Should the Houston Rockets be contending for a playoff spot?
Since James Harden was traded to Houston in 2012, the Houston Rockets have known nothing but the playoffs. In the past eight seasons, the Rockets are the only team in the league to have made the playoffs every year.
And even without their franchise cornerstone, there is reason to believe that this trend should continue. On paper, with names like Christian Wood, John Wall and Victor Oladipo, the Rockets have the talent to make a run at a playoff spot.
Moreover, if the Rockets decided to punt on the rest of the season, their first-round pick more than likely belongs to the Oklahoma City Thunder (more on that later), giving them even more reason to aim as high in the standings as possible.
Above all though, the most enticing reason to maintain a winning culture in Houston is league-wide perception. No more than two seasons ago the LA Clippers and Brooklyn Nets were both middling teams.
But due to their savvy front office management, and their culture of competitive play, they were able to attract a bevy of stars to come play for them. If the Rockets maintain a competitive identity, they have both the on-court talent and draft assets to attract the next disgruntled superstar looking for a new home.
As simple as this plan may sound in theory, executing it may be more difficult. Much of Houston’s hopes lie on the on the shoulders of John Wall, an aging superstar who has a long injury history. If he is unable to stay on the court, the Rockets’ playoff hopes will be all but extinguished.
The other looming question regarding the Rockets’ playoff prospects is the uncertain future of their new shooting guard, Victor Oladipo. After recovering from a ruptured quad, Oladipo is in the middle of a contract year, meaning he is motivated to play at the peak of his abilities so that he can get as much money as possible on the open market.
On the surface level, Oladipo’s motivation is a great sign for the Rockets’ playoff hopes. However, if he continues to play well moving forward, there is a profound possibility that a contending team will believe that Oladipo can put them over the top. If another team gives Rafael Stone a godfather offer, he may have no other choice than to accept.
All of these questions further muddy the waters for the Houston Rockets. Even if they commit to the idea of competing the rest of the year, there is no guarantee that the process will yield the intended result.