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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.