Washington Wizards 2019-2020 Season Preview: the Houston Rockets

Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant James Harden (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant James Harden (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards will have their hands full with the Houston Rockets this season after the acquisition of 2016 MVP Russell Westbrook.

Wizards record versus Rockets last season: 1-1

Rockets lost: CHRIS PAUL, Kenneth Faried, and Iman Shumpert

Rockets gained: RUSSELL WESTBROOK, Thabo Sefolosha, Ryan Anderson, Tyson Chandler, and Ben McLemore

The Houston Rockets are pairing 2018 MVP James Harden up with another new point guard this season after swapping Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook in the offseason.

The two were teammates in Oklahoma City up until 2012. But it wasn’t until they were separated that they became the stars fans know today. Can they make this duo work?

In Houston’s two games against Washington last season, Harden averaged 45 points on his own. Westbrook had some good run against the Wizards as well, averaging 22.5 points and 12.5 assists in his two games played with the Thunder.

These two guards are both triple-double threats on a nightly basis, but head coach Mike D’Antoni is going to have to figure out how to play them together. In their first game reunited as teammates, the pairing didn’t look pretty.

The two former MVPs combined for 43 points on 9-30 shooting from the field in a season opening loss to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Wizards to Watch

Thomas Bryant is going to play a large role in games against Houston. Rockets’ center Clint Capela is a walking double-double, but can be exposed if pushed beyond the two-point area.

Bryant is an average marksman from three-point range, and knocked down three-of-seven in Friday night’s win against Oklahoma City. How he handles this matchup against Capela could set the narrative for the game.

Then there’s Bradley Beal, who’ll be tasked with the daunting concept of guarding Westbrook, Harden–or both. He played well against the Rockets last year, with 32-point and 28-point performances. And that’s against a team that had Chris Paul, a notably better defender than the Rockets’ newest point guard.

But when it comes to this starting backcourt, the game may inevitably be decided by the Wizards’ point guards. Beal’s going to miss John Wall just a little extra in these matchups, with Isaiah Thomas and Ish Smith filling in while he recovers from injury.

If those two can step up and just defend, not even focus on scoring, the Wizards may stand a chance in upsetting the predicted heavy favorites in the Rockets.

Game Predictions

October 30th: Wizards welcome the Rockets to DC

This matchup is right around the corner, which is a good and a bad thing for Washington. It’s unlikely that Westbrook and Harden will have worked out their kinks on the floor. But it’s even more unlikely that the Wizards will have a fully healthy roster available.

Houston will take game one based on their clear cut advantage in talent.

April 10th, 2020: Houston hosts Washington on the road.

By this point of the season, the Rockets should undoubtedly be preparing for the playoffs. And with that, comes some much-needed rest. It will be interesting to see if D’Antoni opts to rest them both simultaneously or if he’ll alternate resting one of his All-Stars per night.
Still, the Wizards will pull off a late-season upset over (most of the) Rockets.