Unanswered Questions: Rockets departure from the NBA Playoffs starts an offseason of uncertainty.
Photo Credit/ Houston Rockets
Rockets fans all around the world will be glued to every social media outlet they have access to in the next three months as the 2019-20 NBA season rounds itself out. Houston was eliminated from the Western Conference Playoffs on this past Saturday by the number one seeded Los Angeles Lakers. Although their season is done on the court, the off the court situations and questions left behind by a team that was poised and ready to compete for a championship when the season restarted in late July after COVID-19 stopped play for over three months has just begun.
Here are a few things the Rockets will have to accomplish before the start of the 2020-21 NBA season:
Head Coach Wanted
Former head coach Mike D’Antoni parted ways with the franchise he had amassed a very impressive record with during his tenure with the Rockets going 217-101 in four seasons. Yet it was his five games above .500 (28-23) in the playoffs that had owner Tillman Fertitta worried if D’Antoni would ever take it to the next level and bring his team and this city an NBA Championship.
Photo Credit/Houston Rockets
Now Houston must begin an intensive search for the next coach who will be able to utilize superstars James Harden and Russell Westbrook effectively while abandoning the “Small Ball” approach that consisted of forward P.J. Tucker playing center.
Looking for A New Role
One major area where the Rockets were exposed against the Lakers was the inefficiency of its role players. D’Antoni played a tight seven to eight-man rotation that consisted of players that fit his system of shooting three’s and playing a very fast paced style of defense. Now that he is no longer the coach, it leaves a small conundrum for the next head coach who will implement a new brand of basketball.
It will be easy to use age as a factor when it comes to forwards Jeff Green, Thabo Sefolosha, DeMarre Carrol and center Tyson Chandler. The real problem comes in when you look to retain veteran backup combo guard Austin Rivers.
Although he only averaged 8.8 points off of the bench this season, it was his ability to heat up at any given second that won the confidence of teammates and coaches. That fire showed up in a three-game stretch in early August where he averaged 21.6 points per game with the highest being a 41-point outburst against the Sacramento Kings. He thrived in the small ball era when he was on the court with other shooters as it opened up the lane and he used his quick first step to get to the basket, which often times collapsed the defense and gave other’s opportunities to shoot wide open shots.
With the new offensive style which will more than likely be a traditional one, it changes the complexity of the opposing defenses and will cut off a lot of those driving lanes that was readily available to Rivers. That will be an area where the new coach may want to take a look at when constructing a new rotation and that may make Rivers expendable and available for trade.
Will House Be Looking for A Home?
One of the biggest stories to come out of Orlando since the restart of the 2019-20 NBA season was the departure of forward Danuel House Jr. He was investigated after Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Lakers for breaking NBA COVID-19 safety related protocol when it comes to having unauthorized guest in his hotel room overnight according to reports.
The league held him out of Game 3 and 4 as they continued their investigation and eventually suspended him for the remainder of the season before the Rockets played Game 5. The NBA’s evidence is only circumstantial at this point based off of data that House potentially opened his room door during the timeframe in which the allegations are being made, but that may be enough to cause