Have the Houston Rockets Done Enough to Become Playoff Contenders?

Houston Rockets

After 8 straight playoff appearances from 2012 to 2019, the Houston Rockets have now had back-to-back seasons of 20 or fewer wins. A historically high-caliber franchise has been going through a rebuild, primarily due to the loss of James Harden and Chris Paul/Russell Westbrook at the time.

With two full seasons worth of rebuilding and bringing in young players to turn this franchise around, have they finally got the roster back to playoff caliber? Or are the Rockets still a year or two away from their first playoff appearance?

In this article I will be breaking down the Houston Rockets roster, as well as how they shape up in the Western Conference this year, to see if there is a high probability of them making the playoffs or not.

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Is the roster good enough to compete?

The Rockets bolster one of the youngest rosters in the NBA right now, with 3 of their 5 presumed starters being drafted in the last 2 years. Jalen Green is the headliner of this team, the #2 overall pick in 2021, who had a solid rookie season putting up the following statline:

  • 67 games played (all 67 started) with 31.9 minutes on average
  • 17.3 PPG, 2.6 APG, 3.4 RPG
  • 42.6% from the field, 34.3% from 3, and 79.7% from the FT line

Overall, not an absolutely mind-boggling season, but very good for a rookie just coming into the league. Now he has another top 3 pick to play with, in 2022 #3 overall pick Jabari Smith Jr. who was being considered for the #1 overall pick for a time.

Smith only spent one season in college, playing for Auburn and putting up 16.9 PPG on 42.9%/42%/79.9% splits while also grabbing 7.4 rebounds a game, 2 assists, and a block. He has one of the most well-rounded games from the 2022 class and will be an amazing compliment to the raw scoring of Green.

On top of this, the Houston Rockets also found another quality player in Alperen Şengün at pick #16 in the 2021 draft, who had a decent rookie season all things considered. The current starting lineup for the Rockets is presumed to be Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Eric Gordon/Jae’Sean Tate, Jabari Smith, and Alperen Şengün.

So…is this starting rotation enough to make some noise? I believe so. While I would not expect anything over 55 wins, I do believe they could go above .500 this season and put up much more of a fight in every game.

How do the Houston Rockets stack up in the Western Conference?

This year, more than ever is going to be a year of many teams attempting to tank to try and get premier prospect Victor Wembanyama. With that said, this should provide the Houston Rockets with an opportunity at the play-in tournament, or maybe even a true playoff seed if they exceed expectations.

The Rockets will without a doubt be better than the San Antonio Spurs. In terms of other teams they could outperform, here are a few:

  • Los Angeles Lakers (If Anthony Davis is injured again)
  • OKC Thunder
  • Sacramento Kings
  • Portland Trailblazers
  • Dallas Mavericks (longshot, but possible)
  • Utah Jazz

Each of these teams has question marks surrounding their roster, with OKC and Utah in various rebuild stages, the Lakers becoming older, Dallas not having many options outside Luka Dončić, and Portland/Sacramento somewhere in the middle of a rebuild and contending.

Keep in mind, with the play-in tournament, Houston would only have to be better than 5 teams to get a chance at seeding. It is most definitely possible in this somewhat weakened Western Conference that the Rockets could make the playoffs, it is just a matter of if this young core can come together and perform.

 


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