Houston Strong

What You Can Expect This Season from the Houston Rockets

In a word (or two), we're cautiously optimistic.

By Edward "Figgy Fig" Gilliard July 13, 2022

From left, the Houston Rockets' TyTy Washington Jr., the San Antonio Spurs' Javin DeLaurier, and the Houston Rockets' Anthony Lamb and Jabari Smith Jr. battle for a rebound during the second half an NBA summer league basketball game on July 11, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Ten years ago, the Houston Rockets signed guard phenom Jeremy Lin when the New York Knicks failed to match Houston’s three-year, $25 million offer. Former Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, who at that time had started just seven games in his young NBA career, was also acquired by general manager Daryl Morey. 

Houston had missed the playoffs the previous three seasons, but the 201213 team was young and talented. The future was looking bright for the Rockets, as they went on to finish that season 45-37, losing to Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs; they would continue to be a playoff team up until they traded Harden away in 2021.

Could we see the same sort of rebirth from the Rockets in 2022? The future of the Houston Rockets is again looking bright, especially after the 2022 NBA Draft. Houston selected forward Jabari Smith Jr of Auburn number three overall to pair with last year’s number two overall pick, Jalen Green—the first time the Rockets have selected in the top five of the NBA Draft for two consecutive years.

It was clear that the Rockets would be in rebuilding mode last season after Harden forced his way out of Houston, but so far Houston is looking like the winner in the long run. Since the Rockets traded Harden, he forced his way out of Brooklyn to Philadelphia; Kyrie Irving is also looking to be traded by the Nets, and now Kevin Durant has requested a trade out of Brooklyn. That all bodes well for the Rockets, since they have Brooklyn’s first-round draft picks over the next few years from the Harden trade; if the Nets are bad, it means higher draft picks for the Rockets, which could help accelerate their rebuild.

The Rockets acquired six rookies in the first round over the past two drafts, including Green, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher, Jabari Smith Jr, Tari Eason, and TyTy Washington Jr. Other young notable players on the roster are Jae’Sean Tate and Kevin Porter Jr, both of whom are expected to play a big role on this team. Green is expected to take a big step next season after finishing last year strong, averaging almost 29 points over his last five games. The talent is there, but it’s all about him getting into a comfortable groove with being “The Guy.”

Success may not come immediately; there is no question that this team is extremely young and will have to learn how to win throughout an 82-game season. But they have numerous promising prospects playing now, they can move the Nets picks around to get a star player if needed, and they can move up in next year’s draft order to potentially get the French phenom Victor Wembanyama, who’s ranked number one in a lot of NBA mock drafts for 2023.

We may be thinking way too far ahead, but the point is that the Rockets have set themselves up as no other team has. Superstar players usually leave teams once their contract is up, or they force themselves to a championship contender—which means the draft picks teams usually get in return are late-rounders. The way things are playing out, James Harden did the Rockets a favor by forcing his way out of Houston and underachieving in Brooklyn—which led to forcing his way out to Philadelphia, which left the Nets at a crossroads for their future.

In other words, everything is working out for the Rockets so far, and if you’re inclined to gloat, Harden looks to be on the decline in his career. Maybe it’s too soon to mention Rockets and playoffs in the same sentence, but they are definitely set for the future, and fans should be excited!

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