Houston Rockets

Warriors vs. the West: How Dubs match up against Rockets in 2019-20

Warriors vs. the West: How Dubs match up against Rockets in 2019-20

For the first time in five seasons, the Warriors find themselves in new territory entering the 2019-20 season. With Kevin Durant gone to the Brooklyn Nets, Klay Thompson rehabbing his surgically repaired left ACL and eight new players on the roster, the Warriors are not the preseason NBA title favorites. 

As the Warriors reconcile a new reality, the rest of the Western Conference has retooled with superstar talent. Over the next seven days, NBC Sports Bay Area will examine teams that are expected to challenge Golden State's Western Conference throne.

Wednesday's edition: The Houston Rockets.

Off-season transactions

Nearly two weeks into free agency, the Rockets stunned the basketball world, trading aging point guard Chris Paul along with two first-round draft picks and two pick swaps to Oklahoma City Thunder for All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. 

The trade pairs Westbrook -- who averaged a triple-double in each of his last three seasons -- with former teammate James Harden for the second time in their careers. From 2010-12, the two were teammates in Oklahoma City alongside former Warriors forward Kevin Durant, reaching the NBA Finals in 2012. Now, the two will try to reach the Finals for the first time since Harden left the team in 2012. 

Houston also re-signed former Warriors training camp invite Danuel House Jr., Gerald Green and guard Austin Rivers, one of the team's best defenders last season. Eric Gordon also signed a four-year, $75.6 million contract extension. 

Strengths

With a backcourt of Harden, Westbrook, Rivers and Gordon, the Rockets might have the deepest guard unit in the league. Last season, Harden averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds. While Harden put together an MVP contending season, Westbrook was making history of his own, becoming the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in three straight seasons. 

Last year, Paul missed 24 games and averaged a career-low 15.6 points on 41 percent from the field. With Paul gone, Westbrook provides an upgrade at point guard and can ease the offensive burden for Harden. 

Houston was the league's best 3-point shooting team last season, making 16 treys per game, helping the Rockets become the second-best offense in the league. 

Weaknesses

While the Westbrook-Harden partnership looks great on paper, the high usage duo might not live up to the hype once the season starts. Since Harden left OKC seven years ago, he and Westbrook have been among the highest used players in the league. Last season, Westbrook was responsible for 41.6 percent of Oklahoma City's offense -- the top mark in the league -- while Harden was second, providing more than 40 percent of the Rockets' offensive output. 

While the stars look to coexist, the Rockets will have to find production from their bench. Last season, Houston finished last in bench production, averaging just 14.9 points per game. With most of the roster returning, the Rockets' success will depend on the bench's evolution. 

How the Warriors stack up

The Warriors have been successful against the Rockets during their historic run, beating Houston in the playoffs during four of their five title runs. This season will be different, as Golden State has eight new players on the roster, including three rookies.

[RELATED: KD believes Warriors hit their ceiling in Kerr's offense]

The Rockets have made it known that they're obsessed with beating the Warriors in the postseason, and with Kevin Durant gone to Brooklyn and Klay Thompson out for the majority of the season, this might be their best shot. 

NBA rumors: Grizzlies not currently negotiating Andre Iguodala buyout

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NBA rumors: Grizzlies not currently negotiating Andre Iguodala buyout

Andre Iguodala reportedly might not hit the open market after all.

The Memphis Grizzlies, who acquired the longtime Warriors forward in a July salary dump following Kevin Durant's decision to join the Brooklyn Nets, are "refusing right now" to discuss buying out the 35-year-old, The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charnia reported Monday, citing sources.

Shortly after Iguodala was traded to the Grizzlies, ESPN's Tim MacMahon reported in July that the Grizzlies were "actively exploring the trade market" for the veteran. Trading for Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, reportedly was the Rockets' No.1 priority in mid-July, according to The Athletic's Sam Amick. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, meanwhile, said on July 1 that Iguodala's plan was to "work out a buyout and then go to the Lakers."

Of course, none of those things ultimately happened, and Iguodala has remained on the Grizzlies' roster through the bulk of the offseason. Iguodala "desires a contender at this stage," according to Charania. 

Whether Charania's reporting pressures the Grizzlies to grant Iguodala's apparent wish remains to be seen, but Iguodala is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. He averaged a career-low 5.7 points and 23.2 minutes per game in his 15th NBA season, but the Warriors outscored their opponents by 9.0 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court. When he wasn't, Golden State outscored opponents by 4.9 points per 100 possessions. 

Iguodala still has something to contribute, and his veteran knowledge could be an asset for a young Grizzlies team. Those appear to be competing interests at this point, however, making the former Warriors' situation one to keep an eye on as the season nears. 

[RELATED: How Dubs match up with new-look Jazz in 2019-20]

Don't expect a Warriors reunion, though. Iguodala would have to sign with -- or get traded to -- another team before it could become a possibility, and the Warriors are hard-capped this season because of the D'Angelo Russell sign-and-trade. Golden State currently doesn't have enough room under the salary cap to fit another guaranteed contract. 

In other words, just wait for the jersey retirement. 

Nine must-see Warriors games on 2019-20 schedule besides Opening Night

Nine must-see Warriors games on 2019-20 schedule besides Opening Night

The NBA released its 2019-20 schedule Monday, and the league is wasting no time thrusting Chase Center under the spotlight. It is safe to presume the Warriors are delighted.

There are no fewer than 10 must-see games for Warriors fans, beginning with the regular-season opener at Chase, set for Thursday, Oct. 24, against the remodeled and much-improved Los Angeles Clippers -- perhaps the most discussed team in the NBA.

With All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joining the team that took the Warriors to six games in the 2019 playoffs, consider the Warriors-Clippers rivalry revived, only without the mutual animosity.

Here are nine more games, in chronological order, that deserve special attention:

Nov. 6: Warriors at Rockets

Is Rockets general manager Daryl Morey still obsessed with the Warriors? Is he still angry with Steph Curry’s remorseless dispatching of his team again, forcing a third retooling of the roster? Will Russell Westbrook and James Harden still love each other two weeks into the season?

Nov. 13: Warriors at Lakers

This is, by all accounts, the season LA will snap its playoff drought at six years. LeBron James will be on a mission to prove Father Time is a myth. Good luck with that, even with the addition of the fabulous Anthony Davis. Consider this a three-week measurement of each team.

Dec. 20: Pelicans at Warriors

Zion Time. Get a glimpse -- he might be even better on the gigantic outdoor HD screen on the Chase Center plaza. Why wait until Christmas to open the biggest, most fascinating gift presented by the NBA since LeBron arrived 16 years ago?

Dec. 25: Rockets at Warriors

For the first time in five seasons, the Warriors will not play the marquee game on Marquee Day in the NBA. No matter. It’s the hated Rockets, and they’re making their initial journey to Chase. Know that Warriors co-chairman Peter Guber, who loves spectacle, will have something memorable beyond the game itself.

Jan. 8: Bucks at Warriors

Giannis Antetokounmpo makes his only visit to the Bay Area. If there’s one player who must be seen to be believed, he’s it. It won’t be easy for the rookies on the Warriors’ roster to keep their chins off their knees.

Feb. 8: Lakers at Warriors

The new Lakers’ first trip to Chase includes the return to the Bay of three ex-Warriors: DeMarcus Cousins, JaVale McGee and Quinn Cook. Is it too soon to expect Klay Thompson to be back?

March 7: 76ers at Warriors

It’s three weeks after All-Star Weekend, so it’s reasonable to believe Thompson could be back to face Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Al Horford, Tobias Harris, etc. Philly is loaded and expected to battle Milwaukee for Eastern Conference supremacy.

April 9: Warriors at Lakers

The Warriors would like to believe they will be fighting for a top-four playoff seed in the West. LA would like to believe it has a chance to snag the No. 1 seed. There could be serious playoff intensity in this game.

[RELATED: Warriors' preseason schedule includes four games vs. Lakers]

April 11: Warriors at Clippers

The Warriors will be coming off a Friday night in LA. No biggie, right? It’s the last Saturday of the regular season, and at least one team will have something at stake. May the key players for both teams be fully healthy.