Has the Houston Rockets' championship window closed?
The Houston Rockets have once again been bounced out of the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors with this loss damaging Houston's chances of winning a championship in the near future. Houston was considered one of, if not the only plausible threat to Golden State's dynastic reign, but have once again failed to dethrone the reigning 2-time NBA Champions.
Judging by what Houston's roster looks like, it is clear that they're built with a win-now mentality, but after being knocked out of the playoffs by the Warriors four times in their last 5 playoff trips, it's time to ask the question, is Houston's championship window closed?
To get a clearer view of the answer to that question, we have to dive into how the Rockets' roster is structured. Houston's starting five consists of James Harden, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, and Clint Capela.
Out of that starting lineup, three of the starters are already aged 30+ with Chris Paul and PJ Tucker at 34 years old and Eric Gordon at 31 years old. To put that in perspective, Houston's starting five has an average age of 30.6 years. An NBA player's prime years are around 25-28 years putting Houston way above the mark.
The Rockets took a very large gamble maxing out an aging Chris Paul to a 4-year $160 million dollar contract. This was coming off of Chris Paul getting injured in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against Golden State where the Rockets held a 3-2 advantage but crumbled without the leadership of CP3.
Chris Paul is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, but the decision to max out a then 33-year-old player fresh off a hamstring injury is questionable. With the decision to max out CP3 AND Clint Capela, the Rockets have little to no room to sign any notable free agents. The Rockets' books will be strapped for cash for the next 3-4 years.
James Harden is fresh off of an absolutely historic season averaging 36 points per game and 7.5 assists in what could be a possible back-to-back MVP case for him. In what the Rockets called "The Unguardable Tour", James Harden looked near unstoppable almost the entire season but one has to wonder if he can keep up this historic pace.
Harden will turn 30 in August and while he still has his prime years left, he needs a better surrounding cast to propel him to the championship. Harden is also widely criticized for "shrinking" in the playoffs.
The Rockets need to capitalize Harden's prime very quickly or else they could possible end up in a financial mess in the near future with nothing to gain from it. It has been reported that Tilman Fertitta has given Daryl Morey the green light to go past luxury tax to sign any notable free agents to bring the city of Houston a championship.
The Rockets' championship window may not be fully closed now but they do not have time to sit and wait for any free agent to come knocking at their door. This off-season is very critical for the Rockets and could decide whether the Rockets will win a championship or go down in history as always being close but never being able to make it over the hump.