We are now a little over a week away from new Houston Rockets content after a rollercoaster of an offseason. Media day is eight days away, and training camp is nine days away. We saw the Rockets have a great draft night, big-name free-agent signings, and excellent summer league performances. We also had horrible allegations come to light against Kevin Porter Jr. that have still not been resolved. As I said, it is an up-and-down offseason.
In today's article, though, I want to talk about the upcoming season, specifically who will lead the Rockets in several main categories. As I mentioned earlier, the Rockets have added new players who will be a significant part of the team, but they also have traded away a few players who were a big part of the team last season so that we may have a few new names at the top of the Rockets leader board.
Who will lead the Rockets in steals?
Last season: Kevin Porter Jr. 1.4
This season prediction: Fred VanVleet 1.8
The leader for the Rockets last season in steals was Kevin Porter Jr. at 1.4 steals per game. At this point, most of you know that we will have a new leader for the Rockets this upcoming season. Porter Jr., at the very least, will never play for the Rockets again, and he may never play again for any NBA team.
Dillon Brooks will be the Rockets best defender next season, but the most steals he has had in a season is 1.2, and his steals numbers have declined over the last three seasons.
Tari Eason was a close second last season at 1.2 steals per game, and he did that in almost 13 last minutes per game. With Kenyon Martin Jr. traded away this past off-season, Eason's minutes will increase as he will play not only minutes at small forward but also backup power forward. Eason has a chance to lead the team in steals, but one other player has been near the top of the steals list the last few seasons.
The Houston Rockets newest floor leader, Fred VanVleet, has been near the top of the steals list the last few seasons. Last season, he finished sixth in steals at 1.8 and has averaged no less than 1.7 steals since 2019-20. VanVleet is one of the most underrated defensive guards in the league, as he has come close to making an all-defensive team and will instantly be the Rockets best defender at the guard position.
Who will lead the Rockets in blocks
Last season: Jabari Smith Jr. and Alperen Sengun 0.9
This season: Jabari Smith Jr. 1.1
It has been a few seasons since the Rockets had a true rim protector. Clint Capela was the last true rim protector, and once the Rockets decided to go all in on the small ball, the Rockets have been looking for someone to shut down the paint. Going into this upcoming season, the Rockets still don't have a true rim protector, but one player in particular should have a better all-around season on the defensive end.
Smith Jr. finished tied last with Sengun and will lead the Rockets in blocks this season. Smith Jr. started slowly last season as he adjusted to the speed of the NBA. During his first Summer League stint, Smith showed his ability to be an excellent weak-side defender. We didn't see that on display during the season as much as we thought we would.
There were many reasons, including the Rockets being one of the worst defensive teams in the league, Smith Jr. being a rookie and still learning, and the Rockets not having much of a defensive identity. With the addition of Ime Udoka, one of the most coveted head coaching candidates known for his defensive mind, Smith could be in line for a significant improvement on the defensive end.
You will see Smith more engaged on defensive and the Rockets with fewer defensive lapses that will help increase Smith's blocks this season.
Who will lead the Rockets in assists?
Last Season: Kevin Porter Jr. 5.7
This season: Fred VanVleet 7.0
With the arrival of VanVleet, the Rockets signaled to everyone that the Porter Jr. era as the starting point guard was over. Now, with the latest news on Porter Jr., we know that VanVleet will have even more responsibility as the team's only true point guard is rookie Amen Thompson.
VanVleet has never been known as a typical point guard. Last season was the first season he averaged over seven assists a game. Talking with beat reporters for the Raptors who have covered him for years, they said he is more of a combo guard but has improved as a primary facilitator. Looking at the numbers for the last couple of seasons, you will notice the Rockets haven't had many playmakers, which hasn't changed this off-season.
Sengun finished second in assists last season and will have more opportunity this season as the Rockets plan on leaning more into his strengths, which is being a high post playmaker and not just in the pick and roll. With that said, however, most of the playmaking burden will fall on VanVleet, which is why he will lead the Rockets in assists next season.
Who will lead the Rockets in rebounding?
Last season: Alperen Sengun 9.0
This season: Alperen Sengun 10.0
One of the biggest surprises last season was the Rockets rebounding as a team. The Rockets were one of the worst rebounding teams in 2021-22, but last season, the Rockets shocked many by finishing second in rebounds per game. They averaged over four more rebounds per game compared to the prior year.
A big reason for that was players like Smith Jr., Eason, and, of course, Sengun. Sengun did not begin the season as a starter, but he never returned to the bench once he was inserted into the starting lineup. That led to Sengun leading the Rockets in rebounding at nine a game.
That will be the case next season, as Sengun has apparently gotten taller over the off-season and possibly stronger. Sengun minutes may also increase, which will lead to more court time. Despite the addition, the Rockets still need more depth in the frontcourt. The Rockets did add Jock Landale and Jeff Green, but Sengun is and will be the Rockets best rebounder this coming season.
Who will lead the Rockets in points per game?
Last season: Jalen Green 22.1
This season, Jalen Green's 24.0
Another pleasant surprise last season was Jalen Green's improvement on the offensive end. Just like Smith Jr., Green started slowly in his rookie season. Also, just like Smith Jr., Green began to show flashes of his potential to end his rookie season.
Green led all sophomores in scoring last season. He led second place Franz Wagner by almost four points per game. Even with the additions this off-season, Green will be the number one option on the offensive end. VanVleet will do a better job of getting the offense in the right spots, and even though he can get his own shot, I think he will prioritize getting Green opportunities on the offensive end.
Green has improved the first two seasons from improving his ability to score in traffic to becoming a better ball handler. With the Rockets losing their best shooter from last season, even more of the burden will fall on Green to provide improved shooting from beyond the arch.
For the Rockets to take the next step next season, the Rockets will need Green to go from a promising young player to a borderline All-Star. That will be the difference between a five-game improvement and possibly a huge turnaround for the team.
The Rockets will look like a different team next season as they are looking to go from one of the worst teams in the league to, at the very least, a competitive team. The Rockets have a lot riding on next season. No, they are not a championship-contending team, but Houston Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta has made it clear this season needs to be different. The days of being happy with just player development are not enough. The Rockets expect to win next season and not just develop players.