Russell Westbrook "will be alright" after his injury scare for the Houston Rockets, while coach Mike D'Antoni was stunned by another sublime performance from James Harden.

Harden had 44 points, seven assists, five rebounds and five steals in 35 minutes as the Rockets finished their preseason campaign with a 144-133 road win over the Miami Heat.

Point guard Westbrook left Friday's game in the fourth quarter in visible pain and ran directly into the tunnel after hurting his hand, while Austin Rivers suffered with a shoulder problem.

D'Antoni explained Westbrook, who scored 16 points, had suffered a finger dislocation just two days after the same thing happened in Wednesday's game with the San Antonio Spurs, which had meant he played this one with a bandage.

The Rockets begin the NBA season at home against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

"With Russ it was just his fingers got dislocated," said D'Antoni. "Pop them back into place and then go play, he'll be alright.

"Both of them told me they were OK, so we'll take that. Austin said he was OK, I don't know exactly what that means but it is up in his [shoulder] – he also strained that in Washington last year."

The Rockets ended the preseason with a 4-2 record and hopes for a championship challenge are high after former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mates Harden and Westbrook were reunited in the offseason.

D'Antoni was lost for words by Harden's display against the Heat. He connected with 8-of-16 three-pointers and played like it was game seven of the NBA Finals.

"That's the way he's wired - he loves to play," added D'Antoni. "I couldn't take him out in the fourth quarter if I wanted to. He wanted to play and he'd play 48 minutes if he could.  

"James was ridiculous. He gets better every time. I don't know what his ceiling is but he seems to be the most improved player of the year for me, he's ridiculous."

Harden, meanwhile, was eager to get the regular season started after being asked for his initial feelings about how playing with Westbrook again had been.

"Great," the 2018 MVP said. "Now preseason is over with and we get to the real thing. It's gonna be a long season of just trying to communicate and be on the same page, not only me and Russ - our entire team. 

"This preseason was a good test for us, now we're excited for the real challenge."

Asked if this was the most powerful Rockets team since he had been with the franchise, Harden added: "Yeah, I think so."

Russell Westbrook had mixed feelings after his Houston Rockets debut ended in defeat to the Toronto Raptors in Tokyo.

Lining up alongside James Harden for the first time since the two former NBA MVPs were reunited with his offseason trade, Westbrook scored 13 points, adding six assists, two rebounds and a steal in a 21-minute outing.

Harden impressed with a game-high 34 points, but the Rockets went down 134-129 in Tuesday's preseason game. The two teams will do it all again in Japan's capital on Thursday.

"It wasn't bad - unfortunately we didn't win and that's the main goal," Westbrook said. 

"But it was good to get on the floor for the first time, get up and down, try to find a rhythm. We've got a lot of work to do, including myself getting in better shape and game condition, so we'll get it together.

"I'd love to play here for the Olympics, I think its an unbelievable place to be. I love Tokyo, the fans here and the atmosphere. 

"But our main focus now is on the season and finishing the season like we want to with the championship trophy."

Harden's 27-minute performance, in which he connected with 4-of-7 three-pointers, came as he continues to stress the importance of intensity in the Rockets' preseason games.

"We've been doing an unbelievable job in practice of pushing ourselves," said Harden, who had scored 37 against the Los Angeles Clippers last time out.

"Even in these preseason games we are trying to push it past our limits. That way, when the season starts in a few weeks, we'll be ready.

"I'm still working on my conditioning. I know for myself and Russ, who was excited for his first game out there, conditioning isn't where we want it to be, so that's what these games are for. 

"We are focusing on our team and getting better - we have a great opportunity ahead of us and we're focused every single day. We're glad to see Russ out there on the basketball court."

Of the Tokyo crowd, Harden added: "It was amazing. They got an opportunity to see what NBA basketball is about, what Rockets basketball is about. They brought the energy.

"They were excited from the beginning of the game. They made us want to go out there and put on a show, so hopefully it can be that same kind of atmosphere on Thursday."

Pascal Siakam had 24 points for the Raptors, who were playing their first preseason game.

While Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant faced the media in Brooklyn on Friday, a different tandem – James Harden and Russell Westbrook – detailed how they will attack the 2019-20 season with the Houston Rockets.

Houston acquired Westbrook this offseason in a trade with the Thunder, sending Chris Paul and two first-round picks to Oklahoma City while agreeing to swap two additional first-round picks.

The deal doubled-down the expectations placed on the Rockets to reach the NBA Finals, especially now that their perennial roadblock – the Golden State Warriors – will enter the year without Durant and Klay Thompson (torn ACL).

"If we don't win, I'll take all the blame for it," Harden told reporters at Rockets media day on Friday.

"That's just what the territory comes with. That's why you have to go out there and win. That's why we work extremely hard in the offseason to bring players in and whatever is necessary to give us the best chance to win. I know what's at stake."

Houston were bounced out of the playoffs last season by Golden State in the conference semifinals. The year prior, the Warriors spoiled Harden's MVP season by beating the Rockets in seven games in the Western Conference Finals.

The frustration that came with always looking up at Golden State led to Daryl Morey's move to trade for Westbrook, another former MVP who appeared to be plateauing in OKC even after the addition of Paul George.

Now with the reunion of Harden and Westbrook, who played alongside one another in the 2012 Finals with the Thunder, the two have to figure out how to co-exist once again.

Head coach Mike D'Antoni said there will be things to figure out once the season starts and added one or the other of the playmakers will be on the court at all times as he attempts to stagger their minutes.

"It's going to be scary," Westbrook said of a lineup that features both him and Harden. "That's all I can tell you. It's going to be scary. Not for us."

Harden is accustomed to carrying the burden for a team throughout the season as he led the NBA in usage percentage in 2018-19 by a large margin. However, he is not looking to Westbrook for help. Instead, he wants to unleash Westbrook by giving him the type of playing partner he has not had since Durant left OKC in 2016.

"I know from him having an entire organisation for 11 years that he had to play for and now he can come to an entire different chapter in his life to just go out there and play without having to stress and worry about the pressure of carrying an entire organisation," Harden said.

But, of course, everyone understands there will be games where either Harden or Westbrook takes over.

"If Russ got it going and has one of those games that we've all seen before, guess what I'm going to do? Sit back and watch the show and vice-versa," Harden said.

Westbrook added: "We have a friendship first outside of basketball. I think we communicate and understand each other. In the game, it's going to be easy. There will be times when I'm upset or he's upset, but we're going to sit there and let him know what he's doing right and vice-versa. I think that's the best way to complement each other."

James Harden wants to be unforgettable as he eyes multiple NBA championships and looks forward to joining forces with new Houston Rockets team-mate Russell Westbrook.

Harden has been one of the best players in the NBA since he joined the Rockets, averaging 29 or more points per game in each of the last four seasons.

The Rockets star was also named MVP in 2017-18, though seven-time All-Star Harden is yet to win a championship.

"I still haven't accomplished half of what I want to accomplish," Harden told Bleacher Report. "Like, multiple championships.

"I want to be one of those basketball players that you won't forget. And obviously, we all remember the Kobes [Kobe Bryant] and the Jordans [Michael Jordan] and the D-Wades [Dwyane Wade] and all those guys.

"I want to be in that same conversation, obviously, in championships and all that good stuff, and best shooting guards to ever play the game."

Harden's hopes of winning a title have been boosted by the arrival of Westbrook, who he played alongside during his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Rockets retooled their roster this offseason when they sent Chris Paul, along with multiple draft picks, to the Thunder in exchange for All-Star and former MVP Westbrook.

The deal reunited Westbrook and Harden, who previously played together in Oklahoma City from 2009-12. 

"[There will be] a lot of ups and downs," Harden added. "But I'm more excited to go into war, postseason, with somebody that is, like, a dog. Somebody that's a killer, for real."

Harden believes the Rockets – who reached the Western Conference semi-finals last season – have a chance to compete for a title, especially with the addition of Westbrook. 

"Of course it [not having a championship] matters to me," Harden said. "I've been thinking about it maybe the last year-and-a-half, two years. I'm on the right path. You can't rush winning a title. Some win it early, some win it late. It's perfect timing.

"The time is going to happen when the time happens. I've just got to be patient, continue to work my butt off, continue to be a great leader, great team-mate, and just try to bring as much talent and as much guys that have that same drive that I have. I think we all have it right now."

James Harden believes a media narrative was behind Giannis Antetokounmpo beating him to being named NBA MVP for 2018-19.

Houston Rockets guard and 2018 MVP Harden averaged 36.1 points in the regular season – the most since Michael Jordan tallied 37.1 in 1986-87 – and went on a stunning run of 32 30-point games in succession.

However, Antetokounmpo was the best player for the Milwaukee Bucks, who finished the regular season with the best record of any team. He averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.

"[It was] one for the books. Even when I'm gone, they're going to talk about it," Harden said to 97.9 The Box of his season, before offering his thoughts on how the MVP race unfolded.

"It's out of my control. Once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and just run with it the entire year.

"I don't want to get into details. All I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level. There's only a few other seasons that anybody has ever done that before.

"People were tuned in to how many points I was going to score the next game. It was a thing. But I can't control that. The only thing I can control is coming back next year and being better than I was, and winning a championship."

The Rockets dealt Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder to add 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook to their roster for 2019-20 and Harden is eager to get going.

"I'm excited. Obviously, Chris did an unbelievable job the two years that he was here. He's helped our organisation and team a tremendous amount. But we have most of the same core guys coming back, and then we add Russ," he said.

"We all know how Russ plays, and he's even a greater guy off the court. It's difficult playing against him, just because he plays with that aggression. He plays with that anger. But it's going to be better to have him on our team now.

"Now we've got him and PJ [Tucker] … crazy together. We've got a lot of guys who are return and then you add Russ, it's something special."

On potential opponents in next year's playoffs, Harden added: "It don't even matter because we focus on ourselves. We've got so much talent in that locker room, and our organisation is so great.

"We don't pay attention to other teams. We just focus on what we control, our team, and being the best we can be. Whoever we face, let's get it on."

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey believes James Harden is a better scoring than NBA and Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan.

Harden is fresh off the best offensive season of his career after averaging 36.1 point and 7.5 assists in 78 appearances for a Rockets team who were dependent on his ability to draw fouls and crafty shot making.

The 2017-18 MVP led the NBA in scoring last season and tallied the league's highest points per game average since Jordan averaged 37.1 points during the 1986-87 season.

Most basketball fans agree that Jordan is the greatest of all time, but Morey would argue Harden has a leg up on the sport's most iconic player in one area.

"It's just factual that James Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan," Morey said on the 'Selfmade with Nadeshot' podcast.

Morey is the creator of Houston's analytics-based offensive system known as "Moreyball" and says statistics make him ranking Harden above Jordan logical.

"Based on literally, like you give James Harden the ball and before you're giving up the ball how many points do you generate? Which is how you should measure offense. James Harden is by far number one in NBA history," Morey said.

Harden has been an All-Star in each of his seven seasons with the Rockets, has led the league in possessions per game for the last three campaigns and has won the last two scoring titles. 

The argument for Jordan being the better offensive player stems from the fact that basketball has evolved. The game is faster, players shoot more and scoring is up. But Morey is holding onto his beliefs.

"The counterargument is reasonable," Morey said. "They say if you put Michael Jordan on a team now he would do more than James Harden. That's possible. But if you're just saying: 'NBA history, if you give this guy the ball, how much does his team score after you give him the ball before the other team gets the ball?' It's James Harden. And I know that makes people mad, but it's literally a fact."

The Rockets have had plenty of success in the regular season with Harden as the centrepiece but have yet to reach the NBA Finals during his time in Houston.

But the Rockets shipped off Chris Paul and an assortment of future draft picks to bring in the 2016-17 MVP in Russell Westbrook.

The Rockets have two elite, high-usage guards on their team, and Morey believes Harden alongside a triple-double machine like Westbrook can get Houston over the hump.

Russell Westbrook acknowledged the need for "sacrifice" as he and James Harden try to lead the Houston Rockets to an NBA championship.

Westbrook was acquired by the Rockets in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this month, which included future draft picks, pick swaps and Chris Paul leaving Houston.

The 2017 MVP, Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the third consecutive season in 2018-19, but he admits the path to success with a new team might require a different approach. Especially playing alongside his long-time friend and former Thunder team-mate Harden, who was the league's most valuable player in 2018.

Speaking during his introductory news conference on Friday, Westbrook told reporters: "Me and James have been friends for many, many years, since I was 10 actually.

"To be able to win something, you have to be able to sacrifice some parts of your game and we both understand that," Westbrook continued. "We both understand that we have one common goal and that's to win a championship.

"I don't have to touch the ball to impact the game... I can do other things on the floor to make sure we have a better chance of winning."

Westbrook and Harden both like to have the ball a lot. The duo are the only players in NBA history to exceed 40.0 in usage percentage, and now they will have to share a backcourt. They last played together in 2012-13, before Harden was traded to the Rockets.

Since then, both have been named MVP. Regardless, Westbrook is confident the two will can work well together in Houston.

"We play great off the ball with each other. We've done it in OKC," Westbrook said.

Westbrook elaborated on what else he brings to the table, besides orchestrating an offense.

"I think I can be able to help a lot on the rebounding end and switching and finding a way to get into the passing lanes," the 30-year-old added. "Maybe throw a few lobs to James if he's still got it. Figuring out a way to be able to just impact and use my athleticism."

He also addressed his health, as he underwent a procedure on his right knee in May.

"I'll be ready to go by training camp," Westbrook said. "I'm doing great. Taking my time. Resting as much as I can, because we're gon' go after it at the start of the season and I'll be ready to go."

All in all, Westbrook appears like he's prepared for the next chapter.

"I think it's a great opportunity to be able to bring a championship here to Houston," he said. "An opportunity to do great things, have some fun and I'm excited for it."

James Harden insists there is no bad blood between him and Chris Paul.

The Houston Rockets star was rumoured to have had enough of Paul following their second-round playoff exit at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in May.

Some reports stated Harden would not answer Paul's phone calls after last season and claimed the duo's relationship was "unsalvageable."

Paul has since been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, with Russell Westbrook coming the other way in a blockbuster deal.

However, Harden told reporters on Saturday that speculation of friction between him and Paul was not accurate.

"It was a lot of false talk," Harden said. "Obviously as team-mates, as competitors we argue on the court. You have your disagreements on the court. Your arguments on the court. But that's just part of basketball. Everybody has that. No matter what level of basketball you're in.

"All the negative media stuff and all the stuff that was running, it wasn't true. Me and Chris had constant communication and you know, we're good."

With Paul now out of the picture, Harden is set for a reunion with Westbrook, who he played alongside in Oklahoma City from 2009-12 before being traded to the Rockets.

Harden led the NBA in scoring with 36.1 points per game while Westbrook averaged a triple-double for a third straight year in 2018-19.

"I'm excited for this opportunity," Harden said. "It's a new chapter, but I know he's [Westbrook] excited."

 

James Harden says he will not need to make any changes for new team-mate Russell Westbrook when the pair are reunited at the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets completed a blockbuster trade for Westbrook this week, giving the Rockets two of the last three NBA MVPs on their roster.

Harden played with the new arrival at the Oklahoma City Thunder between 2009 and 2012 and is already confident about how their rekindled partnership will work out in a loaded Western Conference.

So much so, he insists nothing will need to change in his game to make the Rockets successful after Westbrook's move.

"None. None. None," he told reporters at an Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event when asked what adjustments would be needed.

"We played with each other in the NBA and the Olympics and all that. When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. 

"You figure things out throughout the course of the season. That's just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.

"It's that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. With the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in, and things are going to go."

Chris Paul, whose relationship with Harden reportedly soured last season, two protected first-round draft selections and two pick swaps were sent to the Thunder to secure Westbrook's arrival.

"I'm excited for this opportunity," added Harden. "It's a new chapter, but I know he's excited. 

"He's been in Oklahoma City for 11 years so it's a new chapter for him. We welcome him with open arms. It's going to work.

"That's my boy right there, since I was like 10 or 11 years old. Obviously, we were team-mates for years. Now, we're at different stages of our careers. I hear a lot of negative things, 'You can't, he can't, they can't'. But we'll figure it out."

The Rockets lost out in six games to the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs last season, having gone 53-29 to claim the fourth seed in the West.

James Harden has joined MLS club Houston Dynamo's ownership group.

The Dynamo announced on Thursday that the Houston Rockets superstar had become part of the group led by Gabriel Brener, also owners of the NWSL's Houston Dash.

Harden, arguably the face of Houston sports and winner of the NBA MVP award in 2018, joins six-weight world champion Oscar De La Hoya in the group.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future," Harden said in a statement.

"Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime.

"I've been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose."

"We are thrilled to welcome James into our club. He's an icon in the Houston community, and not only is he a great basketball player, he has an extremely smart and savvy mind for business," Brener said.

"James will bring a very unique perspective to our ownership group, and I'm looking forward to hearing his thoughts and opinions on the club going forward."

James Harden and Russell Westbrook will "make it work" at the Houston Rockets, insisted head coach Mike D'Antoni.

The Rockets acquired Westbrook in a blockbuster trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, reuniting the 2017 NBA MVP with Harden.

Harden and Westbrook like to control the ball but D'Antoni is confident the latter will fit into Houston's line-up without any drastic changes to accommodate the All-Stars.

"We're not changing much," D'Antoni said on the The Woj Pod while discussing the addition of Westbrook. "We'll tweak it, but to say you've gotta change and you can't win that way, that's B.S."

Some critics believe the Rockets do not spread the ball around enough and play too much isolation.

Now, some are questioning whether it will be even more challenging to play that type of offense with both Harden and Westbrook, who are two ball-dominant players, on the court.

D'Antoni, however, does not think it will be a problem because the two want to play together, and they previously teamed up in Oklahoma City.

"They’ll make it work," D'Antoni said. "Do we sometimes go too much one-on-one? Yeah. Do we sometimes iso or not move enough? Yeah, we do sometimes. But I can also make the argument that sometimes teams over-pass. You try to find the balance of what is best for your players."

D'Antoni explained the Rockets will find what works best for both players to maximise their talents.

"I will start looking now at tape and trying to figure out the dynamics between the two and how they played in Oklahoma City and how it's changed since then, in the Olympics," D'Antoni said.

"But it's exciting. Whenever you have great talent, it's exciting because it gives you a chance to win, and that's what we all want to do. But it'll be my job to maximise their talents and what they do best, and it should be really good.

"I saw it in USA Basketball. You put [the stars] all together and they want to make it work, it doesn't matter. The more talent you have, the better it is. And I think right now with this duo and other people, it'll work. Now, to what degree, we'll see."

Rockets star James Harden expects to have "a lot of fun" alongside Russell Westbrook in Houston.

The Rockets acquired the 2017 NBA MVP from the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday in exchange for Chris Paul, protected first-round draft picks in 2024 and 2026, and the rights to swap picks in two other drafts.

Harden, who played his first three NBA seasons in Oklahoma City with Westbrook, is pleased to be reunited with his old team-mate.

"When I left OKC I was sad," Harden said on Friday, via The Athletic.

"Then Houston made a home for me. Rockets is my home. And now an opportunity came available where Russ wasn't happy. Now we're back. It's going to be a lot of fun this year, I guarantee you that."

According to the Houston Chronicle, Harden and Westbrook "strongly favoured the move and a chance to play in a backcourt together".

Now, it is up to head coach Mike D'Antoni to build the offense around the two NBA MVPs, an award Harden won in 2018.

The NBA world was shocked again on Thursday as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly completed a blockbuster trade involving Russell Westbrook.

According to ESPN, the Rockets sent Chris Paul and draft picks to the Thunder in exchange for 2017 NBA MVP Westbrook.

This is a huge deal for the Western Conference as Houston boasts a similar team to what they had last season but became younger and more athletic in the process.

Rockets fans can dream about the potential of this tandem, however it is not an idea that is foreign. In fact, we have seen this combination before as Harden and Westbrook were drafted by the Thunder and played together from 2009-12 and made an NBA Finals alongside Kevin Durant in their last season together.

So, what did those teams look like in Oklahoma City? They looked great, we will tell you that.

With Westbrook, the Thunder had a high-energy point guard who was unstoppable going to the rim and a terror on defense. With Durant, Oklahoma City had the player who could get any shot he wanted and presented a mismatch every time he was on the court. Harden was the sixth man for that team as he provided a solid scoring option and a better defender than people may remember (he was given the job of guarding LeBron James in the 2012 NBA Finals for long stretches).

On March 23, 2012 – the three combined to score 110 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Harden and Westbrook totalled 70.

As good as they were as a team, though, a lot of people did not take them seriously. That was until they dominated the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. After losing the first two games, they came back to win the last four by an average of nearly 10 points (9.75).

In that series, the big three dominated as Westbrook averaged 18.1 points, 7.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds, Harden put up 18.5, 5.5 and 3.6 while Durant added 29.5, 5.3 and 7.5. This was the team to beat for years to come.

They wound up losing to the Miami Heat in the Finals in five games, but they won the opener, and had it not been for a missed foul call in the waning moments of Game 2, the Thunder might have taken a 2-0 series lead and then, who knows?

This team was the Golden State Warriors before the Warriors and Harden and Westbrook were huge parts of that. It looked like it was going to be a dynasty for years to come in the west, but that was until Harden was due for an extension and more money.

Ultimately, the Thunder did not pay Harden and he was dealt to Houston along with Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks (which became Steven Adams in 2013 and Mitch McGary in 2014), and a second-round pick (which became Alex Abrines in 2013).

Harden then went on to win an MVP with Houston in 2018, Westbrook won it with the Thunder in 2017 and Durant earned the honour in 2014. Now, two of those players are back together. Durant is the only one to have a title (he won two with the Warriors), but Westbrook and Harden can see if they can get one they so highly covet.

The Houston Rockets have acquired star guard Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to reports.

In an ESPN report, the Rockets have sent Chris Paul and first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 for the 2017 NBA MVP.

The teams have also swapped picks in 2021 and 2025 as Westbrook reunites with former Thunder team-mate and 2018 MVP James Harden.

After Paul George left the Thunder for the Los Angeles Clippers, eight-time All-Star Westbrook wanted to be sent to the Rockets.

Westbrook and Harden played together in Oklahoma City from 2009 to 2012 – the pair helping the Thunder reach the 2012 NBA Finals.

Last season, Westbrook averaged 22.9 points, 10.7 assists and 11.1 rebounds as the Thunder advanced to the playoffs before falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.

The NBA is going to look quite different in 2019-20.

After leading the Toronto Raptors to their first title, Kawhi Leonard will reportedly team up with Paul George at the Los Angeles Clippers next season.

It is a move that will reignite the rivalry with a much-changed Los Angeles Lakers, while the Golden State Warriors have seen Kevin Durant jump ship and move to the Eastern Conference.

We look at the teams with a 'big two' following a series of movements in an incredible offseason.

 

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

It was a big surprise when the Clippers took defending champions the Warriors to Game 6 in the playoffs, but they will undoubtedly be a better team next season.

The additions of Leonard and six-time All-Star George – although the latter came at a high price that included sending Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and five first-round draft picks, four of which are unprotected, and two pick swaps to the Oklahoma City Thunder – have created a new force in the Western Conference that will be looking to contend straight away.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Despite finally pulling off the acquisition of Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, the Lakers freed up enough cap space for a run at Leonard.

However, they were unable to seal a deal with the NBA Finals MVP and will instead look to improve on LeBron James' disappointing first season by forming a truly formidable duo with Davis.

BROOKLYN NETS

Durant ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, but it did not lead to a reduction in interest in the Warriors star.

The 2014 MVP decided to end his time at Golden State and team up with Kyrie Irving at the Brooklyn Nets, who consequently captured two of the three biggest free agents on the market to step up their rebuild several notches.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

It looked as though the Warriors would dominate again when they signed DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year deal in the last offseason, despite the center being sidelined by an Achilles injury.

Cousins has not returned and with Durant out the door, Golden State will be relying on the backcourt tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – reportedly on a five-year max contract – though trading for D'Angelo Russell could lighten the load.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Having lost out to the Miami Heat in their reported pursuit of Jimmy Butler, the Rockets will go again with James Harden and Chris Paul leading the charge.

General manager Daryl Morey rejected reports of a rift between Harden and Paul, though he will be keen for the team to start winning as early as possible following a sluggish start in 2018-19.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

The Blazers made a stunning run to the Western Conference Finals before being swept by the Warriors.

They will hope to go one better after tying Damian Lillard down to a four-year contract extension in the offseason, ensuring his partnership with fellow sharpshooter CJ McCollum will continue.

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