I have two final requests for the the Houston Rockets in these last 16 games of the season. First, secure the tank. Second, ruin the playoff hopes for the teams still competing for a berth. Doing these simultaneously may sound counterintuitive, but there’s a conceivable path towards achieving both.
Clinching a bottom-three record is still the highest-ranking task at hand. It’s difficult to envision either of the San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons or Rockets falling out of the bottom four in the standings. The likelihood that any of these teams win enough games down the stretch resulting in them getting leapfrogged by the Orlando Magic is slim to none.
That being said, it’s imperative that Houston protects that 1.5 percent difference that separates the 14 percent lottery odds afforded to the top three picks and the 12.5 percent that the fourth spot gets. Houston currently has a six game cushion on the fourth-place Hornets, so it’s as simple as not blowing that lead with only 20 percent of the season remaining.
Now about that second request...
As you know, it’s been quite a miserable season for this team. There still is the threat of them becoming the first team to three-peat as having the worst record in the league. Not great. Personally, I’m sick of feeling left out of the playoffs, again.
I’ve already accepted this fate, but it got me to thinking about this feeling of “missing out”. So I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be nice to have some company”? You know the saying “treat others how you want to be treated”? Well, I want some other teams to come sit with us and enjoy the postseason festivities from the comfort of the couch.
Of Houston’s remaining games, eight of them come against teams teetering the play-in mix. Five are against teams jockeying for seeding. One is against the top-seeded Denver Nuggets, who are virtually locked into that spot, and the other two are versus the Hornets and Pistons. Wouldn’t it be fun to end the year on a good note and win roughly half of those games?
Now I know you’re probably thinking, “oh no, we can’t win too much”, but the truth is we still have that six game cushion on the Hornets. For whatever reason it doesn’t appear they’ve went into a complete tank so there’s quite a bit of wiggle room.
It would be beneficial to Houston and their hoard of young players to try and close this dumpster fire season with any sign of positivity. This is the first time the team has had all hands on deck since Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green returned from their injuries. It’s important that some form of cohesion is built going into 2023-24, especially with the hopeful arrival of some major pieces this offseason.
Perhaps the lottery gods would reward the Rockets in some karmic twist of fate if they end the season by going out there and actually playing with winning in mind. I’m sure it would make for a more appealing situation for draft prospects and free agents if they saw that this team didn’t just lie down.
At the very least, we could knock a team such as the Los Angeles Lakers out of the playoffs entirely. Or a loss to us could result in the sliding Memphis Grizzlies getting an unfavorable first round matchup. Anything along those lines sounds good to me.
As for the games against Detroit and Charlotte, there are “measures” that can be taken to keep us where we need to be. Houston has demonstrated that they will do what they need to do to position themselves for a chance at Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson. Just take a look at the product from this season, and last season, and the season before that.
I’m just saying that it doesn’t have to translate into losing the rest of the way. Give me seven to eight more wins and some signs of growth to close out the season and maybe I can foolishly talk myself into the first 66 games being an aberration.