The Houston Rockets, the worst team in the league last season, are not expected to repeat as the NBA cellar dwellers. DraftKings has their over/under at 27.5 wins and PointsBets is at 25.5 wins. The sportsbooks don’t see the Rockets as a playoff team or even a play-in contender. However, they do see them improving from worst to plain bad.
The two sportsbooks view the Rockets as marginally better than the Detroit Pistons, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, and right on par with the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Rockets could still land a top-five pick, but it's hardly a guarantee. The sportsbooks peg the Rockets as a 26 win team, but is that a fair assessment of their true talent?
How good were Houston Rockets last year?
Last season, the Rockets won 17 of 72 games, for a 23.6-percent win percentage. The 2021-22 season will be back to an 82 game schedule. If the Rockets match last season’s win percentage, they’ll be a 19 win team.
The Rockets endured a historic amount of roster upheaval and set the NBA record for the number of players to appear in a game. From the James Harden trade to Covid outbreaks, nothing went right for the Rockets last season.
Simply put, the Rockets had 30 players suit up for them. No NBA team has two teams worth of NBA talent. There's an argument to be made that 17 wins were a massive success, all things considered.
Are the Houston Rockets a 26 win team?
The Rockets, without any roster changes from 2020-21, would likely win more than 19 games in 2020-21. How many more wins will the Rockets get with a healthy Christian Wood, David Nwaba, Eric Gordon, and John Wall? How much will Jae’Sean Tate, Kenyon Martin Jr, and Kevin Porter Jr improve? Will the Rockets’ rookie class provide immediate dividends? All of these questions point to a team set to improve.
If the Sportsbooks are to be believed, all of these questions, if answered, equal a measly seven additional wins. In the best-case scenario, the Rockets will be in a position to double last season's win total. However, there are three reasons to believe that they won’t blow past the 30 win threshold.
The first reason is, once again, health. Nwaba, Gordon, and Wall have all had injury problems in recent years, and Christian Wood's durability remains an unknown because he has only been a starter for one season.
The second reason is motivation. Do the Rockets really want to win 30 games? It’s more beneficial for the Rockets' long-term prospects to end up on the wrong side of 26 wins. When you're not a playoff team, landing another valuable draft pick is far better than proving DraftKings wrong.
The third and final reason is that the Rockets veterans could all be traded. If John Wall, D.J. Augustin, and Eric Gordon start the season strong, there is a very good chance the Rockets will look to trade them. Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr may ooze potential but the two will have growing pains. The veterans might not be as exciting, but they're definitely more steady performers.
The Houston Rockets will win….
After the dumpster fire that the 2020-21 season was, Rockets fans are hoping for a far better season. Winning 26 games would represent a massive turnaround. Remember, seven games are 8.5-percent of an NBA season.
The Rockets have the talent to win 30 or more games, but they don’t have the motivation. Chances are, sometime around mid-season, they’ll turn the team over to Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr, Alperen Sengun, and Christian Wood and focus on development, not winning.
The Rockets are on the right track, but they probably want to win 25 games this season. If the young guys show they’re ahead of schedule, then a 35 win season is suddenly in the cards. Let’s split the difference. The Rockets will win 30 games unless Rafael Stone and the front office demand a tank job. Take that Draftkings.