It used to be that you could pencil the Houston Rockets in for at least the Western Conference semifinals appearances year in and year out. No longer. It’s a new era of Rockets basketball. James Harden is long gone. So is Russell Westbrook. And Chris Paul. And Clint Capela. And P.J. Tucker. And coach Mike D’Antoni. And, well, you get the idea.
Houston and General Manager Rafael Stone have absolutely gutted the roster the past couple of years, stockpiling assets and paving the way for the next great era of Rockets basketball. Here’s why we think they’ll be good again sooner rather than later.
1. Jalen Green
One thing is clear in Houston. The No. 2 overall pick from the 2021 draft, Jalen Green, will be the centerpiece of the roster going forward. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard has shown flashes of brilliance so far for the Rockets in 2021-22. Just 19 years old, he has plenty of room for development. When he does start to put it all together, watch out.
2. They’ve Shrewdly Stockpiled Assets
Stone’s wheeling and dealing last season brought in loads of future draft picks – years and years’ worth. And the Rockets could well be in line for another lottery pick in the spring. With a solid draft class coming down the pike, that’s not a bad thing. If Houston can cash in on even a fraction of those picks, we might see a much shorter rebuild than expected.
3. John Wall
Whether they somehow find a way to keep him or cash him in for assets via a trade, John Wall will be a major part of the Rockets’ rebuild. Wall wants out and says he’ll sit out the season unless he’s traded or Houston buys out his contract. While not an ideal situation for the Rockets, they’re in no hurry and can wait out the trade market and hope contenders get antsy to make a deal later in the season.
4. Eric Gordon
Eric Gordon’s another player who could pay dividends whether he remains on the Rockets’ roster or not. He’s an excellent shooter with big-game experience who’d be a huge addition to a contending team willing to pay the price.
5. Young Talent
We covered Green, but the Rockets have plenty more promising young players on the roster. Fifth-year big man Christian Wood leads the team in scoring and rebounding at 26 years old. Kevin Porter Jr., just 21, has been a solid addition to the roster since Houston acquired him from Cleveland last season. Alperen Sengun, 19, is showing potential in the early going after the Rockets spent the No. 16 overall pick on him in the 2021 draft. Even if Wood is dealt, as has been rumored, he’d net a sizable return that’d help shape the Rockets’ future.
6. Recent Surge Brings Hope
After a 1-16 start to the season, Houston’s been on a roll of late, climbing their way into contention for the NBA’s play-in tournament. It’s hard to say whether they can keep it up, but it shows what this version of the Rockets is capable of – and, well, there might just be a little something to work with here.
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