Despite the successful acquisition of an MVP caliber player like Russell Westbrook last summer, the Houston Rockets were still not considered as one of the favorite teams to fully dominate the Western Conference and win the NBA championship title in the 2019-20 season. The Rockets engaged in another blockbuster deal before the 2020 February trade deadline to further boost their chances of bringing home the Larry O’Brien Trophy this year. However, most people believe that the Rockets’ decision to address a major problem in the wing while losing the only starting-caliber center on their roster didn’t improve their odds of winning it all.
The outcome of the current season will be vital for the Rockets as it is expected to influence their entire plan in the offseason. If the Rockets suffer an early exit in the Playoffs, Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report predicts that they will be making “wholesale changes” this fall.
“Houston knows it’s up against the shot clock. Last summer’s Chris Paul-for-Westbrook swap was an all-in push on Harden’s behalf. The deadline deal sending out Clint Capela to fully commit to small ball was an all-in move for Westbrook and D’Antoni. There aren’t any chips left to push to the center of the table. It might be now or never for this iteration of the Rockets. And considering the club ranks ninth in winning percentage and seventh in net efficiency rating, maybe it’s never. If the Rockets are ousted early from the playoffs, wholesale changes to the fabric of the franchise could follow shortly thereafter.”
It would really make a lot of sense for the Rockets to do a huge roster overhaul. The Rockets may have been in the playoff race before the NBA was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, but as of now, they are not viewed on the same level as Western Conference powerhouse teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Though they managed to beat the two L.A. teams during the regular season, it is still hard to imagine the Rockets beating the Lakers or the Clippers in a best-of-seven series.
If the Rockets fail to make a deep playoff run this year, the players aren’t the only ones who would be affected — so would the coaching staff. One of the men whose job is currently in jeopardy is Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni. As Buckley noted, D’Antoni is currently on the final year of his contract, and if things don’t go as the team hopes, he and the Rockets may be heading in different directions.