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Houston, Do We Have Liftoff?

After a 22-23 campaign that ended with the Rockets finishing the season with 22 wins and plenty of questions, the Rockets look to build a culture this coming season. Though there are many questions surrounding this team the amount of potential on this squad cannot be questioned. With an abundance of young players with high upside and a culture setting coach in Ime Udoka the Rockets hope to right their wrongs of recent seasons.

Ime Udoka

Coming off a 21-22 season where Ime Udoka led the Celtics to a Finals Appearance, he faced many allegations and lost his job last offseason. While there were rumors he might join the Brooklyn Nets midseason, he did not coach at all during the 22-23 season and has a full reset ahead of him with the Houston Rockets. This season, Udoka will look to lay his defensive foundation down for a team that lacked identity under Stephen Silas in recent years.

Between Jabari Smith Jr., Jalen Green and now Amen Thompson there are multiple players who could develop into stars at some point in their career. Udoka has an opportunity with this organization to take their youngsters to another level and send them to heights they haven't approached yet.

While the Rockets have raw talent all over the roster they have multiple players who aren’t prototypical players Udoka would build around such as Alpern Sengun and Jalen Green.

Both can be dynamic forces on offense but both also have many defensive shortcomings which could make for some tough decisions for Udoka. Udoka’s ability to juggle this roster of young athletic players mixed with their two veteran signings in Fred Van Vleet and Dillon Brooks will be vital to his success in this organization going forward.

Veteran Presence

The additions of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks should give this team some veteran leadership it’s been yearning for their past seasons. The question is now what the impact of FVV and Brooks will have on a young talented but unorganized group in Houston.

Vanvleet coming off a lackluster season with Toronto, signed a three-year contract worth close to 130 million dollars. While the number seems extremely high for a smaller combo guard turning 30 next February, the price of the contract is skewed by the available cap space Houston had and their need to get to the cap floor.

While Vanvleet had an inefficient season last year on a very average Raptors team, his presence in Houston makes a ton of sense for this roster. A former champion who always plays with a chip on his shoulder and can create his own shot but also help the development of the young Rockets around him seems like it can only aid this team’s development.

Dillon Brooks who signed a four-year deal worth 86 million with the Rockets is a more volatile signing and less of a safer bet than the VanVleet deal. Brooks at 27 years old is an elite gritty defender on the perimeter which will fit perfectly with a team that lacks true rim protection. Brooks on the offensive end is an extremely inefficient player who has voiced his interest in having a bigger offensive role while he was in Memphis, which does not align with this team.

With all the offensive talent scattered throughout this team, Brooks will have to accept his role as an elite defender and increase his efficiency within his limited touches. The Oregon product has an opportunity here in Houston to build a winning culture for the Rockets with him at the forefront of it but will need to sacrifice for this deal to pay dividends for the organization.

Minutes Distribution

With the number of promising young players on this team that will need to see legitimate minutes throughout the season, the rotation is going to be a challenge for Ime Udoka to handle. The Rockets have six players 22 years old or younger that were drafted in the top 20 of their respective draft classes. In a way, this is a good problem to have as there is an overload of young unrealized potential on this team, but the question is how can they all get enough minutes to develop properly.

Those six players don’t include players such as Kevin Porter Jr., Jae’Sean Tate, Jock Landale (after just signing a 4/32 million dollar deal in the offseason), and the previously mentioned Brooks and Vanvleet. My biggest question for this team is who is playing the 48 minutes allotted at each position on a nightly basis.

How will this team gel when inevitably there will be one, maybe two players not satisfied with their minutes on any given night? Again, there is a world where this is a good problem to have and it fixes itself organically but an intriguing situation nonetheless.

This organization has many different avenues they can go down that will alter how their future plays out. It will be up to Ime Udoka and the front office to properly find the balance between developing their young prospects and prioritizing winning and getting better as well.


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