It can be difficult to pay attention when your team is having a rough year. The Rockets are in the midst of one of their worst ever. It was to be expected given all the turnover and young players on the roster, but it still can cause even the most diehard fans to lose a little interest.
It also begs the question: When exactly do we expect the Rockets to be better? Some of that depends on your definition of "better." Certainly, they have improved since their 1-15 start to the season. No doubt a year under the belts of the youngest players will prepare them for the seasons to come. But, if you are talking about when we can expect them to get back to the playoffs, perhaps even compete for a title, let's just say you'll need to be very patient. Here are some projections based on where they are right now.
They will finish this season with one of the worst five records in basketball. This is exactly what happens when you play a bunch of 19-year-olds big minutes. It will also lead to another high draft pick. Additionally, they will get a pick later in the draft via previous trades and both the trade deadline and offseason could lead to other picks we don't know about yet.
Outcome: Bottom of the league
In year two for the rookie class of 2021, this should be a small but significant move forward. All the time they got turning the ball over and bricking three pointers should pay off and we can expect to see some progress. There will also be the addition of another young player or players both through the draft and via trades. It won't be reflected in a dramatic improvement on the scoreboard, but it will be something.
Outcome Best Case: Surprisingly compete for a play-in spot, but fall short.
Outcome Worst Case: Back at the bottom of the league.
This is the year real changes should begin to be evident in this season's rookie class. If there is going to be a jump from good to bordering on great, this is likely when it happens. They will continue to add youth, but expect the team to begin looking at more veteran talent to complement the developing young (hopefully) star talent. Barring injuries, this could be an exciting year.
Outcome Best Case: Back in the playoffs for the first time since James Harden wore a jersey.
Outcome Worst Case: A step backward and team returns to the lottery.
This is about as far out as we are comfortable projecting — hell, we might all be dead from an asteroid by then — but it is worth discussing. This year's 19-year-olds will now be in their early 20s with three seasons under their belts. If we are to believe in the skills of the front office, this could be not only a team that has plenty of experience, but one that has a ton of it together. If we have been able to watch Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Kevin Porter, Jr. and Josh Christopher (along with whatever other talent they have added) still playing together, they ought to be really good by now.
Outcome Best Case: Deep playoff run.
Outcome Worst Case: Disappointing season before some difficult but significant changes.