Last season was nothing short of a trainwreck for the Houston Rockets. They finished tied for the second-worst record in the NBA at 22-60, fired head coach Stephen Silas, and overhauled their roster. Here’s the Houston Rockets 2023-24 season preview:
This team now has a veteran presence, a proven coach, and a direction for the future. But will they take that step towards success?
Udoka had a very tumultuous exit from Boston last season. But he was hired by the Rockets in April and is highly regarded in the organization. As a head coach, Udoka led the Celtics to a 51-31 record and an NBA Finals appearance. His experience working with young stars is sure to have a positive impact on the Rockets 2023-24 season.
The Rockets spent big money to bring in VanVleet this offseason, signing him to a three-year $130 million dollar deal. VanVleet was a pivotal member of the Raptors’ 2019 championship team and had an all-star appearance two seasons ago. But now he’s in a position where he’s the de facto team veteran. VanVleet still raises question marks based on his shooting efficiency, but perhaps the Udoka system can elevate his play.
Brooks was the mouthpiece of a hard-nosed Grizzlies team last year. He made it his mission to get in the head of any opposition standing in his way. Following a disappointing first-round elimination to the Lakers, the Grizzlies stated on record that Brooks wouldn’t be brought back “under any circumstances.” The Rockets signed Brooks to a four-year $86 million dollar deal. This summer, Brooks aided Canada to a bronze medal in the FIBA World Cup, putting up 39 points in the medal game against Team USA. Brooks will play a similar role for the Houston Rockets, providing a defensive spark to their young wing core during the 2023-24 season.
The Rockets selected the combo guard from the Overtime Elite program with the fourth pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. And it’s a match made in heaven for the future of the organization. Thompson can easily play 1 through 3 on the court and excels in a variety of aspects. Last year he averaged 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game. The learning curve to the NBA will be steep coming from a startup league, but Thompson will have a couple seasons to learn and grow behind the new vets that Houston brought in.
This was a summer of gains for the Rockets, but they did let go of one of their young pieces in the process. Early in the offseason they sent Kenyon Martin Jr to the Los Angeles Clippers for a pair of second-round picks. Martin had been steadily progressing each of his three years in Houston, putting up career numbers this past season. But with the additions of forwards in the draft and free agency and the investment going into Jabari Smith Jr, his time would’ve been limited on this team. He should be expecting rotational minutes for the playoff-contending Clippers this season though.
The Rockets spent big money this offseason on VanVleet and Brooks, and you don’t spend that kind of money on reserves. I think the team commits to working in those vets with their existing young core to maximize the potential of the starters. It’ll also be interesting to see if Jalen Green can take another leap to become a proven number-one scoring option.
Rockets general manager Rafael Stone said Monday that the organization has informed Kevin Porter Jr. that he will not be a part of the team this season following his assault charges. Whether that looks like a trade or an outright release, Porter isn’t going to suit up this season for the Rockets. To help fill that bench guard role, Shams Charania announced that the Rockets plan to sign veteran Reggie Bullock once he clears waivers.
The Houston Rockets took some major steps forward this offseason, but I don’t quite think they’ve done just enough yet to be contenders in the 2023-24 season. Overall I’d expect them to certainly improve on their 22-60 finish from last season, but their peak may be a low-end play-in team. But with a highly competitive West, it’d be no surprise to see the Rockets at the top of the lottery again next season.
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