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Houston Rockets 2024 NBA offseason preview: There are some choices to be made

May 11th, 2024

2023-24 season: 41-41

Highlight of the season: The Rockets’ highlight could be the same as their biggest concern: Jalen Green’s play after Alperen Şengün went down with a season-ending injury. Green averaged 24.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists during the team’s last 18 games.

After signing Fred VanVleet to a monster contract last summer, the Rockets did what they always envisioned themselves doing: They accelerated their rebuild. They were aided by another veteran acquisition, forward Dillon Brooks, as the two elder statesmen helped push the squad to a .500 record.

It was, however, primarily off the back of Şengün that Houston looked like a more competitive team. Under new head coach Ime Udoka, Şengün was given the green light to make decisions on his own, as opposed to playing off guard play, which had been the case in the two seasons prior. Şengün responded by looking like a future max-contract-caliber player, putting up 21.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5 assists in 32.5 minutes per game.

Unfortunately for Houston, they once again failed to receive quality production from Jabari Smith Jr., last year’s No. 3 overall selection who had an inconsistent rookie season but was expected to turn things around. While he was given every opportunity to do so — starting 76 games and playing over 2,400 minutes — Smith made only modest improvements and looks like a slow-burn type of project for the Rockets.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether Houston is even interested in continuing said project. During the trade deadline, the Rockets reportedly went after Nets star Mikal Bridges, hoping to further accelerate their process. As they enter the 2024 offseason, logic dictates the organization will once again survey the market to find ways to cash in their chips, be that draft picks or young players.

This situation has led to much uncertainty hovering over the franchise. The fan base is finding itself in an odd emotional state, on one hand celebrating the franchise’s improved play and on the other being nervous about seeing their young players potentially getting moved out of town.

The overarching question for the Rockets is fairly simple: If they are to go all-in, particularly in a very competitive Western Conference, do they have enough assets to make a legitimate upgrade that will propel them to near the top of the standings?

Houston Rockets guard Fred VanVleet (5) lays up a shot between Golden State Warriors guard Chris Paul, left, and forward Draymond Green, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, April 4, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Fred VanVleet’s monster deal means the Rockets are looking to compete. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Assuming the Rockets wish to go all-in, which is a fair assumption at this stage, they flat out need a superstar. If the team is to potentially pivot away from Green or Şengün — maybe even both — they will need to acquire the services of a real superstar who can lead them into the depths of the postseason to justify their decision.

Nos. 9, 44

The Rockets have Brooklyn’s unprotected 2024 selection, via the James Harden trade, but don’t have two lottery picks for the simple reason that the Oklahoma City Thunder own their selection if it falls out of the top four. Should the Rockets win the lottery, however, they will retain their own selection, as well as Brooklyn’s.

Houston has a very athletic backcourt with VanVleet, Green, Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore. The Rockets could look to target some size and versatility in the lottery with UConn’s Donovan Clingan, Cody Williams of Colorado or Baylor’s Yves Missi. — Krysten Peek

Despite being on the hook for almost $43 million to VanVleet next season, the Rockets have clean books for 2024-25. They have team options on both Jeff Green and Jae’Sean Tate, and by declining them — and waiving Jock Landale before June 29 — they can get under the cap by around $18 million-20 million, pending empty roster charges.

If Houston is serious about trading for stars, that space could come in handy to help teams shed more salary in any trade return. It also makes salary-matching much easier. If worst comes to worst and they strike out on a star, the team can enter free agency with some money in its pocket and look for a smaller upgrade.

Key free agents

None

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It all depends on the direction. If the Rockets do acquire, say, Bridges, expectations will go up to the point where they will need to make the actual playoffs and experience some level of success there. If they instead keep their young players and continue to build around them, just making the postseason will be considered a win.

Thompson becoming a shooting threat. He shot 14% from 3-point range and under 32% from beyond 10 feet. That certainly won’t help keep defenses honest or maximize his playing time. He’s a top-tier athlete and is becoming one of the league’s best young defenders. He has such a high fantasy ceiling; any improvement in his shooting will help the Rockets and fantasy managers alike.

Green also has a big season ahead after closing out 2023–24 in excellent fashion. When assessing his year-over-year performance, he continually starts slowly and comes on after the All-Star break. Green’s late-season surge can’t be another flash in the pan; he must be consistent for an entire season. If Green can pull it off, the Rockets could be a playoff team, and he’ll finally live up to his mid-round ADP in fantasy drafts. — Dan Titus

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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