Yes, the Houston Rockets’ abrupt rebuild likely leads to the team missing the playoffs next season and the following season. With that said, they have a foundation of compelling young players to build through, which is all the Houston hopeful could ask for.
Second-year head coach Stephen Silas has four players, in particular, to be highly enthused by, that being Jalen Green, Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr. and Jae’Sean Tate.
The second selection in last month’s NBA Draft, Green is a high-octane scorer. He gets to the rim off the dribble with ease, is a respectable outside shooter, and can be a high-impact scorer in the NBA. Playing for the G-League Ignite this past season, Green averaged 17.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 36.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Wood has experienced exponential growth over the last two seasons. In his debut season with the Rockets (last season), Wood became one of the most productive big men in the NBA. He finished the season averaging 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 37.4 percent from beyond the arc. He’s a multi-faceted scorer who can play in the post, put the ball on the floor and stick outside jump shots.
After an explosive ending to his brief time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Porter began to find himself with the Rockets last season. The USC product is a smooth scorer who moves the rock and can shoot from a distance. Across 26 games with the Rockets, 23 were starts, Porter averaged 16.6 points and 6.3 assists per game.
Tate had a plausible rookie season as a primary starter for the Rockets. He hit the boards, held his own defensively and was a scrappy scorer. Tate put forth 11.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
Furthermore, Kenyon Martin Jr. was a spark plug off the bench in his rookie season, Khyri Thomas impressed in a small sample size and returning wing David Nwaba is a capable scorer. The Rockets also traded up for the 16th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft to select versatile big man Alperen Sengun, who displayed an ability to be a highly productive scorer in the Turkish Super League.
Green and Porter can share a backcourt or one of them can come off the bench with John Wall serving as the veteran mentor. Wall can bridge one of the young guards getting in the starting rotation in the second half of the season or the ensuing season.
Wood will likely be the driving force of the offense, as he’s the most proven player and continues to improve. All the while, individuals like Tate and Martin play secondary scoring roles. There’s a lot of minutes and production to go around. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to lead to the Rockets being, say, a dark horse playoff team in the Western Conference next season.
The reality is this team is going to lose a lot of games. There will be nights that the Rockets are run out of the building. In all likelihood, they’ll lose many tight affairs due to other teams having more proven closers.
All that being said, it’s best to lose with youth on the floor, which is precisely what the Rockets will be doing. Their young nucleus will get its first licks in the NBA the hard way by being a rebuilding team in a ruthless Western Conference. The competition will make them better, force them to build cohesion and be fundamentally sound on the defensive end. Being a reputable unit defensively is how one can measure the growth of this team.
In time, Green could be an All-Star, Wood could be one of the best frontcourt players in the NBA and Porter could be scoring 20 points per contest. They all have the chance to do that, given how the 2021-22 Rockets are constructed.
Likely sellers at next season’s NBA trade deadline, the Rockets have a pair of guards they can get value for in Eric Gordon and Danuel House — if they aren’t moved before training camp. What the Rockets receive for the two players via trade could help them move up for a player they like in next season’s NBA Draft.
The best is yet to come from all the youngsters on the Rockets. Last season was a mess for those present, given the James Harden saga. This time around, everyone enters the season knowing what to expect: a rebuilding year.
It’s always tough for a fan base to watch a team of players in their prime get shipped out, especially when that team featured one of the premier backcourts in the NBA over four consecutive seasons. Not receiving a budding star or two in the Harden trade, as well as not getting a healthy Victor Oladipo, didn’t exactly help that cause, either.
What the Houston Rockets do have going for them is a young foundation that should make strides shortly. They’re a bubbling group of talented scorers.