Youth will be the key to the Rockets' success moving forward. Composite image by Brandon Strange.
As we watch the NBA Finals, we’re seeing two teams that were built primarily through the draft. Especially when it comes to their stars that have carried their respective teams thus far this season. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Jordan Poole were all drafted by the Warriors. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart were all drafted by the Celtics. Sure, both teams have added several key players via trade and free agency, but they’re both clearly led by guys the team drafted and grew into stars. The Warriors did win two of their three titles with this team after they brought on hired gun Kevin Durant, but to say they’ve gotten back here with their homegrown core again speaks to the importance of that core group.
When I look at the Rockets, I see some of the same potential. It may be hard to see through all the fog and weeds, but I can see it. Jalen Green looks like he could be the real deal. You need an alpha dog in your pack in order to make the playoffs. To compete in the playoffs, that alpha will need running mates. If the team expects to compete for titles, those running mates have to have some alpha dog in them. Kevin Porter Jr and Alperen Sengun appear to be those guys currently on the roster. At 22, KPJ is the senior of this group, since Green is 20 and Sengun is still 19. Both of those guys have shown the ability to ball out and also have great potential to continue growing. Don’t forget about Josh Christopher (20). That kid could actually be Green’s running mate if KPJ can’t get his head on straight. If KPJ gets himself together and stays, look for Christopher to be instant offense off the bench.
Christian Wood (26) was left off my list simply because he’s made his demand to be a max player on his next contract. He’s also made his feeling known that he wants the ball and to be the man. Rumors of him being traded have continued to heat up. While that doesn’t mean a hill of beans until something is done, moving on from Wood could help bring in a vet that could help the young pups grow into full-blown dogs. Owning the third overall pick with three really good bigs available is another reason to move on from Wood. Not to mention Sengun is a better passer, getting better at rebounding, and has a game that blends better with Green and KPJ.
I’m not saying this team will be in the NBA Finals in four years from now, but they could be competing at a high level within the next few years…IF these young guys continue to develop, the front office drafts well, and they find the right trade pieces/free agents. We may not get to see any of this come to fruition, but the possibility is there. I believe this team will be in the playoffs in the next two years, Jalen Green will be an All-Star, and Christopher will be in the running for Sixth Man of the Year. The Rockets are putting together a nice gumbo. The ingredients are there. The roux is done. Everything has been added. Now we wait.
It's a new year for the Houston Astros as they return to action for their first game of the spring against the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
Every season we see some adjustments to the roster which means we also see some changes in leadership. As Astros fans, we're all aware of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker's contract situations. Breggy could be gone after the season, and Tucker could follow one year later.
Which means it's pretty clear who the leaders of the team will be for the foreseeable future. Not only are these guys two of the best players on the club, but they're also under contract for several more years. In Altuve's case, through the 2029 season. For Yordan, he won't sniff free agency until 2029.
While these guys aren't your typical vocal leaders, they are both highly respected and lead by example. Leadership is something that's front of mind for Yordan this season, according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome.
On Yordan Alvarez the leader, one of two constants in a clubhouse bracing for change and the responsibility he wants to shoulder as a result - https://t.co/sZGlI5taBQ
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 21, 2024
Another way to be a leader is to do everything you can to be available for your team. Alvarez changed his diet in the offseason hoping it will help him stay healthy this year.
Manager Joe Espada said Alvarez is fully healthy and he plans on playing him earlier than normal this spring.
Currently, Yordan is trending down in games played for three straight seasons. But he's such a great player that he needs fewer games to put up massive numbers.
He finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2022, and he only played in 135 games out of a possible 162.
So with that in mind, how many games does Yordan need to play this year to win an MVP?
Plus, who's going to protect him in the lineup? With new manager Joe Espada in place, it's hard to know what the lineup will look like.
One thing we do know, Espada immediately named Josh Hader his closer when spring training began. He also told the media that he wants Jeremy Pena to know where he's going to hit every day when he comes to the ballpark.
Espada values players knowing their roles, and getting comfortable in their routines. Something very different from last season when manager Dusty Baker moved Pena all over the lineup throughout the season.
So what does all this mean for Yordan?
Be sure to watch the video above as we break it all down!
Catch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.