Houston Rockets 2021 Offseason Outlook


Overview


The Houston Rockets completed the 2020-2021 NBA season with a record of 17-55 which placed them at 15th in the Western Conference and 30th in the league. Despite their record, the Rockets have a lot to look forward to after this season. Since Russell Westbrook and James Harden were traded away, the Rockets focused on the development of their youth, and they were not disappointed. Christian Wood overcame his injury to put up some solid numbers in his first season since signing in free agency. Jae’Sean Tate also surprised everyone with his incredible rookie season, making the All-Rookie First Team after going undrafted. Kevin Porter Jr also impressed fans after exiting Cleveland mid-season in a controversial series of events. With this young core and some solid draft capital going forward, Rockets fans can feel good about the future, even after losing 45 of their last 51 games. This offseason, there will be some important decisions to make in the front office, with a top draft pick, some key free agents, and veterans eligible for extensions.


Salary Cap


Currently, the Houston Rockets have 6 players with guaranteed contracts for the 2021-22 season. Avery Bradley has a team option worth $5.9 million dollars. I don’t expect Houston to pick up this option as they can just as easily sign Bradley in free agency should they still need him after the draft and potential trades/signings this offseason. Bradley has had a disappointing season and for this reason, I don’t anticipate too much competing interest from other teams. Khyri Thomas, Kenyon Martin Jr and Jae’Sean Tate have non-guaranteed salary, all of which is expected to be confirmed shortly. Kenyon Martin may find himself without a job next season however due to the potential interest Houston has in opening up roster space. DJ Wilson will be a restricted free agent with a $6.4 million qualifying offer. If another team is prepared to offer more than the qualifying offer, I expect Houston to let Wilson walk as they will prioritise cap space and roster space moving forward. The Rockets will also have several unrestricted free agents in Kelly Olynyk, Dante Exum, David Nwaba and Sterling Brown. If you include their projected draft picks, Houston still looks to have a small amount of cap space but only enough to maintain bird rights on Olynyk and keep their exceptions. They will have access to a $9.5 million mid-level exception as well as the $3.7 million bi-annual exception and several trade exceptions.


Current Depth Chart–

2021 NBA Draft


The Houston Rockets have the 2nd, 23rd and 24th picks in the 2021 NBA Draft. The Rockets will hope the Pistons leave Cade Cunningham on the board but realistically, they will be choosing between the remaining high-end talent at the top of the draft. With the 2nd overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, the Houston Rockets should target Jalen Green, a 6’5” shooting guard out of the G-League Ignite team. Green is an elite scorer with possibly the highest upside in this draft. He is a much better fit on this team over Evan Mobley and can grow with Christian Wood to solidify the future core of this rebuilding Rockets team. With their remaining first round picks, the Rockets should look to target a big man to help with their depth at that position and a point guard to help fill the void of John Wall, whether he is traded or leaves in future free agency. Two players that could fit this mould are Isaiah Jackson, a 6’10” center out of Kentucky and Tre Mann, a 6’3” point guard out of Florida.


Free Agency


The Houston Rockets are only just beginning their rebuild and therefore will likely not target any of the top free agents in this class. Instead, they will focus on maintaining some core players and going after tradeable or young assets that they can either develop or use at the trade deadline to gain draft equity. Kelly Olynyk will be a key player the Rockets will be trying to bring back. Olynyk had an impressive second half of the season after being involved in the Victor Oladipo trade and with the lack of big man depth on this roster, he has become an important piece of this team. The Rockets do retain bird rights on Olynyk, so it will be pretty easy for them to bring him back to Houston if they want him there. Sterling Brown is also likely to return as I don’t see any competing interest from other teams to draw him away from Houston.


Extensions


John Wall is eligible for a veteran extension this offseason, and many have speculated that he may instead be traded away due to his current large contract and age. While I am unsure if the Rockets will go as far as to trade him this offseason, I am confident the team and Wall will not come to an extension agreement, and he is destined to move on either prior to the trade deadline or next year in free agency. The Rockets could also look to target a player like TJ Leaf who fits their timeline but has struggled in his first 4 seasons in the NBA. Their cap space will limit their free agency options, so this is the perfect kind of player to go after and give a chance.


Summary


The Houston Rockets will enter the offseason with all eyes on the NBA Draft. They will be looking to make their first selections to add to the core of their rebuild. With the second overall pick in a loaded draft, they look almost certain to draft their next superstar to lead this team in the future. Outside of the draft, there will be little moves to make in free agency, but it is the next few weeks that is most critical as we draw closer to this year’s draft. The next few seasons will be tough for Rockets fans but there are plenty of things to be excited about moving forward.


Projected Depth Chart 2021/22 Season –