James Ennis is guaranteeing it—the Houston Rockets will beat the Golden State Warriors.
Who cares that the Rockets arguably got worse during the offseason, who cares that they lost their top three-and-D player in Trevor Ariza and who cares if the Warriors are the defending champions? Ennis says that if the Rockets are healthy, they are definitely going to beat the Warriors, via Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic:
“I have a chip on my shoulder,” Ennis told Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic. “I have a lot to prove. So this year, coming in, I’m just really focused on just being the player I can be and being someone Coach can put in at anytime and help. [We have] a lot of power. A lot of offensive power. A lot of defensive power. Bringing in Carmelo who is an offensive threat. Michael Carter Williams is a good guard, he can score the ball, his length. If everyone is healthy, we’ll definitely beat them [Golden State].”
For those with short memories, the Warriors defeated the Rockets in seven games in the Western Conference Finals last year. However, the Rockets did hold a 3-2 series lead before Chris Paul’s hamstring injury sidelined him for the rest of the series. In other words, Houston probably would have won that series had Paul never suffered his injury.
With that being said, Houston did undergo a little bit of a personnel shift and it all happened at the forward positions. Former starters Ariza and Ryan Anderson along with bench man Luc Mbah a Moute are gone and have been replaced by the likes of Carmelo Anthony, James Ennis and Brandon Knight. While the offense looks good on paper, the Rockets clearly took steps back defensively.
There’s also the major question of what’s going to happen with Carmelo. Is he going to remain a starter or is he coming off of Mike D’Antoni’s bench? If Anthony is in the starting lineup, it’s likely he’ll have major issues sharing the ball with James Harden and Chris Paul, as he did with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. However, if he comes off of the bench for the first time in his career, there’s a legit chance he finds new life as a sixth man considering he would be the go-to option without having to worry about sharing the ball.
To D’Antoni’s credit, he refused to elaborate on whether or not Anthony is going to be a starter or a bench player when the 10-time All-Star was officially signed last month, via the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen:
“Nothing’s been decided. He, like everyone else on the team, like Eric Gordon, ‘if that’s what’s best for the team, that’s what I’ll do. We’ll see what performs best. What makes the best rotation and how to get the best out of them. Whether he starts or doesn’t start, and he said it, is a moot point. We’ll make that decision as we go forward. Maybe he starts the game, maybe he doesn’t.
If the Rockets can figure out a way to outscore the Warriors while remaining competent defensively, maybe they’ll live up to Ennis’ claim.