By luring in the biggest—figuratively and literally—free-agent fish in the form of three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard, Houston made the leap from on-paper pretender to contender in a single bound.
But the prize of the pull isn't as glamorous as it seems. Championships have never been decided on paper.
The Spurs (14-2) have a superstar contingency. But, the franchise operates with one shared mindset and a single common goal. With five players acting as one, San Antonio's offense comes in relentless waves, and its defense forms a mobile wall around the basket through crisp rotations and shared assignments.
Houston (12-5) isn't at that stage yet. Players are still familiarizing themselves with one another, learning how to maximize each other's strengths and protect against their weaknesses.
But, that's just one of the many lessons the Rockets need to take. On-paper credentials don't become championship parades on their own.
Houston has a massive pool of knowledge to draw from, whittled down here to just six teams offering their own takeaways to this franchise. Some styles should be emulated; others must be avoided at all costs.
If Rockets coach Kevin McHale can add these six topics to his lesson plan, then Houston's offseason heist can make that transformation to postseason glory.