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Jeff Van Gundy picks Rockets to win NBA title

Jeff Van Gundy (left) likes the Rockets' title chances. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen

ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy predicts that one of his former teams will win the NBA title.

“I love the Rockets,” he said Monday on 95.7 The Game in San Francisco. “I think the Rockets will come out and play in the Finals and I think the Rockets will win the championship.”

Van Gundy likes the Rockets’ potential to improve defensively after the addition of Dwight Howard and the possible increased role for point guard Patrick Beverley, who is expected to start over Jeremy Lin in Wednesday's opener against Charlotte. The Rockets ranked 16th in points allowed per possession last season.

“I really like Houston’s makeup,” Van Gundy said. “They have to make steps defensively. Howard helps with that. I love Beverley. They’re going to start him I believe. He’ll set a great tone on the ball. If you can defend the basket and the ball, you have a great, great chance.” writers pick their champion, MVP, Rookie of the Year and more

The former Knicks and Rockets coach praised Chandler Parsons, James Harden and Houston’s depth but acknowledged that the power forward position is a question mark. He suggested that the Rockets could deal center Omer Asik for a power forward “if they need to.”

Houston has won one playoff series since 1997. The Rockets opened at 10-1 to win the title, trailing only the Heat (2-1), Bulls (8-1), Thunder (8-1) and Clippers (9-1).

In the Eastern Conference, Van Gundy expects Chicago, Indiana and Brooklyn to challenge two-time defending champion Miami.

“This is the first year since [the Big Three Heat] have been put together [in 2010] that I would bet the field instead of them,” Van Gundy told hosts Ric Bucher and Chris Townsend. “The top half of the Eastern Conference has really improved. The Western Conference will produce a really good team [in the Finals].”