The 2016 hiring of Mike D’Antoni by the Houston Rockets was, to put it mildly, a risk. While the coach had set the NBA on fire as the architect of the “7 seconds or less” Phoenix Suns teams of the mid-2000s, he failed to reach the top of the mountain with any of those uber-talented squads, failing to even make it to the NBA Finals.
Following his stint in the desert, D’Antoni took his unique brand of basketball to the Big Apple, and the results were…unimpressive, to say the least. In three full years as coach of the Knicks he finished above .500 just once, and resigned his position in the middle of year four. From there he took over the Lakers, where he managed to make the playoffs his first year, and was promptly swept in the first round. His second year in LA was much worse, as his last Lakers squad lost 55 games. By all accounts the rest of the NBA had caught up to the revolutionary coach and figured out how to best him at his own game.
So any Houston fans concerned about his hiring to helm the Rockets talented young core in 2016 were definitely justified to worry. Since joining the organization, however, D’Antoni has proven to be the ideal fit for the team and it’s generational superstar James Harden. The Rockets have finished with a winning percentage over .640 every single season under his leadership, and made it at least as far as the conference semifinals for three straight years.
D’Antoni has been one of the most cost-efficient coaches in the NBA over the last five seasons, and his inability to overcome the historically great Warriors in the playoffs the last few seasons is an extremely forgivable sin. With that Golden State squad dismantled and injured, now may be the perfect time for the Rockets and their coach to finally take a turn on the throne.
While the Lakers and Clippers have made massive improvements this season, neither team casts the same shadow as the Golden State juggernauts of recent vintage. With James Harden somehow topping his own historic, MVP-level of play this season and a coach that has proven to be the perfect steward for the revolutionary basketball experiment that is Daryl Morey’s roster, 2020 is shaping up to be one of the best chances in years for the team and it’s coach to finally take the crown as the NBA’s best team.