Basketball journalist Huw Hopkins assesses the 2021-22 season for the Rockets, then takes a look at the 2022-23 campaign.
Where does my love for the NBA and my interest in the Rockets come from…
I’m Huw Hopkins, a basketball journalist, and I have to admit up front that I’m not a Houston Rockets fan – but due to a late Rockets fan scratch due to writing the article, I agreed to Of course I follow them very closely as I am a San Antonio Spurs fan, and as a fellow Texan I feel the rivalry even here in the UK.
The matchup between David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon was epic, even though The Dream got the better of The Admiral (nicknames in the NBA aren’t the same these days), but when Tim Duncan came along, fortunes changed. I loved the Yao Ming era, from Stevie Franchise to T-Mac, and I was gutted, the Rockets’ potential was crushed by injuries. My favorite moment in the rivalry was Manu Ginobili blocking James Harden.
My favorite player
My favorite player has to be Alperen Sengun – partly for fun. So far he’s sucked on defense, but he’s crafty like Nikola Jokic and it’s fun to watch him use his pivot step 100 times on every possession.
Jalen Green kicked (the proverbial) and is the franchise’s best face to come this season. He’ll set up All-Star numbers, and with Dejounte Murray and Donovan Mitchell having moved East, not to mention Chris Paul aging, a spot could open up in the rotation of guards on the All-Star ballot. But we can also expect to see Ja Morant getting votes, Klay Thompson and possibly Damian Lillard returning, as well as John Wall looking to make a comeback. It will be hard, but it is possible.
Another reason to be positive for Rockets fans is that you need to include No. 3 pick Jabari Smith Jr in the top players to watch. Many thought he could have been selected first overall in a pretty decent draft, so I would expect him to start and manage the offense sooner rather than later.
Last season’s grade: C-
It was a mess last year, but that’s understandable. The team lost its longtime general manager two years ago, so they moved their All-Star James Harden and started bringing in assets to trade and young players to develop.
It’s disappointing to see so many losses, but you understand the reasons, and getting such a draft pick and top talent will have been a highlight.
It’s hard to give a high mark with so many losses, but the Rockets did it the right way – fast and painful, and now with a chance to restart the franchise with some cornerstones for the future. I’ll give them a ‘C-‘.
Assessing the offseason and NBA draft for the Rockets
Houston selected Jabari! No one ever knows how the draft will go, even with the third pick, but most fans thought we were getting Paulo Banchero and had to adapt to get Jabari, but it worked out and he’s probably a better fit.
He’s someone who can contribute right away and has a high ceiling. There’s no guarantee he’ll make it, but I like his chances. It will be interesting to see how well he handles the ball. He’s a good playmaker, but Jalen Green will probably have the ball in his hands most of the time.
I also like Tari Eason, the No. 17 pick, but Houston had plenty of forwards (which the Rockets needed), so it’ll be interesting to see who comes out with the most minutes at the end of the season.
Free agency was relatively quiet with the focus on drafting and trading, but Jae’Sean Tate will come in handy. He’s not expected to play the lead role, but he’ll be a useful young veteran glue player.
Seeing Christian Wood move was tough but his value was high, he wanted out, and with Sengun looking good, it was the right move.
Overall, the offseason work has been solid. No homers, other than Jabari’s drafting, but the team wasn’t in a position to make any winning moves now, Houston just needed to focus on setting up the field.
The Rockets’ goals for next season
With a good young goalscoring trio of Kevin Porter Jr, Jabari Smith and Jalen Green, the hardest part will be managing personas of effective people on the ball, especially when you’re also kicking in Alperen Sengun. Head coach Stephen Silas is great with the players so he should have a good chance of helping the players fit in.
Everyone likes to win. Last year, the Rockets wanted to lose to improve their draft chances. This year the losses will come due to youth and developing chemistry, but there is direction and enough talent to be with a chance of winning games most nights.
Jalen and Jabari will determine how far this team can go. It’s more of a long-term goal rather than this year. But with so much potential talent, there’s a high ceiling for a play-in game with a chance to sneak into the playoffs if all goes well with this Rockets roster.
Three predictions for the coming season…
- Jabari Smith will win Rookie of the Year
- Jalen Green will be an All-Star
- There will be buzz about Coach of the Year for Stephen Silas
Why should people watch the Rockets?
Come mid-season, they will be one of the most exciting teams in the league, with four or five players with the potential to leave any night, depending on the matchups. Who wouldn’t want to see a team like this?