The Rockets finished the 2020-21 season with a ragtag lineup of players no one could have envisioned when the season began. By the time training camp arrived, they were working with an almost entirely new roster loaded with teenagers. A lot can change in a year.
When the Rockets moved James Harden, it was clear they were going into rebuild mode. Even fans didn't imagine what that meant. From one of the oldest and most stable playoff teams at the beginning of the 2020 season to one of the youngest with some of the greatest turnover at the beginning of 2021, it was both fascinating and exciting. Now, the chore is putting it all together. Let's take a look back.
15 Losses, 7 Wins
After winning their opening game of the season, the Rockets proceeded to reel off 15 straight losses. Many began to wonder if they were destined to be the worst team of all time. Nothing seemed to be working as the lineup shifted almost nightly. Then, with a combination of a smaller lineup and a run against particularly bad teams, the Rockets turned it around to win seven straight. It was the first time any team had followed up a 15-game losing streak with that many consecutive wins. At least they won't be the worst team of all time.
Danuel House Waived
In late 2020, inside the NBA playoff bubble, House violated protocols by having a female guest in his room. He was booted from the bubble and the Rockets were none too pleased. He later apologized to his team and fans, but it felt like the damage was done. After a very good training camp, he struggled to start the year and wound up injured. Finally, on December 17, the Rockets waived the Houston native, allowing him to ultimately sign with the Knicks.
KPJ Scores 50
One of the few bright spots of last season was the emergency of Kevin Porter, Jr. At the end of April, Porter dropped 50 points and 10 assists on the Milwaukee Bucks, who would go on to win the title. Porter became the youngest player to ever accomplish that feat. Coming into this season, he was handed the reins as the team's newly anointed point guard. While he was off to a bit of a rough start, he seemed to be turning a corner before a thigh contusion found him sitting out a few weeks with injury. The Rockets are betting on Porter as part of a fresh new backcourt to be the future of the franchise.
John Wall Sits
KPJ was able to assume point guard duties because the Rockets and Wall agreed in training camp that his days on the team were essentially over. With the team focused on youth, management and Wall agreed that he would sit out while still being with the team until they could find a trade that would work. As of writing this, Wall is still a Rocket and has said he would like to play. He has supposedly been ramping up to regain his spot on the roster, but there are no indications as to when that will be or how it will work.
The Teenagers Arrive
Everyone knew the Rockets were going to start from scratch and the draft was the first opportunity to do that. After getting the second pick, they were looking at three first round picks. On draft night, they made a trade with Oklahoma City to acquire a fourth. By the end of the night, they had four 19-year-olds on the roster, only one of which had played in college. Jalen Green, an athletic all-world guard, was first, followed by Turkish big man Alperen Sengun, MVP of one of the best leagues outside the NBA at only 18. Then, Spanish defensive big Usman Garuba followed immediately by talented, athletic wing Josh Christopher. All but Garuba have contributed significant minutes to the team already this year, particularly Sengun, who is light years beyond his age in basketball IQ.