Chris Paul said the best team he’s ever played on is one that didn’t even make the NBA Finals: the 2017-18 Houston Rockets.
Chris Paul says the 2017-18 Houston Rockets might have been the best team he ever played on and that the reason the 2018-19 Rockets slipped is because they didn't bring back Trevor Ariza.
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“To be real honest with you, that first year in Houston might have been top two, top three or the best team I ever played on,” Paul told The Hoop Collective podcast. “Seriously, we were so connected defensively, offensively. … Those years I was in Houston, we played the entire season to get ready for one team: for Golden State.
“We played the entire season, our defensive game plan, our offensive game plan, every single game was to get ready for Golden State ’cause there’s a certain way you had to play in order to beat those teams.”
The Rockets failed to beat those Golden State Warriors, losing Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals at home to fall short of reaching the 2018 NBA Finals. Paul was unable to play in the 101-92 loss because of a hamstring injury.
The game may best be remembered for the Rockets missing 27 straight 3-point attempts and the Warriors rallying after trailing by as many as 15 points. Golden State came back to win Game 6 after trailing by as many as 17 points.
The Rockets were eliminated by the Warriors again the next season in the second round. Paul said Houston lost something when Trevor Ariza left as a free agent and signed with the Sacramento Kings.
“Honestly, why I believe our team was so different that second year — we didn’t bring back Trevor Ariza,” Paul continued. “… I mean that wholeheartedly.”
The 2017-18 Rockets also included NBA MVP James Harden, Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker. They won 65 games in the regular season, the highest mark in their history, and advanced in the playoffs by defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz in five games each.
Paul eventually reached the NBA Finals with the Phoenix Suns in 2021, when they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games. That also is the only other time he has gotten as far as the conference finals.
The 38-year-old is looking to make another run at that elusive title next season when he returns for a 19th NBA campaign. It is unknown where he will be playing after the Suns traded him to the Washington Wizards in the package for Bradley Beal.
While the Wizards may keep Paul, the classic point guard has been linked to almost every possible contender in the NBA. Paul reportedly has always dreamed of playing with friend LeBron James and could team up with him on the Los Angeles Lakers.
The ultimate irony would be if Paul winds up with the Warriors, who reportedly are interested in him. He could possibly then win a championship with the team that may have kept the best squad he’s ever played for from getting its own title.