The Houston Rockets’ season began in the same way that the previous season ended, with a loss to the Atlanta Hawks. There is no shame in falling to the Hawks 107-117. They went 43-39 last season and upgraded their roster over the summer. The Rockets, on the other hand, went 20-62 last season, traded arguably their best player in Christian Wood, and are paying $52 million to players who are no longer on the roster.
When you put everything in perspective, the Rockets remaining competitive with the Hawks is a great sign for the direction of the franchise. The roster is young, the cap space is coming, and even if they won’t win more than they’ll lose, they’ll push playoff teams for 48 minutes.
Even with the Rockets’ disadvantages, they aren’t going to go 0-82. So the question on every Rockets fan’s mind is, “when will we get our first win?” If the schedule is any indication, it might take a while.
The Rockets’ schedule is brutal
The Rockets’ upcoming schedule is; the Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, Utah Jazz back-to-back, Portland Trailblazers, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers back-to-back, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Orlando Magic on the road on November 7th.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s predictive model, the Rockets won’t be favored to win any of those games, but their clashes with the Magic and the Jazz they enter with a fighting chance. Unfortunately, the Jazz are looking awfully frisky after their opening-night demolition of the Denver Nuggets.
When the Jazz traded away Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell in the offseason, conventional wisdom said they would trade the rest of their veterans for future assets. They did send Bojan Bogandanovic to the Detroit Pistons, but instead of bringing back draft picks, he netted them Kelly Olynyk.
The Jazz may not have any stars, but the depth of their roster is admirable. It features eight quality NBA veterans, and that doesn’t account for rookie Walker Kessler and perpetual breakout candidate Talen Horton-Tucker.
The Rockets get the Jazz at home in the fourth game of the season, and FiveThirtyEight only gives the Rockets a 36% chance of winning. When they make the trip to Utah in game five, their chances drop all the way to 14%.
Even the Magic are viewed as considerable favorites, in part because it is a home game. FiveThirtyEight gives the Rockets a 32% chance to win the game. The Magic, like the Rockets, are a young team, but their current core is a little farther along in their development than the Rockets’.