Let me preface this line of thinking with the clip below...
Okay, did you have enough time to digest that? Alright, let’s get to it then.
Eight reasons why it is more imperative that the Houston Rockets “compete” this year than actually win
- It’s the most realistic expectation. Even with Stephen Silas having more talent at his disposal compared to last year, this team is very young, and therefore it’s unfair to expect them to jump from having the worst record in the league to fighting for a play-in spot.
- This season should be about developing good habits and building off of them. With the win total likely resembling the previous two seasons, management is better served evaluating the progress that happens outside of the standings. As long as the games are consistently closer this year, that should be enough encouragement to know that this is headed in the right direction. The goal should be to be in more nail-biters than blowouts, and with that comes a higher likelihood of squeaking out additional victories.
- As you heard from the trio of Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason and TyTy Washington Jr., they are here to compete and win. Competitiveness is a winning attribute, however, it doesn’t necessarily equate to immediate success in the win column, and that’s okay (don’t let it get you down, TyTy). It’s a great trait to hone in on and committing to it will pay dividends down the road.
- It appears that the consensus of Rockets’ fans understand and are therefore comfortable with this current timeline. While the impromptu post-James Harden rebuild is shaping out to have an embarrassment of riches, it’s become apparent that there’s no rush to try and expedite the process. Sure, Houston could have attempted to use some assets to land a high-profile name via free agency or trade, but Rafael Stone is wisely playing the long game.
- About that aforementioned long game? Well you don’t have to look too far. Keep your calendar free for May 2023 because that’s when the NBA Draft Lottery is and it’s shaping up to be the year of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. Free agency hasn’t even ended and there’s already six to seven teams that have hit full-on tank mode. At this stage in the rebuild, it’s not likely that Houston will win enough games that will jeopardize a chance at landing this legitimate generational prospect.
- The odds of making a playoff push are already stacked against Houston anyways. Just about every sportsbook lists the Rockets’ title chances in the bottom three. Go ahead and bet against Vegas if you'd like. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way.
- The payroll going into 2023-2024 is going to look beautiful with John Wall and potentially Eric Gordon off the books. With max slots available, Houston could become the prime destination spot next summer when you factor in location and the history of Rockets’ star acquisitions.
- And finally, this season is the perfect opportunity to see who else on the roster is committed to making themselves indispensable. This season is going to show who fits into Stone’s blueprint going forward. Whether it’s scoring 30 one night and zero the next, defending like their life depends on it, or providing all of the intangibles that don’t show up on the box score, this is the time for players such as Kevin Porter Jr. and Kenyon Martin Jr. to prove that they deserve long-term commitments in the form of a new contract, more playing time etc.
While I’m not fond of the concept of tanking, I genuinely don’t consider 2022-23 as a tank year for the Rockets. If we’re being honest here, it would take a Herculean effort from the young players just for Houston to vie for a playoff spot. Scouring the western conference teams, it’s difficult to find where that spot would open up considering that the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers are back in the mix now.
Every move up until this point has signaled that Houston is dedicated to building from the ground up, and that means gradual steps are required, not giant leaps. As long as the team competes hard, they will eventually learn how to win.
What are your expectations for the Rockets this season?
This poll is closed
Fighting for the worst record in the league (bring me Wembanyama)
Improved but still a lottery team
Fighting for a play-in spot
An actual playoff team
Title or bust