During the Houston Astros' game against the Atlanta Braves on Monday night, Houston Rockets Hall-of-Famer and broadcaster Calvin Murphy was in attendance. In the bottom of the third inning, Murphy joined the Astros broadcast booth with Geoff Blum and Todd Kalas in honor of Jackie Robinson day. Along with his discussion of the significance of the annual recognition of baseball's best, Murphy also made a case for the Rockets becoming a top-five team in the Western Conference next season.

There's certainly a case to be made for Murphy's bold prediction. The Rockets took a jump in 2023-24—a really big jump. Coming off three straight seasons in which they won less than 23 games, finishing .500 with a 41-41 record is a major accomplishment for Ime Udoka and company. In any ordinary NBA year, they'd have been in contention for the play-in tournament or perhaps even playoffs.

Unfortunately, Houston lives in the “Wild Wild West,” which was exceptionally competitive this season. If they played in the East, the Rockets would've been the nine-seed.

Calvin Murphy believes in Rockets' potential

Houston Rockets former guard Calvin Murphy prior to the game against the San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Murphy, whose No. 23 is retired by the team, is certain the Rockets will come back to relevance. He was even rather “disappointed” about their overall successful season.

“I was disappointed,” Murphy admitted on the Astros' broadcast. “Watching them from the very beginning, they had the talent to go to the playoffs and we just missed it…That being said, you got to give the top brass a lot of credit form the owners down to the general manager to the coaching staff to take unfortunately what was a disaster over the last three years.”

Seeing a complete shift in overall performance from the Stephen Silas era left Murphy wanting more because he believes in Houston's potential.

“I found myself being more of a fan than a broadcaster,” Murphy added.

The 75-year-old isn't someone who shies away from his opinions, which is what brought him to this extremely optimistic forecast for 2024-25.

“I saw watching from the beginning when i was going to training camp. Watching them practice and play, there was going to be something special,” Murphy said. “[Ime] Udoka is my kind of a coach. Next year, I'm going on the hot seat right now. Not only are they [Rockets] going to the playoffs but there going to be one of the top five teams in the West.”

What Houston must do

Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun (28) and guard Jalen Green (4) come out the locker room to play against the New Orleans Pelicans before the first half at Smoothie King Center.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

In order for Murphy's prediction to come true, Houston would need to significantly upgrade its roster. The top five-seeds in this season's Western Conference contain at least one or two franchise players, and some have a Big Three. Prime examples are Oklahoma City Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic and Minnesota Timberwolves' Anthony Edwards.

Ideally, both Alperen Sengun and Jalen Green would to take that next step in their development to lift the Rockets toward the top of the West. Sengun had a stellar season with notable highlights, yet struggled for various stretches of the season. Overall, the Turkish center just wasn't used to being the number one guy carrying the team on his back on a nightly basis.

Nevertheless, it's been done before. The Thunder were the 10th seed last year and made the Play-In with 40 wins before to climbing all the way up to the first seed in the West this season. Technically, the Rockets won more games this year than the Thunder did last year. Why couldn't Houston take a similar leap next season?