It's no secret that Golden State has Houston's number. The Warriors have ended the Rockets' season three times in the last five years and appear to be en route to their fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. But that doesn't mean Houston needs to start fresh.
The Rockets have been Golden State's stiffest competition in the Western Conference in recent years, but they can't get over the hump. Many speculate that a hamstring injury to Chris Paul cost them a trip to the finals last year. However, Houston couldn't get the job done with a healthy Paul and an absent Kevin Durant this year.
Nevertheless, the Rockets could be close to overcoming their biggest rivals, and here's why they shouldn't make any drastic changes too soon.
The Rockets have a perennial MVP contender
Houston has one thing every team team desires — a bona fide superstar. At 29 years old, the face of the Rockets is still getting better.
James Harden has improved his scoring output in five consecutive seasons and averaged a league-leading 36.1 points per game in 2018-19. He was chosen MVP for the first time last season has been a top-two candidate for the honor the last four years. Should he lose out to Giannis Antetokounmpo this year, he'll have finished second in the voting three times. Only Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan, Jerry West and Larry Bird have done so at least three times.
He's arguably the game's most polarizing figure due to his play style, but the his tape shows he's continued to add to his bag of tricks.
Harden is consistently among the league's top performers. He is a constant that always keeps Houston in the championship hunt, and that's more than most could ask for. Why panic when he could still be reaching his peak?
The Warriors might blow it up first
These Warriors have become one of the more dominant dynasties in NBA history. They have broken the single-season record for wins and are chasing a third consecutive title.
But the team's core could be on the verge of a big change.
Teams across the league have made it known that they are willing to pay serious cash to break up Golden State. Kevin Durant will be the biggest name on the market if he enters free agency this summer. Klay Thompson has been with the Warriors since he was drafted in 2011, but he's rumored to be interested in looking for a max deal elsewhere if his financial demands aren't satisfied.
Stephen Curry's five-year, $200 million deal won't end until 2022, so the Warriors could be hard-pressed to meet the needs of all their stars.
Durant and Thompson could land in either conference, and such huge moves could even the playing field, giving Houston a chance to surge to the top.
2019 is chock-full of quality free agents
The Rockets may not have enough to entice superstars, but this year's class of free agents has tremendous depth. Houston has an opportunity to improve its roster with longer-term role-players, rather than the short rentals it has grown so accustomed to.
The Rockets ranked dead last in the NBA in bench points per game during the regular season and were one of the league's worst rebounding teams. Addressing these problems through free agency could help Houston take another step in the right direction.
Signing Carmelo Anthony to a league minimum in 2018 didn't work out, but there is ample opportunity to find a better fit this summer given the abundance of options.
Houston doesn't need to shoot for a big-time trade to make a difference, because the league could look very different in a few months.