Five teams who are likely to steal the Toronto Raptors crown

Toronto Raptors (Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors (Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Marc Gasol (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Houston Rockets

Former teammates with the Oklahoma City Thunder, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are now reunited as members of the Houston Rockets. Unlike the days with the Thunder, though, this team belongs to James Harden – and rightly so.

Harden finished second in MVP voting as he put together a historic season in which he averaged 36.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game while shooting 37-percent from three on just over 13 attempts per game. For him to hit with that kind of consistency, on that sort of volume, is outrageous.

The Rockets needed Harden to carry them to the playoffs as they looked to find a rhythm with Chris Paul dealing with injuries and the players around him not always stepping up. Now, the addition of Russell Westbrook might just be what Harden and co. need to take them over the hump.

The fit remains unclear, though. Westbrook is coming off of a much-scrutinized season where he put up his worst true-shooting percentage since his sophomore year as the Thunder were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round.

Both Harden and Westbrook need the ball in their hands, and the latter hasn’t shown much of an ability to play off the ball in the last few years, but maybe a change could bring out the best in him. Westbrook is still a top-20 player in the NBA, while Harden remains among the game’s elite.

If Mike D’antoni can create a scheme that works for both stars, then the Rockets could be real contenders once again.