The Houston Rockets are facing the Portland Trail Blazers with only nine players available for the game. This will be the first time the Rockets will be playing during the 2020-21 NBA regular season. Their season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed earlier due to a lack of players who could suit up per the league’s 'health and safety protocols'.
The Blazers are coming off a lopsided loss in their own season opener against the Utah Jazz which saw Portland lose 120-100.
With the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers looking for their first win of the season, expect a fierce battle between these Western Conference rivals.
Combined Starting 5 (Portland Trail Blazers vs Houston Rockets)
Our combined starting 5 will feature only players who can play in this game. With so many players out for the Houston Rockets, their own starting lineup may not be announced until a few hours before tipoff. The Rockets’ John Wall, Eric Gordon, Mason Jones, Ben McLemore, Kenyon Martin Jr., and DeMarcus Cousins will be out.
For the Portland Trail Blazers, only Nassir Little is listed as day-to-day.
Center - Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trail Blazers)
Jusuf Nurkic was badly outplayed by Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert in their first game of the season. He will have to bounce back from that 13-point, 3-rebound game and take advantage of the Houston Rockets’ lack of depth.
Last season, the Bosnian Beast averaged a double-double with a career-high 17.6 points and 10.3 rebounds in eight games after returning from a long-term injury. He also notched career-highs in assists (4.0), steals (1.4), and blocks (2.0).
Power Forward - Christian Wood (Houston Rockets)
A strong postseason game with 27 points and 10 rebounds raised the expectations higher for Christian Wood, who has the Houston Rockets feeling giddy about the future with the 6-foot-10 forward on the roster.
In 62 games for the Detroit Pistons last season, Wood had nightly averages of 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds. These may seem like pedestrian numbers but it’s the story behind those stats that really matter. Wood is a highly skilled big man who can do a lot on the floor. This could be the year that he averages double figures in both points and rebounds.
SF - Derrick Jones Jr. (Portland Trail Blazers)
The 2020 NBA Slam Dunk champion is more than just a dunk expert. Over the years, Derrick Jones Jr. has slowly developed a more consistent game predicated on short jumpers. His developing three-point shot was on full display against the Jazz when he made 3-of-5 threes.
Jones Jr.'s energy will be infectious on the defensive end of the court and he could be given the assignment to contain James Harden and let CJ McCollum focus on offense.