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What the Rockets Need Ahead of the 2021 NBA Season
The Houston Rockets have been no stranger to risk over the past several seasons.
Former GM Daryl Morey was constantly fluid in his roster-building. It was often criticized, and it never ended in a championship, but it did produce winners.
That, and it was a lot of fun to watch.
Some of the remnants of his latest work are still in Houston, but a slew of bench bodies could be headed out the door, and Austin Rivers could opt out of his contract. And with Morey now overseeing things in Philly, there’s nothing stopping the Rockets from blowing their roster up.
I don’t know if I’d go that far, as James Harden and Russell Westbrook form quite the one-two punch, and Houston still has a plethora of dangerous shooters around that star-studded duo.
The question is, how do you tweak what Morey left behind? Here’s a look at that process, as I break down the Houston Rockets’ biggest needs for the 2021 NBA season, and how they can address them.
Get a True Center
Morey probably hammered in the final nail into his coffin when he swung a wild trade that not only shipped big man Clint Capela out of town, but left the Rockets without a true center.
Not just that, though. The team would also be moving forward with P.J. Tucker as their main man in the middle.
Tucker’s feistiness and floor-spacing abilities helped open things up for Houston, admittedly, but long-term, it’s pretty obvious that playing pure small ball without a valid center to turn to is, well, problematic.
Unsurprisingly, Houston finished last season ranked 23rd in points allowed in the paint, ranked 20th in rebounds per game, and were a middle of the road shot-blocking squad.
What’s done is done. Capela is gone, and it’s possible the Rockets want to give this strategy a go, anyways.
But whether they stay the course or eye a legit center full-time, the Rockets need some type of contingency plan.
Whether that’s just bringing in Hassan Whiteside or getting someone like Serge Ibaka or Paul Millsap who would better fit what they want to do, remains to be seen.
Trade for a Marksmen
There is a new sheriff in town, so we need to temper our expectations as far as who Houston has been, and who they will continue to be.
That said, Stephen Silas coming to town as Houston’s new head coach could be great news.
Silas comes with major basketball pedigree, as he played a hand in the Dallas Mavericks running the league’s most efficient offense last year. If we’re to believe James Harden is a superior version of Luka Doncic (he is), then the math checks out that Silas could get the Rockets to where they need to be.
Part of that efficiency may be tied to Harden and how he works within the system, but one underrated aspect is the guys launching shots for the Rockets.
Don’t get me wrong; these dudes can shoot. And they shoot so much (Rockets attempted and made more threes than anyone last year), that their efficiency is only naturally going to wane a bit.
But Dallas was right behind the Rockets in three-point attempts and makes, and finished 13 spots ahead of them in three-point percentage (10th).
Russell Westbrook (25.6%) was horrendous from beyond the arc last year. Eric Gordon (31%) wasn’t much better. There could be an onus on limiting the outside shots for those guys (or setting them up in their ideal spots), but bringing in another shooter or two probably wouldn’t hurt, either.
How they’d do it is up in the air, but landing sharpshooters like Davis Bertans (42%) or Joe Harris (42%) would be quite the get for this offense.
Find a Taker for Russ
Okay, so it’s probably best we just admit this didn’t work and move along. I mean, isn’t the fact that both Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni are gone tell us that?
Houston may plod along with Russell Westbrook in town. Heck, maybe he’ll still churn out elite production, contribute to winning seasons, and even help James Harden contend for a title.
Maybe, but what may make more sense is to hit the reset button in every way that makes sense. Here’s a look at the many ways a Russell Westbrook trade could go down.
If the Rockets decide to rebuild, Russ could be on the move ?— Complex (@Complex) November 2, 2020
Where would you want to see the former MVP?https://t.co/LV4oLDuR8S
In fact, our own Michael Wynn took a look at 4 possible Russell Westbrook trades back in September.
Harden is a keeper. He’s one of the game’s most brilliant (and yet underappreciated) scorers, and he can be utilized better going forward.
The ideal way is certainly to keep the ball in his hands, allowing him to draw the defense out, and then he can decide how to attack. Having Russell Westbrook around splits that duty, and when Harden is the one going to work, it places a bad shooter on the outside, waiting to jack up a brick.
Dumbing down Westbrook’s impact to that level feels silly, but for this system, that’s the negative.
If Harden is the main guy – as he should be – this new offense can be hyper-efficient, and better shooters around Harden will only make him (and the offense) more dangerous.
What can shopping Westbrook and his monster contract back? Nobody knows, but the odds are decent it could bring back some better shooters that would make more sense around Harden.
Some of this feels a bit rash, and that’s because it is. And it has to be.
I mean, this team just got the rug ripped out from under them. Their head coach and GM are gone, a new guy is in to call the shots, and nobody really knows which way is up.
Can the Rockets contend in the loaded Western Conference as presently constructed? Offensively, probably. They even have the defensive stoppers on the perimeter to give the likes of Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James fits.
But Houston lacks size, their shooting doesn’t fully match their style, and Harden isn’t paired with an ideal running mate. If Houston realizes this and attempts to make the proper adjustments, they might make a huge leap.
Realizing it and following through is easier said than done, but if you see the Rockets trending in the right direction, you may want to consider backing them at your favorite NBA betting sites.
Interested in more 2021 NBA team needs? Check out some of our other preseason breakdowns.