NBA 2021/22: Rockets turn to youth as rebuild continues apace

Moving on from the James Harden era was never going to be easy for the Houston Rockets, but most people have been surprised by how difficult it has proved to be.

The Rockets finished last season with the worst record in the NBA (17-55), but hopes are high that things will be different this time around.

Whether you enjoy wagering on college basketball picks or the NBA, betting on the Rockets last term was tough going during the 2020/21 campaign.

However, with plenty of up-and-coming young talents in their roster, the Rockets should be much more competitive in a stacked Western Conference.

We take a closer look at the latest state-of-play in Houston and assess what the Rockets can achieve during the upcoming campaign.

Rockets’ roster rebuild starts to take shape

The Rockets have been making plenty of moves to address the holes in their roster and things finally appear to be taking shape.

It is fair to say that the team was over-reliant on Harden during his time in Houston and the long-term aim is to produce a more rounded unit.

Having been chosen second in this year’s NBA Draft there will be plenty of pressure on Jalen Green to hit the ground running.

He skipped college basketball to play last season with the NBA G League Ignite, a developmental team affiliated with the NBA G League.

Green demonstrated his potential against the Raptors 905 in the play-offs, recording a season-high 30 points, seven assists and five rebounds in a 127-102 defeat.

He averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game and is likely to play a key role in the Rockets offensive system this term.

Kevin Porter Jr is also expected to step things up having joined the Rockets from Cleveland Cavaliers part way through last season.

He averaged 16.6 points and 6.3 assists in a point guard role and may well better those numbers with an improved roster around him.

Jae’Sean Tate, Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba are other players worth noting, while Kenyon Martin Jr should improve after impressing during the latter part of last season.

Veteran duo likely to be heading elsewhere

John Wall and Eric Gordon are unlikely to be with the Rockets much longer as the franchise seek to get their hefty salaries off the wage bill.

The pair are scheduled to be paid $60 million between them over the next few years and the Rockets have made it clear that they are willing to move them on.

A potential trade between Wall and Ben Simmons has been mooted, although the Philadelphia 76ers recent antics make him a risky proposition.

Simmons’ refusal to report to the 76ers’ training camp is in stark contrast to Wall, who has been helping the Rockets’ youngsters prepare for the new season.

Wall has behaved impeccably during his time in Houston and has confirmed he will continue to travel with the team while he waits for a trade.

By contrast, Simmons’ behaviour sets a bad example for younger players and it is debatable whether the Rockets need that in their dressing room right now.

Wall’s recent injury record means that a buyout rather than a trade may the outcome of this situation, although the Rockets would obviously prefer to avoid that scenario.

Improvement on the cards but don’t expect miracles

The Rockets were woeful last year and another extremely difficult campaign will probably be on the cards this season.

A quick look at the odds to win the Western Conference highlights how far the Rockets have fallen, with punters able to back them at 250/1 to spring a massive surprise.

Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors are amongst the favourites to claim top spot, while Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns will also be in the mix.

Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks are also likely to be challenging hard for a play-off spot alongside Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies.

The Rockets are not expected to be in the post-season conversation, but climbing up the rankings is certainly feasible.

Keeping Christian Wood fit would help their cause, with the 26-year-old missing almost half the games last season due to injury.

Green has the talent to be a star in the NBA, although fans will need be wary about expecting too much, too soon.

Porter Jr should also bring more to the table after last year’s efforts, further helping the Rockets’ offensive output.

Qualifying for the play-in tournament may seem like an impossible dream given what happened last season, but the Rockets could surprise a few people.

However, finishing between 10-12th is a more likely outcome and would give the Rockets a solid base to build from for the following season.

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