Looking Back at the 2019-20 Houston Rockets

November 14th, 2020

by Alan Lu

The Houston Rockets’ new logo?
(Photo:
Houston Rockets/Sports Logo History)
Houston Rockets’ one-time MVP James Harden, and former general manager Daryl Morey were a force to be reckoned with in their time together in the Western Conference, and they especially excelled in the regular season, but they couldn’t quite advance as far as they wanted to in the playoffs.
(Photo:
Houston Chronicle, via chron.com)

The Houston Rockets were a perennial mid-tier playoff team that had one-time MVP James Harden as their franchise player, and they swung a blockbuster trade to land Russell Westbrook in the offseason prior to the 2019-20 season.  After Daryl Morey retweeted a pro-Hong Kong tweet that landed him in hot waters with China and jeopardized the NBA’s relations with them, time did not seem to be on his side, as there were people that felt that this would be his last season with the Rockets.

In a drastic, overhauling move, the Rockets traded fan favorite, and defensive ace, center Clint Capela in a four-team trade that landed them Robert Covington and a future second round pick, and the Rockets went to very small-ball as their last ditch move to make a deep playoff run under both head coach Mike D’Antoni, and superstar guard James Harden. 

The Rockets initially had immense success in the regular season, as they won 7 of their first 9 games with Robert Covington on the floor, but they then started dropping games just before the season was briefly suspended prior to resuming in the Orlando bubble.  In the aftermath, it actually didn’t end up having too big of an impact on their team, as they went 12-10 in the regular season after having traded Capela for Covington overall.

The 2020 Houston Rockets managed to outlast the Thunder to win their first-round series in 7 games, and they even managed to win the first game of the second round against the Los Angeles Lakers to briefly suggest that maybe the Rockets’ newfound strategy and uber-smallball experiment could even be revolutionary, perhaps.  But then, the Rockets dropped four straight games to lose their series to the Los Angeles Lakers, and NBA basketball started to make sense once again. 

With those results, it suggested that the proof is in the pudding, that talented big men are still valuable in the NBA, and can still help teams win titles.  Following their second round exit, their head coach Mike D’Antoni left, general manager Daryl Morey resigned, and the Rockets hired Stephen Silas to be their new head coach.

Houston Rockets’ superstar guard, James Harden had a memorable Game 7 block on Lu Dort to seal the game and first-round series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Harden’s been known for his tremendous scoring prowess and ability to get to the free throw line at will, and basketball fans are wondering if his block could be the turning point that finally makes Harden the complete player they’ve always wanted him to be.
(Photo:
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press, via The Los Angeles Times)

G James Harden – A-

2020 (HOU): 68 GP, 34.3 PPG, 7.5 APG, 6.6 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 44 FG%, 35 3PT%, 87 FT%, 36.5 MPG, 29.1 PER, 13.1 WS

James Harden had another stellar season with the Houston Rockets, and he put forth an MVP-level year during the regular season.  Harden was very efficient as a shooter and scorer for his team, and he also accumulated plenty of assists and rebounds.  He even made a big-time shot block on Lu Dort to help seal a pivotal Game 7 and series win for his team in the first round against the Thunder.  Still, questions about Harden’s defense and playoff struggles persist, and he will be without GM Daryl Morey or head coach Mike D’Antoni for the upcoming season.  It’ll be up to himself, his team, and his new head coach Stephen Silas to help Harden get further in the playoffs, bur for the time being, Harden is an NBA superstar that has tremendous scoring skills.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Franchise player/Starting guard of the Houston Rockets
Projected 2021 Rating: 4 stars

Houston Rockets’ guard, Russell Westbrook was acquired in the offseason after the Rockets parted ways with Chris Paul in the same trade, but Westbrook was a relative disappointment this past season despite putting up gaudy counting stats, because he didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well as hoped.
(Photo:
Kim Klement/USA Today Sports, via Essentially Sports)

G Russell Westbrook – C+

2020 (HOU): 57 GP, 27.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7 APG, 1.6 SPG, 47 FG%, 26 3PT%, 76 FT%, 35.9 MPG, 21 PER, 4.2 WS

When Westbrook was traded to Houston, shockwaves were sent through the NBA, as it seemingly thrust Houston into title contention, even though they were said to be in that place before and had always come up short in the playoffs.  This time around, it seemed Houston’s fate was supposed to be different.  It just only felt that way early on, until actual games were played.  Houston’s defensive struggles still showed up, despite having Westbrook and Capela, and then they traded Capela in a bid to go against the grain. 

Ultimately, Houston’s playoff fate was about the same as it was last year, they win a round, and lose in the second round.  Westbrook had a fairly good season, as he excelled as a scorer, facilitator, and rebounder, but he struggled to knock down shots, and Houston ended up getting eliminated in 5 games by the Lakers in the 2nd round.   Whether or not  if Houston decides to keep Westbrook, Westbrook is a superstar point guard whose electrifying athleticism and playmaking ability may make him one of the best players in the game, although he will need to improve his jump shot.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting point guard of either Houston or another team in the NBA
Projected 2021 Rating: 3.5 stars

Robert Covington was acquired in a midseason trade, and his shooting and defensive versatility have enabled him to be an integral role player with multiple NBA teams over the years.
(Photo:
Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports, via Essentially Sports)

F Robert Covington – C+ (C+ with Minnesota and Houston)

2020 (TOT): 70 GP, 12.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 42 FG%, 34 3PT%, 80 FT%, 30.5 MPG, 13.3 PER, 3.7 WS
2020 (MIN): 48 GP, 12.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 44 FG%, 35 3PT%, 80 FT%, 29.4 MPG, 13.5 PER, 2.3 WS
2020 (HOU): 22 GP, 11.6 PPG, 8 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.5 APG, 39 FG%, 32 3PT%, 80 FT%, 33 MPG, 13.1 PER, 1.4 WS

Robert Covington was acquired midseason in a trade for Clint Capela, and he is a 3 and D combo forward that can space the floor and defend multiple positions.  He struggled to make outside shots consistently in 2020, but he still excelled as a defender on the court.  He will need to shoot as well as he used to, and also improve his effort on the boards, but Covington is a skilled player that could be a solid role player for Houston in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starter/solid bench player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2.5 stars

F P.J. Tucker – C+

2020 (HOU): 72 GP, 6.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 42 FG%, 36 3PT%, 81 FT%, 34.3 MPG, 8.3 PER, 4 WS

P.J. Tucker is a tough, physical swingman that plays in a 3 and D role for the Rockets in the NBA.  He excels at making spot-up threes, and he can defend multiple positions, and Tucker has very good strength that allows him to play inside in a limited capacity.  However, he doesn’t shoot the ball very much or look to score very often, and he can tend to be too passive on offense.  Tucker will need to be more assertive on offense, but his ability to space the floor and defend will likely earn plenty of minutes on the Rockets’ team next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2.5 stars

F Danuel House – C+

2020 (HOU): 63 GP, 10.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 43 FG%, 36 3PT%, 81 FT%, 30.4 MPG, 11.3 PER, 3.6 WS

Danuel House had a fairly solid season, and he is a 3 and D type of role player for the Houston Rockets in the NBA.  He excelled at spacing the floor and defending his opponents.  On the downside, he’s not really an elite scorer or playmaker, and he ended up getting booted from the Orlando bubble after breaking league protocols during the 2020 NBA playoffs.  Still, House played well in his role for Houston, and he will likely earn plenty of minutes on their team for the upcoming season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2.5 stars

F Jeff Green – B- (D with Utah, A with Houston)

2020 (TOT): 48 GP, 9.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 46 FG%, 34 3PT%, 80 FT%, 20 MPG, 13.7 PER, 2.1 WS
2020 (UTA): 30 GP, 7.8 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 38 FG%, 33 3PT%, 78 FT%, 18.4 MPG, 10 PER, 0.5 WS
2020 (HOU): 18 GP, 12.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 56 FG%, 35 3PT%, 86 FT%, 22.6 MPG, 18.6 PER, 1.5 WS

After struggling to find his footing with the Utah Jazz, as his former team waived him midseason, Jeff Green caught on by signing with the Houston Rockets.  Once he was with his new team, it was basically like a non-stop thrill ride for Jeff Green.  He did a terrific job of shooting and scoring the basketball, and he was arguably Houston’s most valuable bench player in the playoffs.  He is on an expiring contract, so he will be a free agent in the offseason, but with the way he finished out the season, there’s hope that he’s either played his way to come back to Houston, or to get more free agent dollars than he was able to get with Utah in 2019.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Green will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G Ben McLemore – B

2020 (HOU): 71 GP, 10.1 PPG, 44 FG%, 40 3PT%, 75 FT%, 22.8 MPG, 11.8 PER, 3.3 WS

Ben McLemore seemed like he was almost on his way out of the NBA when his career was revived and jumpstarted back up again when he latched on with the Hosuston Rockets.  McLemore had his best season in years, and the athletic swingman excelled as a spot-up shooter for his new team this season. 

While the former 2013 lottery pick no longer may have aspirations to be an All-Star, he’s adjusted quite well to excelled as a floor spacer to help the Rockets on offense.  McLemore had a solid year in 2020, and he will likely earn plenty of minutes with Houston next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

G Austin Rivers – C

2020 (HOU): 68 GP, 8.8 PPG. 42 FG%, 36 3PT%, 70 FT%, 23.4 MPG, 10.4 PER, 2.4 WS

Austin Rivers is a skilled combo guard that can shoot and score the basketball.  He’s been known to be able to put up points off the bench, but he can tend to be too streaky with his jump shot.  In 2019, he struggled to make shots consistently in the regular season, but then was excellent in making shots in the postseason.  This season in 2020, it was basically the reverse of that.  Rivers will need to be able to make shots more consistently and also improve his playmaking skills, but his ability to get buckets will allow him to get rotation minutes either on Houston or another team in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Has a player option at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G Eric Gordon – D

2020 (HOU): 36 GP, 14.4 PPG, 37 FG%, 32 3PT%, 77 FT%, 28.2 MPG, 10.3 PER, 0.5 WS

Eric Gordon is a former 6th man of the year award winner that struggled this past season with the Rockets.  He missed time due to injuries, and he did not shoot the ball nearly as well as he did in 2019, as his shooting percentages were down drastically.  He will need to shoot as well as he did before, and also improve in the other facets of the game.  Right now, it seems that Gordon is in his decline stages, but his past reputation and ability to score the basketball could earn him rotation minutes on Houston’s team next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

G Thabo Sefolosha – D

2020 (HOU): 41 GP, 2.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 41 FG%, 28 3PT%, 38 FT%, 10.6 MPG, 9.4 PER, 0.7 WS

Thabo Sefolosha was once a prototypical 3 and D type of role player in the NBA, as he was once one of the best perimeter defenders in this league.  However, the decline stage seemed to hit him rapidly this past season.

He barely played for Houston in 2020, and he did not shoot the ball nearly as well as he did with Utah in 2019.  He didn’t get much run with Houston in the playoffs nor shot the ball particularly well.  Sefolosha will be a free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2019-20 season.

C Tyson Chandler – C-

2020 (HOU): 26 GP, 1.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 78 FG%, 8.4 MPG, 10.8 PER, 0.6 WS

The defensive anchor of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, Tyson Chandler did not play very much for Houston this past year, and he only played in one game that counted for zero minutes in the 2020 postseason.  It seems that he is not likely to return to Houston, as he will be expected to either retire or to play for another NBA team in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

Side note: Chandler will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G David Nwaba – B- (B- with Brooklyn, Incomplete with Houston)

2020 (BRK): 20 GP, 5.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 52 FG%, 43 3PT%, 67 FT%, 13.4 MPG, 14 PER, 0.8 WS

David Nwaba played well in limited minutes with the Brooklyn Nets.  He was curiously waived by them at the end of the season, but latched on with the Houston Rockets, though he did not play for them in the Orlando bubble.

Nwaba excelled as a shooter and scorer, and he is an athletic swingman that rebounds and defends well.  He will need to find a team that will give him regular rotation minutes, but Nwaba is an athletic, high-motor player that could excel in a 3 and D role for Houston or another NBA team in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

Side note: Nwaba has a team option at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G Chris Clemons – C+

2020 (HOU): 33 GP, 4.9 PPG, 40 FG%, 35 3PT%, 91 FT%, 8.8 MPG, 13.1 PER, 0.4 WS

Clemons is an athletic, diminutive combo guard that can shoot and score the basketball.  He played fairly well for Houston in limited minutes, but he will need to improve his playmaking and defensive skills in the meantime.  Most importantly, he will need an NBA team that will give him consistent playing time in games. Next season, he will look to try to crack Houston’s or another NBA team’s rotation.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

F Bruno Caboclo – D

2020 (TOT): 30 GP, 3 PPG, 2 RPG, 43 FG%, 18 3PT%, 89 FT%, 8.1 MPG, 14.1 PER, 0.4 WS
2020 (MEM): 22 GP, 2.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 41 FG%, 16 3PT%, 67 FT%, 8.7 MPG, 11.9 PER, 0.2 WS
2020 (HOU): 8 GP, 3.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 50 FG%, 25 3PT%, 100 FT%, 6.5 MPG, 22.1 PER, 0.2 WS

The 6-9 forward from Brazil was a 2014 first-round pick that was drafted by the Toronto Raptors, and while he didn’t play much overseas back then, he was a very athletic combo forward that possessed elite physical tools and had a tremendous reach that suggested that he may be worth the gamble as a potentially high upside prospect for the NBA.

However, Caboclo was not considered to be ready then, and it took him a long time to cobble together one good season in the NBA.  He had his best season with the Grizzlies in 2019, but he struggled to get much run this year with the Grizzlies.  Caboclo was traded to Houston midseason, but he didn’t get much run with the Rockets, either.  Projected to be a 3 and D candidate, Caboclo has struggled to consistently make shots, but he has rebounded and defended well in limited minutes.   He has the potential to crack an NBA team’s rotation, but as he’s been in the league for six seasons and never has played 1000 minutes in any year, one has to wonder if time’s running out on him reaching his full potential as a player in the NBA.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2019-20 season.

F DeMarre Carroll – D (F with San Antonio, C- with Houston)

2020 (TOT): 24 GP, 3.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 38 FG%, 24 3PT%, 69 FT%, 12.1 MPG, 9.1 PER, 0.3 WS
2020 (SAS): 15 GP, 2.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 31 FG%, 23 3PT%, 60 FT%, 9 MPG, 4.9 PER, -0.1 WS
2020 (HOU): 9 GP, 6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.6 APG, 43 FG%, 25 3PT%, 77 FT%, 17.2 MPG, 12.8 PER, 0.4 WS

Carroll is a veteran combo forward that excelled as a 3 and D role player for numerous teams in the NBA.  However, he has struggled to consistently make shots in his past two seasons, and he’s coming off of his worst season in years.  Carroll was waived by the Spurs, latched on with the Rockets, but failed to gain much traction, and he barely played in the playoffs this season.  Carroll did not play very well in 2020, but his solid track record in previous years with other teams may give him a fair chance to be on an NBA team’s roster in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth forward, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2019-20 season.

F Luc Mbah a Moute – D

2020 (HOU): 3 GP, 1.7 PPG, 40 FG%, 0 3PT%, 50 FT%, 7 MPG, 6.4 PER, 0 WS

Much like Carroll, Mbah a Moute is a veteran, journeyman forward that previously excelled as a 3 and D type of role player for numerous teams in the NBA before.   Mbah a Moute joined the team late fort the Orlando bubble, but he didn’t make much of an impact, and he also didn’t get any run in the playoffs in 2020.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth forward, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G Michael Frazier (Two-Way) – F

2020 (HOU): 13 GP, 2.1 PPG, 24 FG%, 17 3PT%, 64 FT%, 11.2 MPG, -0.9 PER, -0.2 WS

Frazier was a sharpshooting combo guard that played college ball at Florida, and he went undrafted in 2015.  He signed a two-way contract with the Rockets to play this season, but he didn’t play very well for them in the NBA.  A player that had such a solid collegiate career should not have played so badly during his rookie season in the NBA, but he did play that poorly for Houston this season, and it may be unlikely that he will get a second year in the NBA.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth guard, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1 star

F William Howard (Two-Way) – D-

2020 (HOU): 2 GP, 0 PPG, 1 RPG, -12.7 PER, -0.1 WS

He had previously played overseas in France, and Howard was on a  two-way contract with the Rockets this season.  He only got into two games, and didn’t make much of an impact for them this year.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth guard, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1 star

Head Coach:
Stephen Silas, 2020 season grade: Incomplete
2020 (DAL): 0-0
Coaching career: 0-0

Stephen Silas was an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks, and he is rumored to be good at working with guards.  He’s also worked with Steph Curry, Luka Doncic, and Kemba Walker as an assistant coach, and so the Rockets will be excited to get to work with him.

In the short term though, it’s unclear what sort of impact Silas will have on the 2021 Rockets.  James Harden has had such a tremendous impact on the Houston Rockets under GM Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’Antoni, but in Oklahoma City, he was merely just a tremendously efficient scoring 6th man in his younger days with the Thunder, and the question now will be if Harden can play tremendous basketball for any coach, or if he’s merely a good NBA player made into a great one due to having a solid coach, system, and infrastructure that was built by the previous regime.  In essence, we’re going to uncharted territories to see how well Harden will adjust to a new coach now that D’Antoni is gone.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Head coach of the Houston Rockets
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars (3 stars potential)

Former Head Coach:
Mike D’Antoni – B
2020 (HOU): 44-28, 5-7 in the playoffs
Head Coaching Career: 672-527, 54-56 in his playoff career

Mike D’Antoni is a very good offensive coach that helped introduce the basketball world to the 6 seconds or less offense when he was the head coach of the 2006 Phoenix Suns, and with the Houston Rockets, he helped turn James Harden into a superstar and an MVP candidate.  Of course, a person could make the argument that Harden was already an extremely efficient scorer in a 6th man role when he was playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder and that he may have been a rising star to begin with, but it was in Houston where Harden was utilized to his fullest known capabilities.

For a time, very small-ball was thriving in Houston, and they were able to reel off quick wins in the regular season.  However, they ran into trouble against tough teams that had very talented big men, and the apparent novelty effect of going without a center wore down on Houston both late in the regular season and late in their playoff run.  The Houston Rockets briefly made believers out of skeptics, as they pulled out a tough series win in the first round against the Thunder, and they even won Game 1 of the 2nd Round against the Lakers. 

In the end though, they just couldn’t hold on, and the 2020 Los Angeles Lakers ended up ousting the Houston Rockets in 5 games.  D’Antoni had his faults, as he never could seem to get his teams to play solid defense, and at times they were unyielding in their principle of shooting threes even in games when it felt like none would go in, but D’Antoni was a wizard of coaching offenses, and the Rockets were consistently a sleeper contender to emerge out of the West with him on a yearly basis.  He’s since left Houston, but he and Daryl Morey have left their mark on a city that may yearn and long for them to come back.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Assistant coach of the Brooklyn Nets
Projected 2021 Rating: 2.5 stars

2019-20 Houston Rockets’ season grade: B

Perhaps the Rockets were never quite destined to reach the NBA Finals, but for a while, it seemed as if they would continue to exceed expectations.  This team was more fun to watch than in previous years, and they were like a fun science experiment to watch on the basketball court.  If anything, they raised valid questions about how valuable centers are in the NBA.  In the postseason, we received an answer.  Very good centers are indeed valuable in the NBA.  But for centers that would rate in the middle of the bell curve or worse, it would be less so, as some centers may not be valuable at all in the NBA.  The Rockets were an above average team with a true center (Capela), as they were 22-17 with him, and they were a pretty good team without a true center in the lineup, as they were 22-11 without him, and they managed to win 5 games in the postseason.

Of course, there are lingering questions in the aftermath of the post-D’Antoni and Morey era.  Such questions may be: Can Harden and Westbrook co-exist together, will Westbrook improve his jump shot, can the Rockets add a third superstar, can the Rockets finally be a good defensive team, can they draft rookies that will make an impact for them in the future, and how far will their new coach take them?  Time will tell for next season, but in the short-term, if they keep the team together, the our expectation of them should be pretty much the same as it has been for them, for them to be a mid-tier playoff team, but then come up short in the postseason.

The Houston Rockets’ Projected 2020-21 NBA Rotation

Projected Starters:
C Robert Covington
F P.J. Tucker
F Danuel House
G James Harden
G Russell Westbrook

Key Reserves:
F Jeff Green* (UFA)
G Ben McLemore
G Austin Rivers
G Eric Gordon

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
None

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
F Bruno Caboclo
G Chris Clemons
G David Nwaba* (Has a team option at the end of the 2019-20 season.)

Players that will be Restricted Free Agents:
None

Players that will be Unrestricted Free Agents:
Jeff Green
Thabo Sefolosha
Tyson Chandler
Bruno Caboclo
DeMarre Carroll
Luc Mbah a Moute
Michael Frazier (Two-Way)
William Howard (Two-Way)

Projected Players Cut from Next Season’s Roster:
None

2020 NBA Draft Picks:
None

Projected Offseason Plan for the Rockets:

The Rockets are currently building their team around James Harden and Russell Westbrook, but it’s uncertain how long they will continue to do so if the two of them cannot bring their team to go far in the playoffs.  For the time being, they will need to surround their team with players that can shoot, pass, and defend, and they will need big men that can protect the paint. 

The Houston Rockets have no draft picks however, so unless if they trade into the 2020 NBA Draft, they will probably just sit this one out.  However, Russell Westbrook reportedly wants out of Houston, and as their team looks like they’re not likely to win a championship anytime soon given their recent history and significant turnover rate with their personnel, the Rockets could look to shop Westbrook in hopes to get high draft picks and solid players in return.

They are also capped out, so they don’t have much room to sign free agents, as they won’t be able to pay players anything above the minimum.  If anything, one expected move would be, if they want to continue to push forward, they would likely try to re-sign veteran forward Jeff Green to a one or two-year deal, especially because Green played very well for the Houston Rockets in 2020.

Expected Regular-Season Total in 2021*: 37-35, 7th seed in the Western Conference (this is in flux, since Westbrook reportedly wants out, but this projection was made previously with him staying)

The 2021 Houston Rockets would be projected to play against the 10th seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in game, and the winner of that play-in game would play against the projected 2nd seeded Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs.

Expected 2021 Season Outcome:  The Rockets could be a mid-tier playoff team out in the West, assuming that they keep most of their team together, but will likely end up losing early in the postseason in 2021. However, as they have lost Morey, D’Antoni, and Westbrook in all probability wants out of Houston, Houston could end up winning far fewer games than this initial projection.

(* – The asterisk denotes that the expected regular season win total is adjusted for the 72-game schedule that the NBA will play for the 2020-21 season.  The initial projection for the Rockets was for them to get 42 wins in an 82-game season.  Also, the projected record does not take into account for the NBA draft or free agency, as those events have not happened yet.)

In case if you need the rubric for my player rating system of projecting NBA players for the 2020-21 season, here is the link. In addition, Basketball-Reference, RealGM, and Spotrac were vital information sites that I used to look at player and team statistics, as well as contract information.

Side note: Also, the letter grades attached to the player name was my grade for their 2019-20 season, as it is my judgment of their performance and whether or not they met or exceeded my expectations, and didn’t have much bearing on my projection of how they will perform for the 2020-21 NBA season.

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