It's fair to say that the Houston Rockets have had an eventful 2020 NBA off-season. At first, it appeared that both Russell Westbrook and James Harden wanted to leave the franchise, with several rumors suggesting that Harden could be off to Brooklyn and Westbrook to Washington.
When it was announced that Harden had rejected a contract extension with the Rockets, it appeared that the writing was on the wall. However, the Rockets have acquired center DeMarcus Cousins and power forward Christian Wood in the Free Agency and have not traded their two All-Stars.
2020-21 NBA Season: How the Houston Rockets could likely line up on their opening night
The starting-five of the Houston Rockets, which we will look at in this article, looks very different to what was expected at the start of the off-season. Without further ado, let's have a look at the same.
Shooting Guard: James Harden
The focal point of rumors surrounding the Houston Rockets this off-season, James Harden is one of the franchise's, and indeed the NBA's, greatest-ever players. A future hall-of-famer, Harden is a serial scorer of the basketball. For the past three seasons, he has led the league in scoring. Moreover, he is able to run the Houston Rockets' offense; he led the NBA in assists in 2017.
When Harden retires, however, the only blot on his career could be his inability to carry the Houston Rockets to a Championship. The franchise has made the Western Conference Finals in recent times, but on both occasions, they fell short against the Golden State Warriors.
With Harden looking like he will stay at the Houston Rockets this off-season, he could start as the shooting guard and the leader of the team.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
At point guard is another player who needs no introduction: former MVP of the league and multiple All-Star Russell Westbrook.
He had one of the best seasons of his career last year, aided in no small part by having Harden alongside him. Westbrook, who averages 27 points, seven rebounds and as many assists per game, is still one of the most valued stars in the league and could help the Rockets to a title if he stays at the franchise.
However, in the most recent NBA trade rumors, it was suggested that Westbrook could be on his way out of Houston just a year after arriving at the franchise.
Nevertheless, with three years and $132 million left on his contract, it appears that there has been limited interest in the veteran guard. If the Houston Rockets are able to keep the services of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, they could be competing for another top-4 finish in the West but will have to improve in the postseason if they are to keep the two superstars happy.
Center: DeMarcus Cousins
With the Sacramento Kings, DeMarcus Cousins was one of the most sought-after big men in the league, averaging 27 points and ten rebounds per game in his final season at the franchise.
His progress at the Kings was halted, however, after a couple of injury-riddled seasons. Cousins will be looking to make a return to his best form after he signed a one-year deal with the Houston Rockets in the 2020 NBA Free Agency.
After impressing in workouts with the Houston Rockets, the franchise was willing to take a risk on the center, as he adds firepower to the team's offense.
That would, however, suggest that the franchise's new head coach Stephen Silas could be preparing for an offensive move tactically away from small-ball, something the Houston Rockets have been known for but have struggled to fully succeed in.
If that happens, Cousins could come straight in at center, and Rockets fans would hope that he recaptures the magic from his time in Sacramento.
Small Forward: Eric Gordon
Having spent four years in Houston, Eric Gordon has been in the shadow of teammate James Harden but is one of the most underrated two-way players in the league.
He has averaged 16 points in his time with the Houston Rockets and is one of their most reliable players when it comes to the playoffs. Last season, he recorded six 20-point games across two series, which makes him an invaluable piece in the Rockets' offense.
After injuries hindered him last season, the Houston Rockets will hope that Gordon remains fit this year. As an elite perimeter shooter, Gordon could benefit from Cousins' ability to kick the ball out to the wings and worry less about being the Rockets' third primary scorer.
Power Forward: Christian Wood
For the past three seasons, the Houston Rockets' power forward has been league veteran PJ Tucker, but new signing Christian Wood could make the starting berth his own.
The arrival of Wood, who has been picked up as one of the most sought-after free agents in the market, could prove to be another shrewd move by the Houston Rockets' front office this off-season.
While Wood's stats do not immediately jump off the page, in only 21 minutes per game last season, he averaged 13 points and six rebounds.
Furthermore, he had an effective field goal percentage of 62. At only 25 years of age, Wood is still developing, and the Houston Rockets won't need him to be a prolific scorer as they could have Westbrook and Harden to do that if the two All-Stars are not traded away.
Christian Wood could be a valuable asset to have for the Houston Rockets going forward, as he is a player whose height (6'10") allows him to play at forward or center.
If the Houston Rockets are able to hold on to their superstars, the starting-5 they have assembled could take them to the NBA Western Conference Finals and possibly the promised land beyond that.Published 26 Nov 2020, 02:36 IST