At the suspension of the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Houston Rockets had a record of 40-24 which placed them at 6th in the Western Conference and 10th in the league and they have clinched a playoff berth. The Rockets have had one of the more interesting seasons this past year. Their new star duo, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, have had to learn to co-exist and this took some time. The Rockets also traded away their center, Clint Capela, prior to the trade deadline and opted to play a small ball line-up which seemed to be quite effective in the short time they were able to use it. They have faced some adversity with questions being asked about their coach, Mike D’Antoni, and his future with the team. This will be their main issue this offseason as they will retain most of their key players. This offseason, Houston will have to start making tough decisions about their future. Harden and Westbrook are starting to reach the end of their primes and most analysts predict the Rockets only have one more chance at a championship after this season with their current roster. They will have to decide when to start making moves to build assets to prepare for a rebuild somewhere in the near future. While the Rockets will be relatively quiet on the surface this offseason, there will be a lot of important conversations behind the scenes about their direction moving forward and do not be surprised if they make some shocking moves sometime soon.
Currently, the Houston Rockets have 9 players with guaranteed contracts. The have just one player with an option. Austin Rivers has a $2.4 million player option for next season which I expect him to opt out of. Rivers has become comfortable in Houston since joining last season and has expressed his feelings about the difficulty of constantly switching teams but he is one of the better bench point guards in the league and would be guaranteed to get a contract worth more than that on the open market so it seems like an easy decision for him to enter free agency even if he intends to re-sign with Houston, especially given the weak free agency class. The Rockets will have a few two-way players entering restricted free agency in Michael Frazier and William Howard. The Rockets also have most of their depth entering free agency this offseason as unrestricted free agents. These players are Bruno Caboclo, DeMarre Carroll, Tyson Chandler, Jeff Green ad Thabo Sefolosha. The project to have a $5.7 million tax-payer mid-level exception available as well as several trade exceptions, all below $4 million.
Depth Chart –
The Houston Rockets will enter free agency well over the salary cap and will therefore not be making any big signings this offseason. Having said this, the 2020 free agency period will be very important for them as most of their bench depth are entering unrestricted free agency and the team will have to choose the right pieces to help them off the bench as they continue their hunt for a championship. The Rockets’ top priority should be to bring back Austin Rivers at all costs. As mentioned earlier, Rivers has a player option which I expect him to opt out of in search of more money. Houston will have the early bird rights on rivers which allow them to pay him up to $10 million for next season. It is well known that Rivers enjoys playing in Houston and would like to be able to stay with a team for a long period of time. Rivers has also had a great impact on the team’s defence and overall effort and attitude as well as being an extremely popular member of the locker room. I expect that the Rockets will be able to retain Rivers on a contract worth somewhere between $7-$10 million for multiple seasons. The Rockets also need to look as signing some big men that can come off the bench and provide some size if their small ball plan does not pan out or if they have to go against some tall teams. I believe the Rockets will be able to bring back some of their free agents in DeMarre Carroll, Jeff Green and Tyson Chandler. They may have to use their tax-payer mid-level to bring back some of these guys, but it is important they retain their depth at the forward and center positions, especially after losing Clint Capela. Finally, the Rockets can look to sign another veteran forward like Patrick Paterson who can provide some size in the paint as well as being able to space the floor which is something Houston is desperate for at the moment.
The Houston Rocket will take no part in the 2020 NBA Draft. Their first-round pick will go to the Denver Nuggets and their second-round pick will go to Atlanta.
There have been several questions surrounding the Rockets’ coach, Mike D’Antoni, and whether he will remain with the team for next season after Houston chose not to extend him last year. Many believe this is his last season in Houston after failing to deliver a championship in several attempts. I believe D’Antoni is the perfect coach for players like Harden and Westbrook. His offensive style allows those players to thrive and has guided the Rockets to numerous playoff berths. I can’t think of another coach that can allow Harden to play his style of offense while being able to rack up 50 wins a season so it is essential that the Rockets re-sign D’Antoni as soon as possible for at least the next two seasons while the team is still contending and while Harden and Westbrook are still in their primes.
The Houston Rockets will enter the offseason with very few moves to make on the surface but with a lot of tough decisions to make surrounding their future as their two stars enter the later part of their primes. They will have a lot of controversy surrounding their coaching choices, but I believe Mike D’Antoni is the right man for the job, at least until the team enters an inevitable rebuild in a few years’ time. If they can maintain most of their current roster, the Houston Rockets will continue to compete and make playoff runs for the next two years at least as they hope to finally win a championship before time runs out.
Projected Depth Chart 2020/21 Season –
Players IN: Patrick Patterson
Players OUT: Bruno Caboclo