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How the Houston Rockets Roster Shapes Up for 2020-21

| December 15, 2020 10:27 am PDT
Houston Rockets Logo with James Hardin and David Nwaba

It is impossible to write a preview of the Houston Rockets roster and feel good about it. If you wrote one just a couple of weeks ago, you’d already be updating it.

Russell Westbrook getting traded will do that to you.

Before long, it’s quite possible James Harden could be on his way out of town, too. That isn’t the case if the Rockets have any say, though, as Houston seems intent on holding onto their franchise superstar.

So, for now, I press on with this Houston Rockets roster analysis for the 2020-21 NBA season under the assumption that he stays around.

With that, let’s dive into Houston’s roster and assess it for the upcoming campaign.

Houston Rockets 2020-21 Roster

  • Key Additions: John Wall, Christian Wood
  • Key Losses: Russell Westbrook, Austin Rivers, Jeff Green
Likely Starting 5
  • PG: John Wall
  • SG: James Harden
  • SF: Danuel House
  • PF: P.J. Tucker
  • C: Christian Wood

Provided Harden is still on the roster when the season starts, Houston should continue to have a pretty good starting five. Offensively, at least.

Tucker’s time at the five should be over, but he’s still a useful player who defends well and can hit the corner three. Harden is Harden, and John Wall is a lateral move away from Westbrook, assuming his two-year layoff following a torn Achilles doesn’t reveal him to be a shadow of his former self.

On paper, Wall, Harden, and Wood make a formidable offensive trio. Defense is the real question mark, as the Rockets attempt and hit threes as well as anyone. And one look at the Houston Rockets 2020-21 coaching staff, and you know an already dangerous offense is at risk of being even more efficient.

Of course, the second any prospective Harden trade goes down; everything goes up in flames.

Houston Rockets’ Bench 

  • Chris Clemons
  • Eric Gordon
  • David Nwaba
  • Sterling Brown
  • Mason Jones
  • Brodric Thomas
  • Ben McLemore
  • Jae’Sean Tate
  • Gerald Green
  • KJ Martin
  • Bruno Caboclo
  • Kenny Wooten
  • DeMarcus Cousins

The bench would be a lot better if useful veterans like Austin Rivers and Jeff Green were still in town. Aging veterans in Tyson Chandler and DeMarre Carroll aren’t even here anymore, although they could always be brought back.

For now, Houston doesn’t have a reliable backup point guard. Given Wall’s injury question marks, that is less than ideal.

Eric Gordon is still a nice offensive spark, McLemore is an underrated perimeter asset, and a healthy and effective Boogie playing for another contract is quite interesting.

Collectively, this isn’t a bad bench. The question marks are endless, however.

Rockets’ Best Player – James Harden

It’s criminal to suggest anyone but Harden is the best player the Rockets have to offer. He, of the MVP-winning and insane scoring ability variety.

One could complain of Harden’s approach to handling a rocky offseason by Houston, and there are skeptics who point to his production come playoff time.

But Harden was once a game from reaching the NBA Finals, and he’s regularly willed the Rockets to be a 50+ winner who can compete with anyone.

He didn’t slow down one bit last season, either, as he poured in 34.3 points and 7.5 dimes per game.

Harden inexplicably gets clowned by would-be experts for the way he plays, but the reality is he’s one of the greatest scorers the league has ever seen.

Elite scorers before him get credit for tougher eras, size, toughness, and so many other attributes. Harden manipulates defenses, strategies, and officiating to worm his way to easy buckets and trips to the free throw line, and he also is a marksman from long range (36% for his career) despite insane volume.

Usually your production from deep goes down when the shots go up, but Harden remains one of the best shooters in the game, regardless. Oh, and he finds the time to create offense for others.

Harden has personality issues and the playoff problems aren’t going away, but as long as he’s with the Rockets, he’s without a doubt going to be the main reason for their success.

Houston’s X-Factor – John Wall

The arrival of big men like Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins should be monitored. For a team that went without a true center for the second half of last year, changing that philosophy and bringing in two talented players at the position shouldn’t be disregarded.

But the Rockets are probably only doing major damage this year if John Wall gets back to being a star player.

It’s impossible to know what to expect, of course, as the guy is coming off of a torn Achilles and hasn’t played in almost two full years. So far, though, the outlook is positive.

Wall is still technically in his prime. In theory, being away from the game that long may also allow him to be fully recovered from an otherwise potentially career-ending injury.

The playmaking, scoring, and shooting upgrade over the departed Westbrook actually could give Houston a boost. But how reliable will Wall be, and can he stay healthy?

How Wall ends up answering those questions will decide if the Rockets are just a fun team that fades in the playoffs, or if this team can be a legit championship contender.

Final Assessment of the Houston Rockets Roster

The Rockets are going to be in limbo all the way into the NBA trade deadline, assuming Harden remains on the roster that long.

The guy is being unprofessional in his plight to get dealt, so it’s anyone’s guess how things unfold from here. If he buys in, though, he is still a guy who can put up 34 points per game and will the Rockets to 50 wins.

That’s really just on his own. If Wall is still an elite player and Wood is a good signing, Houston may actually have something here. Add in the brilliant mind of Silas and a potential comeback for DeMarcus Cousins and Houston may not be a team bettors want to sleep on.

You might as well, though. Even at their best, it’s pretty unlikely the Rockets are better than either L.A.-based team. And with the ever lingering taunt of Harden being traded, betting on the Rockets beyond an individual game basis just feels reckless.

If you’re confident he sticks, though, the Rockets to win the Southwest Division isn’t too wild.

For more breakdowns of 2020-21 NBA rosters, check out the posts below.

Noah Davis
Noah Davis

Noah Davis is one of the more diverse writers at GamblingSites.com. Like many of his colleagues, he's a huge fan of both football and basketball. But he also writes about box office records, TV show prop bets, DFS, and all kinds of other subjects.

When it comes to the NFL, Noah's favorite team is the Cleveland Browns. He enjoys cheering them on with his wife and daughter.

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