The Rockets have yet to reach the Finals since 1995, but its hard to argue Houston was anything but a championship contender just two years ago.
The 2017-18 Rockets will go down as one of the best teams in franchise history, a designation that is well earned after 65 wins and a seven-game battle with the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. Houston's roster entering the 2020 playoffs looks far different than it did in 2018–save for James Harden–but to general manager Daryl Morey, the 2020 squad is similarly well positioned to chase the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
"The 65-win team was actually one of the best teams not to win. This team, I think, has every good a chance as that team," Morey said on FS1's First Things First on Tuesday. "The best way to win a title is to have a great team and be in it every year. We’ve done that. [James Harden] is going to go down as one of the greatest players of all time, for sure. And it’s my job to help him. The fact that we haven’t won always does weighs on me."
Perhaps the 2020 Rockets have a similar ceiling to the 2017-18 team, currently sporting two former MVPs and a pair of elite frontcourt defenders. But Houston hasn't shown the same consistency this year as it did two seasons ago. The 2017-18 Rockets finished the regular season 65–17, suffering just one losing streak of more than two games. The 2019-20 Rockets sit at 40–24 amid the coronavirus suspension, tallying four three-game losing streaks this season. Year one of the Russell Westbrook era hasn't been the smoothest of rides.
Luckily for Harden, Westbrook and Co., a rocky regular season doesn't necessarily portend a lack of playoff success. The 1994-95 Rockets finished the regular season just 47–35, closing the year with 11 losses in their last 18 games before a historic playoff run. Perhaps the 2019-20 Rockets will mirror their franchise counterparts from a quarter century ago.