Rafael Stone and the Houston Rockets had a offseason filled with change in 2020, as Stone was brought in to replace Daryl Morey and was tasked with finding a new coach to replace Mike D’Antoni. As if this wasn’t enough, Stone also had to manage the trade requests of both of the Rockets’ superstars Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who were both subsequently dealt.
Stone made several underrated signings, like Jae’Sean Tate and Christian Wood, who both became key contributors on team-friendly deals. Although Tate is extremely unlikely to win the Rookie of the Year award, he’s risen in the race, as he’s joined elite company in his first season in the NBA.
From #Rockets PR: Jae’Sean Tate has tallied 672 points, 324 rebounds, 141 assists, 78 steals, 34 blocks and 48 3- pointers made this season… the only other rookie to have posted those numbers through the first 61 games of a season was LeBron James in 2003-04.
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) April 26, 2021
As for Wood, he’s played at an All-Star level, with averages of 21 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists, along with splits of 59.1 percent true shooting and 37.4 percent from deep. Were it not for an ankle injury, Wood likely would have made the All-Star team, especially considering the fact that both Anthony Davis and Devin Booker missed the game due to injury.
Wood recorded 31 points and 13 rebounds in his debut with the Rockets, becoming the first Houston Rockets player to score at least 30 points and grab 10 rebounds since Charles Barkley pulled off the feat in 1999.
Why Christian Wood holds the key to the Houston Rockets’ offseason moves
Wood has been such a quality addition by the Rockets’ front office that they likely will tailor their offseason moves around him, as explained by Houston Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, who recently discussed the situation on NBC Houston’s Texas Sports Nation.
“Christian Wood is still a young player. This is his first season as a starter and they’re learning more about how they can build around him.
In other words, do they need to have a more physical center with him? How can he play with a more physical center?
Can they make that work offensively and can they make it work defensively? To where Kelly Olynyk is now picking up big centers, the more traditional types.
He’s going to match up with them, so do you have Christian Wood on the perimeter? Can he switch on to guards more?
Can he close out on shooters? They need to learn all these things because that will inform the decisions they need to make. Obviously they have to upgrade the roster.
Who do they go after? What do they need? It’s good to be as well informed about what you’ve got when you go into that.”
The Rockets face a big decision on Kelly Olynyk, who has been a natural fit in Rockets coach Stephen Silas’ system, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Although it’s only been a handful of games (24 to be exact), Olynyk has seen his value go up since joining the Rockets.
If the Rockets do end up letting Olynyk walk (or simply get outbid in free agency), they will certainly be thinking along the lines of what Feigen articulated, as Wood is not a natural fit at the center position, and especially as it pertains to his post defense.
It’ll be an interesting offseason for Stone and the Rockets’ front office, but addressing one of their biggest needs (a long-term center) will all be tied to Christian Wood.