Later today, at the House of Blues down in the GreenStreet area of Houston, the Houston Sports Hall of Fame will conduct its ring ceremony for its second class of Hall of Famers. Congratulations to Jackie Burke, A.J. Foyt, George Foreman, and Dan Pastorini, who will join Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell, and Hakeem Olajuwon as sports figures to attain this status.
It's been discussed extensively as to which Houston sports legends will be enshrined in future years, and to be sure, we are a city that is flush with figures worthy of this local honor. We are very fortunate. However, beyond that, in the moment, we are in the midst of an era where several current Houston athletes are in line to make their respective SPORT'S Hall of Fame, not just the local Houston Sports Hall of Fame.
Here are the athletes currently playing for the Astros, Texans, and Rockets that, right now, you can at least bring up their name, in either an imminent or longer arc, and discuss their Hall of Fame chops. In other words, they have at least a small percentage chance of enshrinement someday.
Let's go in ascending order:
GEORGE SPRINGER: 10 percent
Springer turns 30 later this season, so he is going to need a hell of a run through the latter part of his prime to get into Hall of Fame conversations. That said, he was putting up otherworldly numbers his season before his hamstring injury, so maybe there is another gear he is getting ready to hit as he gets older. He's likely to make his third All Star Game later this week, and he has a World Series MVP. In the end, Springer likely has a Jose Cruz-like career, where he is an Astro legend, always in All Star consideration every year, and merely a very good player, as opposed to a transcendent player.
JADEVEON CLOWNEY: 10 percent
As good a player as Clowney is — and make no mistake, if he ever hits the open market, he WILL become the highest paid defensive player in football — he has still performed at a notch or two below Hall of Fame conversations. He's a three time Pro Bowler, but hasn't been recognized as one of the absolute BEST at his job. Any Hall of Fame percentages on Clowney are based on the speculation that he fulfills his status as a former No. 1 overall pick for a solid five or six years. That likely needs to start soon, given his injury history.
CARLOS CORREA: 20 percent
Back in 2015, if you could have picked one Astro in the system to be an eventual Hall of Famer, including Altuve, it would have been Correa just based on his prodigiousness and God-given skills. However, injuries have stunted his growth, with the back injury last season rendering him to NL-pitcher-hitting level power, and then his masseuse pulverizing one of his ribs this season (allegedly). Correa is only 24, so he has plenty of time to right the ship, but my suspicion is that he will be playing his prime seasons somewhere else, somewhere that will drastically overpay him for the aforementioned God-given skills.
ALEX BREGMAN: 25 percent
Bregman is only in his third full season, but he's already established himself as the gold standard at third base in the American League. He might wind up playing shortstop at some point, if Correa ever leaves, but either way, he should put up big numbers for a long time. His similarity scores on his Baseball Reference page tag him as most similar to Nolan Arenado and Chipper Jones through age 24. If you're going to make the Hall of Fame, that's a good start.
DESHAUN WATSON: 25 percent
He's only heading into his third year, but it's obvious that the level of play Watson showed at Clemson is sustainable for him in the NFL. Last season, he became the first player in NFL history to attain 4,000 passing yards, 25 touchdown passes, 500 rushing yards, and five rushing touchdowns in a single season. Most importantly, he had only two interceptions in the final ten games of the year, so his maturation is occurring rapidly. He will likely be a player who singlehandedly keeps his team from bottoming out during his prime, and if the Texans make the right moves, Watson should be playing in a ton of really important football games in the next decade. This should be fun.
DeANDRE HOPKINS: 55 percent
Since his retirement a few years ago, folks mention Andre Johnson all the time as a fringe Hall of Famer. I'm not as optimistic about him getting in, not because he wasn't great — he WAS — but because he played in just four playoff games and never had a double digit touchdown season, two things that were not really his fault, but will be held against him. Hopkins, meanwhile, has put up gaudier "first six seasons" numbers than Johnson, and is entering his prime with two first team All-Pro selections. Most importantly, he is going to spend the rest of his career with Watson as his quarterback, a luxury Johnson never had.
JOSE ALTUVE: 65 percent
Having won the AL MVP award in 2017, Altuve doesn't turn 30 until next May, and he's already been to six All Star Games since 2012, and won three batting titles, with four 200 hit seasons in the books. The question for Altuve, as he ages, will be if he is able to maintain his superhuman bat speed, and whether or not his diminutive stature can withstand the pounding of a 162 game baseball season (along with, what will undoubtedly be several lengthy trips to the playoffs).
JUSTIN VERLANDER: 90 percent
Verlander had six top five Cy Young finishes, six All Star Games, a Cy Young and an MVP before he got to Houston, so he was in the Hall of Fame conversation already. However, he began to lose some steam in his last few seasons in Detroit, with a 3.61 ERA from 2013 through 2016, and a 10-8 record and 3.82 ERA in 2017 before being traded to the Astros. The trade has jump-started his Hall of Fame candidacy, with an ALCS MVP, a ring, and a runner-up Cy Young finish in less than two years. The rocket is now strapped to his back, and it's aimed toward Cooperstown.
CHRIS PAUL: 100 percent
Rocket fans who aren't super schooled into history will look at this and say "Lock?! He's always injured! He's overpaid! Blah blah blah..." He is also a nine time All Star, a four time All-NBA first teamer, and a seven time first team All Defensive player. An NBA title would be the capper, but he is a lock for the Hall of Fame.
JAMES HARDEN: 100 percent
With five All-NBA first team berths, seven All Star berths, an MVP award, and his ridiculous string of 32 games with 30 or more points this past season, a case can be made that Harden is a top five shooting guard of all time, behind only Jordan, Kobe, Jerry West, and maybe Dwyane Wade. He will waltz into Springfield.
J.J. WATT: 100 percent
One of two players in the history of football to win three Defensive Player of the Year awards, and a five time first team All Pro, despite missing nearly two full seasons with injuries. Oh, and the most recent All Pro berth came AFTER those injuries. Watt would walk into Canton in five years if he left the game today.