Many eyes will be on the Houston Rockets heading into the 2020-21 season. The biggest reason is the future of James Harden. He’s one of the greatest players in the league, and arguably the top scorer. With that being said, his partnerships of the past with Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook have all failed, and persisting rumors suggest Harden may want out next. Besides that, the Rockets feature a new coach in Stephan Silas and now have former All-Star John Wall.
Houston Rockets Season Preview
2019-20 Season Review
Last season was one for the history books for the Rockets. Not because of their lack of success, but because of their “small ball” experiment. Houston traded away Clint Capela halfway through the season for Robert Covington. He, along with PJ Tucker, became the featured “big men” for the team. The Rockets became Westbrook, Harden, and a brigade of wing players.
The project worked during the regular season, and the Rockets cruised to the playoffs. Once there, they faced an enticing match-up versus former Rocket Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook was out for the majority of the series versus his former team, and Harden had his fair share of struggles. Houston had its fair share of struggles but eventually prevailed in seven games. With that being said, they were vulnerable.
The next series, in the Western Conference semi-finals, came versus the Los Angeles Lakers. Houston never stood a chance, although winning the first game. LeBron James dominated on both sides of the floor, and the “small ball” approach was not successful versus Anthony Davis. Westbrook disappeared for the majority of the series, and Harden once again had a major quality drop-off when it mattered most. That series made it clear that things were about to change in Houston.
It’s certainly been a hectic offseason for the Rockets, but the moves that will truly matter are simple. Westbrook and Covington are gone, meanwhile Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Christian Wood, and a new head coach in Silas are in.
Wall, at his best form, is a bonafide star. He’s quick, agile, athletic, and both a terrific passer and scorer. The issue is that he’s been out for two years. He’s looked solid through preseason, however, and could be in for a potential All-Star bid in an offense-friendly system.
Cousins, like Wall, proved to be one of the league’s stars when he was healthy. At his peak, he was arguably the most gifted center in the league. He’s also missed virtually two seasons, however, with career-altering injuries. He’ll likely come off the bench to start the season, but he’ll still be a great player if healthy. He may not have the pop he had before, but his skills are cemented.
Wood emerged as a rising star last season with the Detroit Pistons. He’s a major offensive threat with a high bounce. What makes him even more special, however, is his ability to stretch the floor. Wood has All-Star potential in the future, and could already make a case this season. He’ll either be a major piece in a Rockets playoff run (if the team keeps Harden) or a building-block for the present and future.
Lastly, hiring Silas as head coach was a terrific move. Silas is experienced with the Dallas Mavericks and Rick Carlisle and is known as one of the top developmental coaches in the league. He was a major factor in the growth of Luka Doncic and the record-breaking Mavericks’ offense last season.
Houston Rockets Expectations and Season Prediction
The Rockets have one of the top players in the game with Harden. That makes a playoff run an expectation every single season. If he doesn’t leave during this season, another failure can be the last straw. It may not be championship or bust, but the Rockets have to prove that they can contend within the next couple of seasons. The health and production of Wall and Cousins will be a large part of this.
Houston is also expected to allow Wood to continue to grow. He can very well be an elite starter for another 10 years in the league, so the Rockets need to continue to work with him.
Houston Rockets Prediction: Western Conference 6th seed, out after the first round.
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