Video: James Harden Tells Stephen A. Smith Rockets Will Win 2020 NBA Title

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorNovember 14, 2019

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 11: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets stands on the court during a NBA game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center on November 11, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Houston Rockets guard James Harden issued a clear and direct answer when ESPN's Stephen A. Smith asked the 2017-18 NBA MVP if he believed his team would win a championship this season:

Harden is averaging a career- and league-high 37.3 points per game for the 7-3 Rockets, who have won four straight and entered Wednesday one game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for first place in the Western Conference.  

Led by Harden and new co-star Russell Westbrook, the Rockets are posting a league-high 120.3 points per game. They're also fifth in offensive efficiency, per ESPN.

The interview aired prior to the Rockets' Wednesday home game against the 7-3 Los Angeles Clippers, who figure to be one of Houston's primary antagonists in its quest for a third title in franchise history.

The aforementioned Lakers are also on that list, in addition to an 8-3 Utah Jazz team that has looked great with new additions Mike Conley Jr. and Bojan Bogdanovic.

Getting out of the West will be hard enough before the NBA Finals, but the Rockets have a few things working in their favor.

For one, Harden continues to be a significant problem for opposing defenses. This year, he's done much of his damage from the free-throw line, where he's averaging league highs with 13.3 makes and 15.1 attempts per game.

Harden's efficiency has taken a dip; his 40.7 field-goal percentage stands as his lowest mark since his rookie year. But having a backcourt partner in Westbrook helps the team's offensive production, as the 2016-17 NBA MVP complements Harden's efforts with 21.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game.

Defense is a concern, as Houston is 21st in efficiency. For context, the Rockets were sixth in 2017-18 when they notched a 65-17 record and were one game away from knocking off the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

Still, the path to the NBA title looks wide open this season, and the Rockets could very well be lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy in June.

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