some much-needed depth to the Rockets’ loaded starting unit, then Bovada may have to reconsider the Rockets’ odds for winning a championship. Regardless, barring injuries, this team will likely be a daunting threat in the NBA’s toughest conference.

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