After making the NBA Playoffs for eight consecutive seasons from 2013 to 2020, the Houston Rockets have since missed out on the postseason for four straight years, one season shy of the longest such stretch in franchise history. But if the 2023-24 season was any indication, it's that the Rockets are on the rise, ready to once again make their presence felt in the postseason.

The Rockets finished the 2023-24 season with a 41-41 record, which would've been good for a berth into the NBA Play-In Tournament if they were in the Eastern Conference. But in the loaded Western Conference, Houston finished five games behind the Golden State Warriors for the final Play-In spot. Now don't be mistaken… the Western Conference will be just as tough, if not even tougher next year. Both San Antonio and Memphis will be in the postseason mix next year, and it's possible that all ten teams that finished ahead of Houston in the standings this year won't be going anywhere either.

But Houston Rockets shooting guard Jalen Green, who has spent three losing seasons with the franchise already since being selected 2nd overall in the 2021 NBA Draft, appears to be confident that the young Rockets will be playing meaningful basketball next April.

Houston Rockets Jalen Green, Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks

Rockets on the rise? 

Now if the Houston Rockets were to make the NBA Playoffs next season, it wouldn't be a result of a rapid, one-season turnaround, even though many will make it out to be just that. No, this particular Rockets team has been built carefully over the last few years with necessary coaching changes, savvy draft picks, and a few veteran contracts that initially turned heads but now seem to make more sense.

After off-court issues resulted in the splintering of the partnership between the Boston Celtics and former head coach Ime Udoka, the Rockets quickly pounced on the former player turned coach who instantly brought the best out of the Boston Celtics, leading them to the 2022 NBA Finals. Udoka's coaching style forced a young Rockets team to grow up on the fly and care about things like playing defense, making the extra pass, making hustle plays, and more.

That young Rockets team has been built predominantly through the NBA Draft. Over the past three Drafts, the Rockets have selected five players who played meaningful minutes in Ime Udoka's rotation last year: Jalen Green (19.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists per game), Jabari Smith Jr. (13.7 points, 8.1 rebounds), Cam Whitmore (12.3 points, 3.8 rebounds), Tari Eason (9.8 points, 7.0 rebounds per game in 22 games), and Amen Thompson (9.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists). This doesn't include Alperen Sengun, who was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2021 and traded one day later to the Rockets. Sengun has surprisingly become an offensive hub for the Rockets over the course of the last 18 months.

The final pieces were the veterans who could embody the message that Ime Udoka was trying to get across to his young team. Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks were each signed to massive deals last summer… deals that were mostly panned around the league. But neither of their contracts disrupt the timeline that the Rockets are on. Neither does Jeff Green (who has a team option next year) or Steven Adams, who was traded to Houston in February.

In addition to all of that, the Rockets hold onto the 3rd overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft thanks to the Brooklyn Nets. Houston could add to their already blossoming young core, or they could move that pick in return for future assets or immediate help. Either way, it's hard to dispute that the Rockets are on the rise as we head into the Summer of 2024.