Remember when the Houston Rockets were going to be the worst team in the Western Conference last year? That was back when James Harden was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Jeremy Lin was a leading member of the overpaid-in-the-offseason club.
But even after the Harden heist, the Rockets weren’t supposed to win 45 games last year. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Houston still had more future assets than present ones, and a playoff spot seemed out of the question even after trading for one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA.
But that’s the NBA. Every year, we see a few teams do what Houston—or Golden State—did last year: climb out of basketball’s gutter and into the limelight.
Here are five candidates to pull that off in the upcoming season.