The Houston Rockets are almost two years into their post-James Harden rebuild, with the franchise still searching for a direction. That makes them a real unknown quantity after another busy offseason of departures.
The Rockets head into this season with a roster which includes 10 players born since the year 2000, having posted the fewest wins in the NBA last year. It’s clear they’re taking the long road back to the top and after doubling down on youth in the offseason this campaign could be another struggle.
However, there are some diamonds in the rough in Houston and if those talents click then 22-23 could be the beginning of a turnaround for the franchise and coach Stephen Silas.
|What||NBA Season 2022/23|
|Where||USA and Canada|
|When||October 18th 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch||Sky Sports, NBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds||BOS Celtics +525, GS Warriors +600, LA Clippers +700, MIL Bucks +750, BKN Nets +800|
The Rockets have reached the stage of their rebuild where they are shipping out players who arrived after the rebuild began. They had moved Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for Wall in 2020, while Wood arrived that same offseason to add a little quality to a tanking team.
While Wall barely featured for the Rockets, Wood did enough in two seasons to earn a move to the Dallas Mavericks. Houston got five players back for Wood, one of which - Wendell Moore Jr. was shipped to Minnesota for TyTy Washington and two second-round picks.
The Rockets bought out Wall’s contract to allow him a move to the Clippers, clearing his $47million annual salary off their books. They also avoided having to hand a big contract to Wood, clearing two high earners who didn’t really move the needle for the team.
The Rockets haven’t acquired many high-potential young stars through trades, instead looking to land them in the draft. They took Jabari Smith Jr with the third pick this summer, a player who was the consensus top pick until just minutes before the draft.
Smith Jr is +550 to win Rookie of the Year after a solid display at Summer League. He’s likely to slot straight in as a forward for the Rockets, with his mix of shooting threat and defensive versatility a big boost to the team.
The franchise also landed Tari Eason with the 17th pick and his impressive Summer League displays suggested he should have gone higher. Washington was taken 29th in the draft and the departures of Wall and Dennis Schroder should see him slot in high in the backcourt rotation.
The Rockets also had a busy 2021 draft, taking Jalen Green with the second pick. The promising wing recovered from a slow start to post 20.7 points-per-game in the final 32 matches, also averaging over three rebounds and assists.
If Green can return to the court in that shape, the Rockets should be able to stay competitive at least.
Turkish centre Alperen Sengun is set to complete a youthful frontcourt for the Rockets, having been taken at 16th in the 2021 draft. He’s set to come into the side after starting just 13 games last term, with the Rockets making a clear pivot towards their team of the future now.
The Rockets are likely to be shown exactly how far behind they are in their opening two. They head to the Atlanta Hawks before hosting the Memphis Grizzlies in their opening two games, which both leave the Rockets as heavy outsiders.
An early double-header against the Utah Jazz is more their level, with both the Jazz and the Rockets expected to feature towards the bottom of the Western Conference this season.
Coming into the season as +50,000 shots for the title says everything you need to know about this Rockets side. They have little chance of making the postseason, never mind going all-in for a title.
The key for them will be development, given that their expected starting five come from the previous three NBA drafts. With the likes of Green and Smith Jr in particular looking like they could form the core of a strong side down the line, their performances will be of more importance than the win column for the Rockets.
They’re likely to spend the year outside of the Play-in spots and they should feature highly in the 2023 draft, but an improvement on last year’s 20-win season would be clear progress.