The 2021-22 NBA season is here and no fanbase is more eager to turn their backs on last season than Houston Rockets fans. After James Harden's chaotic exodus, the 2020-21 season for Houston was bumpy, injury-riddled, and worst of all, directionless. It wasn't so much that the Rockets were bad, but they left observers of the team with almost no important information. It became obvious after a few months that a significant chunk of the roster would not return the following season and that's exactly what happened. Only a handful of players on Houston's roster last year were realistically in their long-term plans.

And that's what makes this season so exciting if you're a Rockets fan. After a season where the Rockets had very little youth, seven players on their current players are still on rookie contracts and six of those are age 21 or younger. Whether you're watching for someone like Jalen Green or Kenyon Martin Jr., there's something to look forward to down the line.

The long-term vision for the franchise is starting to come into picture, but there are still nagging questions that need to be answered.

1. Who starts?

The starting lineup is going to be a tough puzzle that Rockets head coach Stephen Silas will have to have to figure out in training camp. There's also little doubt that it will be the most persistent question he receives through media day and preseason availabilities. Because there isn't an established hierarchy yet, Houston has logjams at the guard and big man positions.

Point Guard

The safest bet on the board may be John Wall starting the season at point guard for Houston. It may not be the right long-term move, but for next season, it's hard to argue that he's not the most capable guard available for the Rockets. Wall is an intelligent table setter, he's a good defender when he wants to be, and he'll make less mistakes than Houston's young core of guard.

Shooting Guard

We've gone from the easiest position to predict to the hardest. If Houston tries resembling a traditional lineup, it's going to be a toss-up between Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green at shooting guard. Considering this is Porter Jr.'s third season, the safe money probably resides with him. However, if Green has a stellar training camp, this is going to be an impossible decision for Silas. Let's just slide Porter Jr. here for now.

Small Forward

We've got another toss-up here, but between two different players: Jae'Sean Tate and Danuel House. Under Mike D'Antoni, the Rockets might've just slotted Eric Gordon here, but Stephen Silas has played it more traditional (only 3% of Gordon's minutes were at small forward last season). If the Rockets want additional floor spacing, the obvious answer here is House. I do think the Rockets will zag here and go for the additional defense in Tate. Silas has a high degree of faith in Tate and leaned on him quite a bit for a rookie.

Power Forward

While I may disagree with the thought process here, it seems the Rockets like the look of a traditional center next to Christian Wood. This may be due to his limitations as a defender. Houston loved the look of Kelly Olynyk next to Wood and it looks like they'll go for that again with Daniel Theis. Wood gets the starting spot at power forward here, much like John Collins in Atlanta.


No matter what you think of the decision to play him next to Wood, Theis is a really undervalued center in the NBA. As a defensive player, he knows where to be, he communicates, and protects the rim adequately. This is partially why he's developed into a bit of an advanced stats darling over the past couple years. He'll probably get the starting spot at center for Houston

As an add-on to this, the Rockets will also send some players to the G League to open up playing time for others. As intriguing as Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba, and Josh Christopher were in Summer League, they're all candidates to play with the Vipers this season. Obviously not all of them will be down there, but I suspect at least one of these three will.

2. What do the Rockets do about John Wall and Eric Gordon?

Although it's quite obvious that Houston is in rebuild mode, they haven't done the full teardown that usually accompanies a rebuild. Part of this is because the contracts of John Wall and Eric Gordon are very difficult to trade. They've likely had conversations about both players with teams, but if the Kemba Walker situation is any indication, it's unlikely they find a suitor for Wall's contract. If Gordon can re-establish his value after his ankle injury from last season, I'd expect there to be a few teams chasing after his services. His contract is reasonable, he's a versatile defender, capable ball-handler, and playoff proven.

The Rockets will likely have to buy Wall out of his contract at some point. Really it's just a matter of when. It's gotten to the point where he's actively hurting player development by taking away reps from the young guards. Unless Wall can help the Rockets overachieve this season, the franchise will need to agree to a number with his camp and open their wallets. The date to keep an eye on will be the days following the trade deadline.

3. How many games will the Rockets win?

This is less a question for the franchise and more a question for spectators of the team. BetOnline currently has Houston's over/under set at 26.5 right now and that seems about right. No matter how exciting the Rockets may look on paper, at the end of the day, they're set up to lose a lot of basketball games next year. Young players are typically horrendous on defense, inefficient as shooters, and turn the ball over frequently. Currently, I have Houston down for 25 wins. That's a decent spike from the season before (17 wins) and realistically accounts for the level of youth and inexperience still on the roster. Houston's defense will take a marginal step up due to the addition of Daniel Theis, but the offense is will still be pretty choppy.

A lot of this will obviously depend on whether or not Houston decides to keep their veterans for the entire season. For all of their flaws, John Wall, Eric Gordon, and Christian Wood are still really helpful players. The 25-win prediction also includes the possibility that Houston gets really unlucky with the health side of things.

The Rockets may no longer be a national story anymore, but they will still be fascinating to watch as they enter a 2021-22 campaign without the same turbulence they entered last season with.