The 2020-21 season was almost over before it started for the Houston Rockets. From the downbeat of the season, rumors were flying that James Harden wanted out of Houston and, in short order, he was moved to Brooklyn for a future-facing package of assets. That kicked off what would become a 17-55 season but, in a wild thing to remember, Houston actually opened with an 11-10 record before losing 45 of the final 52 contests.
A lot has changed in Houston within 12 months, and that includes the addition of an intriguing pool of rookies, headlined by No. 2 pick Jalen Green. The Rockets still have a few veterans and returning youngsters as well, and they enter another rebuilding year as the 2021-22 campaign begins.
K.J. Martin Jr.
Kevin Porter Jr.
Projected Vegas Win Total: 27.5 wins
Biggest Addition: Jalen Green
Green is going to be a lot of fun. After one season with G League Ignite, Green was the No. 2 pick and he flashed his robust offensive skill package at the Las Vegas Summer League. Of course, the regular season is much different than Summer League, but Green is now the centerpiece of the franchise, and he will be given a lot of responsibility from the jump. It may not be pretty for 82 games, simply because of how rookie develop, but Green should showcase his upside and provide entertainment and intrigue.
Biggest Loss: Kelly Olynyk
Houston didn’t lose all that much, but Olynyk was good for them when he arrived. It was only 27 games, but Olynyk averaged 19 points and eight rebounds per game for the Rockets, posting a ludicrous 67 percent true shooting mark on the way. He didn’t make a ton of sense in the short term with Houston’s rebuilding effort underway, but the Rockets will at least miss what he was giving them.
Biggest Question: What happens with John Wall?
All indications are that the Rockets and John Wall will part ways at some point, but we don’t know when. Wall is making more than $40 million per season and, while he could certainly contribute to Houston, the team isn’t in a win-now mode and they have young guards to develop. The issue is that Wall is extremely difficult to trade, particularly when the Rockets are seemingly entrenched in a mode in which they will not attach picks to move his salary. It might be a long waiting game.
What Makes This Season A Success
Green, Christian Wood, Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba, Josh Christopher, Jae’Sean Tate, and Kevin Porter look like pieces to build around. Those are the pieces that matter for the Rockets. Everything should be focused on the development of the young guys, with Wood emerging as the team’s best player in the short term and a potential long-term building block. Houston will also want to lose games to make their own draft pick as high as possible.
What Makes This Season A Failure:
Short of winning too many games for lottery purposes, the worst thing that the Rockets could do is to block their young guys with minutes for players who won’t be around a few years from now. There is always some of that in play, but Houston should be mindful to avoid it. From there, it wouldn’t be great if Green, Sengun, Garuba, or Christopher really flopped out of the gate, or if Porter stumbled after steps forward last season.