We were already going to see a significant change this upcoming season with the Houston Rockets. With a new head coach in Ime Udoka, new more established players like Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks, and a new win-now attitude. We were going to see a different Rockets team in 2023-24.
With horrific allegations against Kevin Porter Jr., the Rockets will be in for even more changes. My colleagues have detailed the charges and the latest updates, but there is no excuse for what Porter Jr. is being accused of, and we all hope that Kysre Gondrezick is okay, which is the most important part of all of this.
One way or another, Porter Jr. will not be back on the team, as the Rockets have already engaged several teams in a possible trade to ship him out of town. If that doesn't work out, Houston will likely cut him at some point, but he will never step back in a Rockets facility.
One part of the Rockets’ rotation is almost a lock, and that is the starting lineup. VanVleet, Jalen Green, Brooks coming off a stellar FIBA tournament, Jabari Smith and Alperen Sengun.
VanVleet is the new floor general and will lead the offense. VanVleet is coming off a season where many thought he wore down at the end of the year because former Raptors coach Nick Nurse did not have confidence in his bench.
Coming into the all-important third year, especially for a high draft pick, Green may play even more minutes this season than the 34.2 minutes he played last year. The Rockets do not have a true backup shooting guard, leading to Green possibly playing 35 minutes or more per game. VanVleet did play some backup shooting guard with the Raptors, so you may see him slide over to play some off-guard for a few minutes a game.
Brooks is coming off a season where he played a career-high 30.3 minutes a game and was second-team All-Defense, and with him being the Rockets’ best on-ball defender, his minutes may increase as well. Unlike the other Rockets, his shooting will not keep him off the floor as he can guard multiple positions, and the Rockets have not had a player like that since PJ Tucker.
Smith, who also had a successful offseason that included a great all but short Summer League stint, will see most of his minutes at power forward and possibly a few minutes per game as a stretch five. Going into the second season, Smith started slowly last year before finishing the season with improved shooting and better help defense. Smith played 31 minutes per game, so I wouldn't be surprised if he averages around the same or maybe a minute or two more per game.
For the first time in his career, Sengun is the unquestioned starter. He came off the bench to open his first two seasons. Sengun did quickly, however, take over the starting sport from Bruno Fernando and started the last 72 games of the season, which led to his minutes going up from 20.7 a game to over 28 in his second season. Sengun’s minutes should go up again next season, with Udoka and the coaching staff possibly leaning into more of the areas in which Sengun excels.
The Rockets will have a few familiar names coming off the bench in the upcoming season. Even though it has not become official, all signs lead to Porter Jr. never wearing a Rockets uniform again. That means the sixth man role will likely go to the breakout player for the Rockets last season, Tari Eason. When Eason was selected last year, some thought he could have an impact, but even his supporters were surprised at exactly how much of an impact he had.
Eason will now lead the bench unit and will more than likely play the most minutes of any other player off the bench; Eason could play some small forward and power forward as he showed he is a tough-nosed defender, but he’s also one of the better three-point shooters on a team lacking shooting.
The Rockets will probably have a nine to 10-man rotation this upcoming season. With KPJ out of the picture, Thompson is now the undisputed backup point guard and will be a major part of the team coming off the bench. As mentioned earlier, he will partner with VanVleet in the backcourt, with VanVleet possibly playing some shooting guard to back up Green. Thompson may also play some minutes at small forward to take advantage of his 6'7” frame. That leaves two to three spots in the rotation.
Fans seem to forget that Jae'Sean Tate was a significant part of the rotation before dealing with injuries last year. Tate will factor into next season's rotation even with a new coaching staff. Even with the addition of Cam Whitmore, Udoka and the front office likes what Tate brings to the team regarding his post-up ability and being one of the better defenders on the team.
Jock Landale will be the backup center, but you may see veteran Jeff Green get some time in certain matchups at the backup center position. Green may also play some power forward, as he is coming off a very productive season for the NBA champions Denver Nuggets. Whitmore’s playing time is still to be determined, as he could play his way into a rotation spot earlier than expected or spend time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
The Rockets also added Aaron Holiday, who, at least by the numbers, would be the Rockets’ best shooter, but more than likely, he will be at the end of the bench unless there is an injury to another guard. Another caveat to the rotation is the possibility of the Rockets making a trade, shipping Porter Jr. out of Houston and bringing in another rotation player. I have a hard time believing a team would trade for Porter, even with the possibility of a draft pick being attached, but we will have to wait and see.
First and foremost, the Rockets have to, one way or another, move on from Porter Jr. That is the most crucial decision right now, but once they do decide, they will have to shift focus to training camp and trying to turn around a franchise that has been at the bottom for three years.